2023– Oct. 12 to 25. 2024– Oct. 1 to 14
Gujarat, India’s westernmost state: has varied terrain and numerous off the beaten track attractions. Lothal, near Ahmedabad and Dholavira, near Kutch are sites of a Harappan (Indus) civilization, which are older than 4000 years. Well known for the Stepped Wells, Jain Temples, Asiatic Lion, wild ass and migratory birds, the countryside however holds most of its treasures. Traditional artisans in tribal villages weave, embroider, dye and print some of India’s finest textiles, and pristine parks harbor unique wildlife, including migratory birds, wild asses and the last remaining prides of Asiatic lions. State’s colorful festivals burst with a cornucopia of culture.
Navratri, meaning ‘nine nights’, is the world’s longest dancing festival. Entire state erupts into a circle of ecstasy that throbs nonstop nine day and night celebration. In villages and cities alike, people gather in open spaces to celebrate and perform ras garba. Interesting feature of Navratri is the “garba “, a circular dance performed by women around an earthenware pot called a “garbo “, filled with water. As the dancer’s whirl around the pot, a singer and a drummer provides the musical accompaniment. The dance usually starts slowly; it gets faster and faster as the music too gets more rapid. Another dance which is also a feature of Navratri is the ” dandia – ras ” or ‘ stick dance ‘, in which men and women join the dance circle, holding small polished sticks or Dandias together, adding to joyous atmosphere.
West Bengal in eastern India: is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse states of India. It offers a remarkable range of destinations and experiences within a single state. One can still recapture the colonial era in its relics. Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), retains architectural and cultural remnants of its past as an East India Company trading post and the capital of the British Raj. There’s also a vibrant art scene, delectable cuisine and a genuinely hospitable population where friends are easy to make and hard to lose.
Durga Puja: Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) has a long tradition of lavishly celebrating the Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival that reveres the goddess Durga. It is the biggest and most popular festival in the state of West Bengal, where elaborate stage decorations, known as “pandals,” draw huge crowds. During the nine-day festival, thousands of pandals are constructed in almost every neighborhood in the city. Over the years, they have become a popular display of creativity and grandeur.
Mysore in South India: Mysore (or Mysuru), a city in India’s southwestern Karnataka state, was the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore from 1399 to 1947. In its center is opulent Mysore Palace, seat of the former ruling Wodeyar dynasty. The palace blends Hindu, Islamic, Gothic and Rajput styles. Mysore is also home to the centuries-old Devaraja Market, filled with spices, silk and sandalwood.
Mysore Dussehra season stands out in the South for the colourful ambience that this princely city presents every year. Processions featuring Elephants, horses, and folk dancers through the streets of the city, coupled with the hugely popular Dussehra Exhibition, attract a large number of families with kids from all over.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY:
DAY 1- ARRIVE AHMEDABAD
Arrive in Ahmedabad, the former capital of Gujarat. City is also known by its ancient name of Karnavati and also as Amdavad in colloquial Gujarati . Meeting assistance and transfer to Hotel. Rest of the day is at leisure. HOUSE OF MG – Deluxe rooms – D
DAY 2- AHMEDABAD
After breakfast, embark on a Heritage City Walk Tour. Not only will you discover the Walled city’s beautiful Indo-Islamic architecture, its tranquil Jain Temples and its colorful bird feeders, but you will also get immersed in the old city’s fascinating communities and ‘pols’. Next visit Calico Museum of textiles, one of the finest museums of the world. The museum exhibits an enormous collection of fabrics, which are collected from all over the country. After lunch, visit Sabarmati Ashram – the central point from where the struggle for India’s Independence was started. Till the year 1930, it was the home of Mahatma Gandhi. Hathee Singh Temple – known for its fabulous architectural styling and designing that consists of intricate carvings. Dada Hari Vav – is an elaborately designed stepped well which is also one of the most complicated structures of the Ahmedabad city. Rest of the day is at leisure. BL
DAY 3- LOTHAL EXCURSION
Lothal, literally “Mound of the Dead”, is the most extensively excavated site of Harappan culture in India, and therefore allows the most insight into the story of the Indus Valley Civilization, Lothal was once a flourishing centre of trade and industry, famous for its expertly constructed system of underground sanitary drainage, and an astonishing precision of standardized weights and measures. In the height of its prosperity, it not only survived but was strengthened by three floods, using the disaster as an opportunity to improve on the infrastructure. The fourth flood finally brought the settlement to the desperate and impoverished conditions that indicated the end of a powerful civilization. Roam the ruins to be transported to an era 4,500 years ago, and see in your mind’s eye the palace on high, and the artisans and crafts below, and the bustling dockyard that once reached out to the rest of the world. Return back to Ahmedabad where rest of your day is free. Option to visit the Navratri festival and participate in Dandiya and Garba dances with locals. Overnight at the Hotel. HOUSE OF MG (Heritage Hotel) – Deluxe rooms – BL
DAY 4- AHMEDABAD – SIDHPUR – MODHERA -PATAN – DASADA.
