16 Nights 17 Days Mystical India Tour

(Delhi – Agra – Khajuraho – Varanasi – Bodhgaya – Kolkata – Madurai – Chennai)

Overview

There is more diversity of religions in India than anywhere on earth. Apart from having representations from almost all the religions of the world, India is also the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. India has also played host to a number of communities who have freely practiced their beliefs – thus you can find Jewish Synagogues, Armenian Churches, Zoraastrian Fire Temples in the neighbourhood of more mainstream temples, mosques and churches.

Each religion in India has its own pilgrimage sites, gods, heroes, legends, customs and traditions and festivities. Indeed, it is these diverse festivities, which add huge amount of colours to India and give her the image of a ‘colourful country’. Whether it is the jamboree of millions of faithful at the Kumbh Mela, bowing in prayer in the courtyard of a mosque during Eid, decorating the houses with lamps during Diwali, or the vibrant festivities during Christmas, religious festivals of India are celebrations of shared emotion that bring people together.

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the ancient erotic temples at Khajuraho
  • Visit the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra
  • Marvel the Indian colourful traditions
  • Guided tour to all excursions
  • Enjoy a varied type of regional food
  • Rickshaw ride in Delhi
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  • Itinerary
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Day 1   New Delhi

Day 1 New Delhi

Welcome to India. Upon arrival you will be transferred to your hotel, Get a taste of Indian hospitality while you enter the hotel by the hotel staff. You will experience the traditional Indian welcome, whilst you complete the check-in procedures. We realise that our guest will be tired and jet lagged by a long journey, so the first day is for you to relax and get acclimatised to the surrounding.

Overnight in New Delhi

Day 2   New Delhi

Day 2 New Delhi

This morning you will be taken to Old Delhi where you visit medieval Jama Mosque. Afterwards explore the old town in a walking tour - exploring centuries old arts and crafts with businessmen belonging to the 6th or 7th generation of the men who first started them. During your walking tour you will get to visit a Jain Temple and the attached bird hospital (which is a mark of compassion...so central to Jainism). Indeed you will also visit a Sikh Temple. Later in the afternoon you will be taken on a tour of New Delhi visiting – Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb and drive past Lutyens Delhi. Overnight in New Delhi

Day 3  New Delhi

Day 3 New Delhi

This morning you will be taken to visit Akshardham Temple complex which displays millennia oftraditional Indian and Hindu culture, spirituality and architecture.

Hinduism

In the evening you will be taken to one of the most esoteric experiences of Delhi culture; the experience is seldom visited by foreigners – Sufi Experience. A mystical branch of Islamic philosophy, Sufism believes that abstinence, self-denial and tolerance even of other religions are the route to union with God. Sufis also believe that being in a trance-like state of ecstasy brings the believer close to God and to this end music and dance are used quite extensively. If you are lucky you will also be treated to some live qawwali singing (devotional sufi music). It is during this time that Dervishes (sufi holy men) fall into such a trance like state that they go into a frenzied whirling.

Overnight in New Delhi

Day 4   New Delhi – Agra

Day 4 New Delhi – Agra

This morning you will be driven to Agra (Journey time 3.5 hours).
Built in the early 16th century and the capital of mighty Mughals for a long time, Agra is famous for its beautiful monuments of the medieval times. The city was pampered by the Mughals for more than two centuries - an evidence of which is spread all over the city in form of various structures constructed during those days. However, with the fall of the mighty Mughals, Agra became a victim of rebels' assertion of power and the city suffered a series of plunders by the unruly rebellious forces.
In the afternoon you will be taken to explore Agra – visiting Agra Fort and Taj Mahal (closed on Fridays). Many of the events which led to the construction of the Taj took place in the famous Agra Fort. Begun by Emperor Akbar in 1565, additions continued to be made until the time of his grandson Shah Jehan.
The magnificent palaces, towers, bastions, ramparts and gateways symbolise the power of the mighty Mughals. Made mostly of red sandstone it is strikingly similar to the Red Fort in Delhi.
The Taj Mahal (closed on Fridays) has been described as a 'tear on the face of eternity' and as an enduring monument of love. The unique beauty of Taj Mahal is blended with grandeur and its massive over-all design is matched with immaculately intricate execution. Built by Mughal Emperor Shan Jehan in the memory of his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal complex took 22 years to be completed and is today counted among the Seven Wonders of the World. It is particularly stunning at the time of sunrise and sunset.

