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.
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. In the tropical southern areas, the sea-washed hamlet of Mandarmani vies for attention with Bishnupur’s ornate terracotta-tiled Hindu temples and palaces. The striped Bengal tiger stealthily swims through muddy rivulets in the Sunderbans; while a bunch of European ghost towns line the banks of the Hooghly (Ganges) further upstream as reminders of the state’s maritime heyday. There’s also a vibrant art scene, delectable cuisine and a genuinely hospitable population where friends are easy to make and hard to lose.
Your tour begins:
CITY TOUR: 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 Colorful temple architecture, Gujarat tourthe 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.
Navratri festival Dandiya and Garba folk dances with locals.DSC00894Interesting feature of Navratri is the “garba “, a circular dance performed by women around an earthenware pot called a “garbo “, filled with water. As the dancers 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
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.
Street fruit sellerLater 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
DSC01083Amidst 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. Bhujodi is a major textile center of Kutch, with the vast majority of the 1200 inhabitants involved in textile handicraftHandicrafts of Gujarat tour 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.
This evening offer last opportunity to view and participate in the Navratri celebrations in Gujarat (Optional).
Go pandal (temporary temples made of bamboo and cloth) hopping. To Kolkata flower market tourworship 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.
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.
Maha-ashtami brings in hundreds of devotees who pray for their well-being in front of the Goddess. They perform this by offering ‘anjalis’ to the Goddess. Kumari pujo or the worship of little girls as Goddesses is performed with much devotion. The vital ritual of the day is the Shandhi Pujo, usually performed after the day light fades, which connects Ashtami and Navami. Mahanavami is the concluding day of the puja, as it marks the end of the Shandhi Pujo. The bhog which is given to the goddess Durga is now distributed among the devotees, and this signifies imparting power, harmony and holy food. This holy food is known as Mahabhog. On Dashami the Goddess Durga is given a tearful farewell. The ‘Sindoor khela’, where married women play with vermilion and give sweets to the goddess for her safe journey is extremely popular among the Bengali married women. Bishorjon is the final ritual when the idols are immersed in holy rivers and she again goes back to her heavenly abode.
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.
City tour & DURGA PUJA CELBRATIONS
Visit 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 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.
KOLKATA- Heritage walk & DASHAMI 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.
Today Goddess Durga’s victory over evil is celebrated as Vijayadashami in Bengal. This last day of Durga Puja sees the Visarjan (immersion) of the Goddess in lakes and rivers. Maa is bid farewell with a grand procession prior to which she indulges in Sindoor Khela in which married Bengali ladies put vermillion on Durga Maa’s & each other’s forehead and cheeks. It is mandatory for these women to be dressed in white saris with red borders. We will have opportunity to witness these celebrations as well as follow & photograph the many processions taking Goddess Durga idols for immersion. The importance of traditional drums and drummers comes into play when the “dhunuchi” dance is performed by devotees in front of the Goddess. With a smoking mixture of camphor, incense, timber and coconut husk, called “dhuno”, poured inside wide brimmed clay pots, called dhunuchi, the devotee rests the pot in his hands and sways to the beats of dhaks in front of the goddess. The dance becomes intense with the rising tempo of the dhaks.
Tour of Shantiniketan, founded by the first non-European Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Thākur (popularly known as Tagore) in 1921. The school was a conscious repudiation of the system introduced in India by the British rulers and Rabindranath initially sought to realize the intrinsic values of the ancient education in India. The school and its curriculum, therefore, signified a departure from the way the British viewed education and teaching. Simplicity was a cardinal principle. Classes were held in open air in the shade of trees where man and nature entered into an immediate harmonious relationship. Teachers and students shared the single integral socio-cultural life. The curriculum had music, painting, dramatic performances and other per formative practices. Beyond the accepted limits of intellectual and academic pursuits, opportunities were created for invigorating and sustaining the manifold faculties of the human personality. Visva-Bharati was later declared to be a central university and an institution of national importance. Tour the University including the Uttarayana Complex and Kala Bhawan and Amar Kutir, a cooperative that produces leather goods, Kantha stitched Saris, bamboo crafts and batik. The cooperative established in 1978, is an organization built to promote the village arts and crafts.
Explore Murshidabad and the nearby places of historical and architectural importance such as Nashipur Palace, Nimakharam Deuri, Khoshbag and Armenian Church at Saidabad. After lunch visit the Jain Settlement and the Terracotta temples of Bornogor. Our last stop is at Khagra, to see local handicrafts made of silk, ivory and bell metal.
Continue to Chandanagore, formerly a French Colony. Tour the Museum, Institute De Chandernagore, St. Joseph Convent, the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Hotel de Paris (Presently City Civil Court) and The Strand. After lunch we visit Serampur, former Danish Colony known as Fredericknagore. Most important evidence of Danish Settlement is Carey’s College built by Sir William Carey in 1819. Other interesting architectural sites that we will visit are College of Textile Technology, Roman Catholic Church, Danish Governor’s Palace (Presently City Civil Court). Drive back to Kolkata and connect with your international flight or extend your stay.
SUNDARBAN EXPERIENCE: Full day game cruise to Netidhobani Watch Tower in the core area of the Tiger reserve. Hot and freshly cooked lunch will be served on board. Back to camp in the afternoon. Evening enjoy a local Cultural show known as `Dukhe Yatra’, a spectacular one hour show including folk songs and dances. This is a unique traditional rural theater which unfolds the interesting stories of the Tiger Lord, Forest Goddess & the honey collectors.