A full day of travel and sightseeing. After breakfast, travel today to Dasada stopping enroute first at Sidhpur. Home to Bohra Muslims, an affluent Muslim community who have contributed significantly to the development of Sidhpur. Their old Havelis and mansions, some over 100 years old have a markedly European flavor and a walk through the ‘Bohra Vad’ is like a stroll through an England replete with the lamp lighters at dusk. So enamored were they by the style & existence of living in the 19th century Europe that as a sign of opulence and to gain respectability amongst the community they tried to create a slice of Europe in their hometown. The facades are rich in variety and aesthetic expression with intricate details in wood. Thus the living spaces of the Bohra community or the so-called ‘Bohra Havelis’ represent a nostalgic visual straight out of a Dickenson novel. Enjoy traditional Bohra feast for lunch at a local home.
Continue to Patan famous for Patola silk textiles, one of the most difficult forms of weaving in the world. Rani Ki Vav, amongst the finest step wells in India, and one of the most famous legacies of the ancient capital city. The vavs of Gujarat are not merely sites for collecting water and socializing, but also simultaneously hold great spiritual significance. There are more than 800 elaborate sculptures among seven galleries. Continue to the Modhera Sun temple. The exclusively carved temple complex and the magnificently sculpted Kund are jewels in the art of masonry of the Solanki period apparently which was also known as the Golden Age of Gujarat. Continue overland to Dasada arriving in the evening. RANN RIDER HOTEL (cottages) – BLD
DAY 5- RANN OF KUTCH, TRIBAL VILLAGES & BHUJ.
Rise early this morning for a wild life safari in the Rann of Kutch. A fiat, salt-cracked vast barren desert, hissing sand storms and the majestic Ghudkhar roaming over mirage waters make the little Rann of Kachchh a unique and one of the most fascinating wilderness of the world. Indian Wild Ass locally known as ‘Ghud Khar’ was once common in the North-western India. They are now found only in the Rann of Kachchh and belong to Family Equide which includes Horses, Zebras and Donkeys. The bird population includes spoonbill, stork, crow, sparrow, osprey, and vultures to name a few. The most prominently seen animals include nilgai, chinkara, wild boar, porcupines, fox, wolf, jackal and wild ass. Return to Hotel for Breakfast. Later visit some on the tribal villages such as Rabari, Koli and Banania who still maintain their rich heritage of lifestyle, embroidery, unique clothes, Jewelry, music and dances.
Travel west to Bhuj in the Kutch area of Gujarat. Bhuj connects you to a range of civilizations and important events in South Asian history through prehistoric archaeological finds, remnants of the Indus Valley Civilization (Harappan), places associated with the Mahabharata and Alexander the Great’s march into India and tombs, palaces and other buildings from the rule of the Naga chiefs, the Jadeja Rajputs, the Gujarat Sultans and the British Raj. Upon arrival check in at the REGENTA RESORT (Deluxe rooms). BL
This evening attend the grand opening ceremony of Navratri festival, one of the most popular and widely celebrated festivals of Gujarat. We will visit a different venue for Navratri festival and participate in Dandiya and Garba dances with locals.