Overnight in Agra

Day 5    Agra – Orchha – Khajuraho

Day 5 Agra – Orchha – Khajuraho

This morning you will be taken to the rail station to board your train to Jhansi (Shatabdi Express @ 0815/1045hrs). On your arrival at Jhansi railway station you will be received and driven to Khajuraho (3.5 hours) - en route you may visit Orchha, a small medieval town frozen in time. On arrival in Khajuraho you will check into your hotel and be at leisure for the rest of the day.

Overnight in Khajuraho

Day 6   Khajuraho

Day 6 Khajuraho

Today you will be taken to visit Khajuraho Temples where you will see the influence of tribal Tantricism on Indian religion of the middle ages. In these temples, the sculptures have shown many aspects of Indian life 1000 years ago — gods and goddesses, warriors and musicians, real and mythological animals. The depiction of sexual acts in the sculpture is widely regarded as an influence of the tribal culture on the contemporary Brahmanism.

Rise of Tantricism

The early medieval period saw an unprecedented ruralisation of North India and a general decline in trade and commerce. The most significant result of this was the beginning of the practice of land grants as salaries — a process which heralded the feudalisation of Indian society in the coming centuries. As land grants replaced salaries, new lands had to be brought under control so that grants could be made and this land, for obvious reasons, could mainly be in the fringe areas bordering North India...into the hitherto inaccessible lands of tribals. With the land grants came the Brahmanical influence over the tribal communities as the grantees tried to convert the locals to their ‘dominant’ way of life. This process of acculturation is what defined a significant change in the religious life of the period which was marked by assimilation of large tribal population into Brahmanical fold through incorporation of tribal gods and goddesses with the leading Brahanical godheads of Vishnu and Shiva. As a result, during this period, a large number of gods and goddesses with distinct tribal affiliations creep into Brahmanical pantheon.
The tribal assimilation not only influenced the Brahmanical mythology and pantheon, it also brought in uncomplicated tribal understanding of god and the accompanied rituals – loosely referred to as Trantricism - thereby largely shaping the Hinduism as it is known today.

Overnight in Khajuraho

Day 7   Khajuraho - Varanasi

Day 7 Khajuraho - Varanasi

Today you will be collected from your hotel and driven to the airport to board your flight to Varanasi. On arrival at Varanasi you will be received and transferred to you hotel. Varanasi is a city of temples and places of worship and for more than 2000 years, it has attracted pilgrims from near and far. Many Hindus in the latter part of their lives wish to spend their retirement here. According to Hindu belief, Benaras or Varanasi as it is known, is the cosmic centre of the Universe. Mark Twain once wrote “Beneras is older than history, older than other tradition, older even than legends and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Situated between the rivers Varuna and Ashi as they join the Ganges, Varanasi takes its name from its location. It is also called Kashi, the city of lights. Later this evening you will be taken to witness the mesmerising ‘Aarti’ by the banks of the Ganges.

Overnight in Varanasi

Day 8    Varanasi

Day 8 Varanasi

Early this morning you will be taken to the ghats and enjoy boat ride on the river while watching spectacular sunrise. Viewing the ghats early in the morning from a boat on the river can be an unforgettable experience. The river front, as seen from a boat, early in the morning, at sunrise, is a spiritually uplifting sight. Hinduism, deep and mystical, is everywhere - in a decorated doorway, in a glimpse of a glittering temple, in the sound of a sacred bell and the chants of the priests.... After your boat ride you will be taken on a brief walking tour of the old town. The lanes and by-lanes of Varanasi are as fascinating as anything one can imagine. Shops sell rich brocade silks, brassware and also all the articles essential for worship at numerous little shrines. You will return to your hotel for breakfast and the rest of the morning would be at leisure.

In the afternoon you will be driven a short distance to visit Sarnath (Sarnath Museum is closed on Mondays). Sarnath is an important centre for Buddhists pilgrims. Having achieved enlightenment at Bodhgaya, the Buddha came to Sarnath and gave his first message of the middle path to Nirvana. Later, Ashoka, the great Buddhist Emperor, erected magnificent 'stupas' and monasteries here in the 3rd century BC. Sarnath was at its peak when the Chinese traveler Fa Xien visited the site early in the 5th century AD. In 640 AD, when another Chinese traveler Huien Tsang, visited here, Sarnath had more than 1500 priests. Since then Sarnath was reduced to insignificance and left in ruins. It was as late as 1836, when British archaeologists started excavations, that Sarnath regained some of its past glory.

Overnight in Varanasi

Day 9      Varanasi – Bodhgaya

Day 9 Varanasi – Bodhgaya

This morning you will be collected from your hotel and driven to Bodhgaya (6 hours) where you arrive around noon.Twenty five centuries ago Prince Siddhartha wandering for many years, came to a spot in a forest,where he sat down under a fig tree. There, in a burst of enlightenment, he discovered the meaning ofexistence and became Lord Buddha. This place is Bodhgaya. The forests, the Buddha knew, have longgone, but the message of peace he gave to the world lives on in ancient Bodhgaya. Today, Bodhgaya isa town of temples and monasteries from all the major Buddhist countries of the world.
Holiest of all Buddhist places, Bodhgaya is a serene and quiet tiny little village situated on the bank of river Niranjana.

Later in the evening wander around the small place.

Overnight in Bodhgaya

Day 10     Bodhgaya

Day 10 Bodhgaya

Today you will be taken to explore this holy town of Bodhgaya – visiting Bodhi Tree, Mahabodhi Temple, Vajrasana and a number of new Buddhist temples and museum. Tradition states that Buddha stayed in Bodhgaya for seven weeks after enlightenment. Each week was spent in the different part of the temple complex. The first week was spent under the Bodhi tree. The present Bodhi tree is probably the fifth succession of the original tree under which the Buddha had attained enlightenment. Adjacent to the Bodhi tree is the truncated pyramidal Mahabodhi temple soaring to a height of 170 feet. This temple dates back to the second century A.D. which ranks it among the oldest existing examples of sculpture and architecture. A flight of steps leads to the inner courtyard, and right in the centre stands the great temple. Giant lamps illuminate the entrance before the sanctum, housing themassive gilded image of Lord Buddha in a sitting posture touching the earth by his right hand. In this posture, the Buddha accomplished the supreme enlightenment.
Between the temple and the tree is the diamond throne, Vajrasana which marks Buddha's seat of meditation. Most countries with a large Buddhist population have a temple or a monastery in Bodhgaya – you may visit some of them. The Thai Temple is a royal resplendence of gold and glitter in marked contrast to the understated elegance of the two Japanese temples. The Chinese temple belongs, reputedly to a Taiwanese based monastic order. The Bhutanese temple is vividly alive with brightly coloured carvings. Besides these, there are also the interesting Tibetan Monastery and Magadh University. There is also an archaeological museum here, which has a collection of Buddha figures and the pillars found in the area.

Rise of Buddhism and Jainism

Indian religious life underwent great changes during 6th century BC. This century wasmarked by the rise of breakaway sects of ascetics who rejected traditional religion, denying the authority of the Vedas and of the Brahmans and following teachers who claimed to have discovered the secret of obtaining release from transmigration. By far the most important figures of this period
were Siddhartha Gautam, called the Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and Vardhaman Mahavira, the founder of Jainism.
Buddha advocated the Middle Path in which he offered a balanced, harmonious way of life, steering between two extremes of self-indulgence and total abstinence. Buddhism rests upon four NobleTruths: (i) suffering is universal, (ii) it is caused by desire and yearning (iii) suffering can be prevented and overcome and (iv)eradication of desires can lead to removal of suffering. To prevent suffering one has to conquer craving and desire and this conquest leads to the attainment of nirvanaor complete enlightenment. Like Buddhism, Jainism rose against the corruption in the interpretation of Brahmanism prevalent at the time. The underlying philosophy of Jainism is that renunciation of worldly desires and selfconquestleads to perfect wisdom. This faith believes in total abstinence and asceticism as practiced by the Jinas and the Tirthankars (meaning crossing-makers). The ‘crossing’ refers to the passage from the material to the spiritual realm, from bondage to freedom. Followers of this faith accept the popular gods of Hinduism but they are placed lower than the jinas.