DAY 6- BHUJ
Walk around Bhuj this morning to see the Hall of Mirrors at the Aina Mahal. The Mahal reflects a strong influence of European style of architecture, which sets it aside from the rest of the monuments in Gujarat. The white marble walls at the palace are covered with mirrors and gilded with ornaments; climb the bell tower of the Prag Mahal, take a stroll through the fruit and vegetable market, housed in an old British garrison; examine the 2000-year-old Kshatrapa inscriptions in the Kutch Museum; admire the sculptures of Ramayana characters at the Ramakund step well; Kutchi handicrafts, renowned the world over, are in abundance in Bhuj, from elaborately embroidered clothing and luxurious quilts to block-printing, heavy silver jewelry and woodcarving. Visit some of the handicrafts villages this afternoon. In the evening catch the sunset among the chhatris of the Kutchi royal family in a peaceful field outside the center of town. Among the tombs the one built for Rao Lakha is distinctly the largest and finest. Polygonal in shape it has balconies and an intricately carved roof. REGENTA RESORT (Deluxe rooms). BL
This evening witness, photograph and even participate in the Navratri festival at a different venue. Another dance which is also a feature of Navratri is the ” dandia – ras ” or ‘ stick dance ‘, in which men and women join the dance circle, holding small polished sticks or Dandias together, adding to joyous atmosphere
DAY 7 – TOUR OF HANDICRAFTS VILLAGES
Amidst the Desert land of infinite dimensions, are suspended, quaint little villages. Here you will come across master craft people’ exposing their traditional art, turning out master pieces every day. Their ornaments, clothes, utensils, everything they use – will make you feel as if you have stepped into lifestyle museum leaving you spellbound. Khavda area has a well-blended population of Meghwals (Hindus) and Muslims hailing from Sindh, leading to interesting combinations of work styles and social traditions. You will find Hindus, more likely to be woodcarvers and Muslims more likely to do leatherwork, working side by side in the same village. Take a camel ride to visit the world’s largest flamingo colony, where a half million flamingos stop over on their migrations every year. Bhujodi is a major textile center of Kutch, with the vast majority of the 1200 inhabitants involved in textile handicraft production. Here you can meet weavers, tie-dye artists and block printers, most of who belong to the Vankar community. Visit the Ashapura Crafts Park, set up by a corporate non-profit wing to help artisans display and sell their work. Next visit Shrujan a local non-profit set up to encourage tribal women to market their work and earn a better living from it. The campus is an excellent example of local architecture built with local environment in mind. Dhamadka, is a major center of the ajrakh block-printing technique. You will have opportunity to meet artisans and their families, see the work being done and buy crafts directly from the artisans themselves. REGENTA RESORT (Deluxe rooms). BD
This evening offers last opportunity to view and participate in the Navratri celebrations in Gujarat (Optional).
DAY 8- BHUJ/ KOLKATA- DURGA PUJA CELBRATIONS
Fly today to Kolkata. founded by the English in the late 1600s. Dominique Lapierre’s ‘City of Joy’, the city of Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta is more than 300 years old. Kolkata is the current capital of the state of West Bengal, and was also the first capital of the British in India. We arrive in Kolkata during the most festive period “Durga Puja” undoubtedly the biggest festival for Hindus in West Bengal. Get the first introduction of festival as we are driven from airport to our hotel. After settling in we will go pandal (temporary temples made of bamboo and cloth) hopping. To worship Maa Durga, hundreds of thousands of pandals are set-up. Kolkata alone hosts more than two thousand pandals each year. Puja Parikrama (Pandal Hopping) remains the major attraction of the nights during the festival. Besides worshipping the Goddess, pandals are often set up to draw more and more people for their praise and admiration. Prizes too are won on the basis of the sheer decoration, design and grandeur of these pandals. Locals visit pandals in the city to seek divine blessings and relish the artistic beauty on the display. TAJ BENGAL HOTEL (Deluxe rooms)- BD
During our stay in Kolkata, we are going to experience and learn many of the rituals of Durga puja: Mahalaya marks the journey of the Goddess Durga from her heavenly abode to the mortal world. Thousands of people offer their prayers on the banks of the Ganges or any holy river for their ancestors. On Mahashashthi, the Goddess finally arrives in the mortal world and she is welcomed amidst much fanfare. The beating of the ‘dhak’ brings out the essence of the Puja after a year-long wait. Her face is unveiled and that is the main ritual on this day.Kalaparambho, the ritual performed before the commencement of the Puja precedes Bodhon, the welcoming ritual performed to welcome the Devi back at home, the Amontron, the summoning of people in the vast pool of her blessings and Adibas.
We will also learn about the rich textile and craft heritage, which includes beautiful silk weaving, conch shell carving, dhokra metal casting and terracotta pottery.
DAY 9- KOLKATA- Heritage walk, City tour & DURGA PUJA CELBRATIONS
Tour Sovabazar, the ever-vital hub of traditional Bengali culture. ‘Sovabazar area contains a fascinatingly cosmopolitan blend of the seemingly incongruous architectural forms (from Islamic to Baroque, from Victorian to Bengali) which made up the old world dwellings of the city’s wealthier Bengalis. Tour is designed to give you authentic flavor of Bengali culture. This afternoon tour the Secretariat, High Court, Legislative Assembly building, Victoria Memorial, Jain Temple and New Market. Mother Teresa’s work demonstrates true conviction is accompanied by action and love in action is service. Tour the ashram to see her work and meet with her followers. KENILWORTH HOTEL- BL
DAY 10- KOLKATA- Flower Market & Kumartulli
Near the southeast end of Howrah Bridge, the Kolkata flower market is fascinatingly colorful virtually 24 hours a day. Apart from being a photographer’s paradise, the flower market is also a perfect spot to view the nearby Howrah Bridge. Wrestlers practice their art on a small caged area of sand just back from the river. More than 125 years old, it’s east India’s largest wholesale flower market with thousands of flower sellers visiting it every day. The market is dominated by sacks overflowing with long garlands of marigolds, popularly used in Hindu devotional rituals. Rest of the morning is free to explore the city on own.
This afternoon, we will embark on a short tour of Kumartulli, known for its internationally renowned artisans who craft the most beautiful idols from straw and clay. How these images are crafted, the conditions in which the artisans live and work, where their material is sourced from, and which industries depend on these creations for their very survival will be observed in life-affirming action.
This evening enjoy traditional Bengali dinner with music and dance presentation and you may join the tour to visit Durga puja pandals. KENILWORTH HOTEL- BD
DAY 11- KOLKATA/ BENGALURU/ MYSORE
Morning fly to Bangalore. Begin a brief tour of the garden city & lunch before continuing overland to Mysore. Enroute stop at Srirangapatnam where Tipu Sultan built his summer palace. Mysore was the capital of a princely state where there are palaces and festivals of yester years is celebrated. Take short flight this morning to Mysore, once the capital of a princely state that still carries the aura and charm of palaces, and the opulence of festivals of yester years. HOTEL- BL
DAY 12- MYSORE CITY TOUR & PRE DASARA-CELEBRATIONS
Tour the Maharaja’s palace, built between 1897 and 1907, the palace is a splendid structure in the Indo-Saracenic Style, among its many attractions are a magnificent gold throne displayed during the Dasara celebrations. Next visit the Jaganmohan Palace houses an excellent collection of ceramics, ivory, sandalwood, stone, antique furniture and ancient musical instruments, St. Philomena’s Church – this imposing Gothic structure with beautiful stained glass windows and lofty towers is a must see. Evening-attend rehearsal of Torch Light Parade at Bannimantap. Continue to Chamundu Hill, named after the goddess Chamundi, to see the 17th century statue of Nandi Shiva’s mount, 16 feet high, carved out of one rock. Your afternoon is free to explore the royal city on own.
This evening. we will visit the illuminated Mysore palace and participate in the folk-dance show and other festivities. Details will be provided as they become available. HOTEL- BL
DAY 13- DASARA CELEBRATIONS
Intricately woven with legends and mythology, the city of Mysuru is a confluence of history, art and culture. As per local mythical lore, it was once ruled by Mahishasura, a buffalo-headed demon (after whom the city of Mysuru is named). His oppressed subjects invoked the gods to rid them of his evil reign and Goddess Parvathi, in the form of Chamundeshwari
vanquished him in a battle that lasted 9 days and nights. The tenth day is celebrated as Dasara, symbolizing the victory of good over evil, a tradition initiated by the Vijayanagar kings in the 9th century. During the festivities, the Mysuru Palace is adorned with bright lights and the streets are festooned with colorful streamers. A spectacular procession of decked up elephants carry the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari in the golden howdah to be worshipped by the royal family and masses alike, along with colorful tableaux, ecstatic dancing groups and music bands, horses and camels. Across the illuminated Mysuru Palace, the local Dasara annual carnival is held selling, exquisite handicrafts and local eatables and exciting rides.. Mysuru city is bedecked in its full glory, with decorated and caparisoned elephants, garlanded idols, folk dance performances, music carnival, food and film festivals, fireworks and much more. Farewell dinner at the Hotel terrace or rooftop overlooking the city light. HOTEL- BD
DAY 14- MYSORE / BENGALURU / DEPART
Free morning to shop for handicrafts & more before returning to Bengaluru where you will connect with the evening international flight homewards or extend your stay in India, Sri Lanka & more. B
LAND TOUR PRICE (2023)– TBA – $ per person sharing.
SINGLE ROOM: $