Overnight in Bodhgaya

Day 11   Bodhgaya – Kolkata

Day 11 Bodhgaya – Kolkata

Today you will be collected from your hotel and driven to the airport to board your flight to Kolkata. On arrival at Varanasi you will be received and transferred to you hotel. A mere village in the 17th century, Kolkata (Calcutta) thrived during the British Raj and became a leading centre for commerce and a port of call for east bound ships. Kolkata today reveals the rich diversity of the Bengali artistic heritage. Patronised by wealthy and rich connoisseurs, Kolkata has become the social and cultural capital of India. Gateway to the orient, it is where any journey to the East begins. The first impression of Kolkata may not be very gratifying however Kolkata is a city with soul, which has been immortalized as ‘City of Joy’ by Dominique Lapierre.

Day 12    Kolkata

Day 12 Kolkata

This morning you will be taken to explore Kolkata city in a half day tour – visiting Victoria Memorial, Botanical Gardens and Mother Teresa’s Missionary of Charity.The Victoria Memorial is the greatest landmark of the city and one of the most solid reminders of the Raj to be found in India. This huge piece of architecture is a strange combination of classical European architecture with Mughal influence, and a resemblance can be seen between the Taj Mahal at Agra and St. Paul's Cathedral at London. The portraits, statues, paintings and other artefacts here tell the story of British Empire in India at its peak. On the west bank of the Hooghly river are the extensive Botanical Gardens. This 273 acre park was set up in 1787 by Col Kyd of the East India Company. It has a variety ofbotanical specimens. The prime attraction of the park is a 200 year old Banyan tree, said to have the second largest canopy in the world. You will end your morning tour with a visit to Missionary of Charity. Later in the afternoon you will be taken for a walking tour of Kolkata’s little known ‘confluence of cultures’. Kolkata has witnessed many more cultures in its past than most others would in this globalised present. The walking tour will trace for you the origins and remains of the varied communities that hung their boots and called Kolkata home. We will visit such migrant communities as the Chinese who thrive in China town, the dwindling Parsis or the Zoroastrians, the Armenians who gave the city its oldest surviving Christian church, the Anglo-Indians, the Muslims, the Marwaris, the Biharis and many more that made this city a great melting pot of diverse cultures.

Overnight in Kolkata

Day 13     Kolkata

Day 13 Kolkata

This morning you will be taken to the famous Kali Temple of Kolkata. For most people, the divine is associated with beauty and love. Images of gods and goddesses are therefore expected to please the eye and the heart. KaIi, however, defies these expectations. She is'dark, gaunt, and bloodthirsty. Her form takes one by surprise - frightening at first, then confounding. Kali is not a typical Aryan goddess and is clearly an assimilated goddess of tribals who was incorporated into the Bramanical pantheon as the 'killer of demons', and the 'protecting mother'. Later in the afternoon visit the headquarters of Ramakrishna Movement at Belur Math – one of thebest known symbols of spiritual awakening during British India. Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission are twin organizations which form the core of a worldwide spiritual movement (known as Ramakrishna Movement or Vedanta Movement), which aims at the harmony of religions, harmony of the East and the West, harmony of the ancient and the modern, spiritual fulfillment, all-round development of human faculties, social equality, and peace for all humanity, without any distinctions of creed, caste, race or nationality. RAMAKRISHNA MATH is a monastic organization for men brought into existence by Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886), the great 19th century saint of Bengal. RAMAKRISHNA MISSION is a society in which monks of Ramakrishna Math and lay devotees cooperate in conducting various types of social service mainly in India. It was founded by Sri Ramakrishna's chief apostle, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), one of the foremost thinkers and religious leaders of the present age, who is regarded as 'one of the main moulders of the modern world', in the words of an eminent Western scholar A. L. Basham. Overnight in Kolkata

Day 14   Kolkata – Chennai – Madurai

Day 14 Kolkata – Chennai – Madurai

Today you will be collected from your hotel and driven to the airport to board your flight to Madurai via Chennai. On arrival in Madurai you will be met by our representative and taken to your hotel.
Madurai town is perhaps the most vibrant town of southern India and throbs with vim and vitality. It is a burgeoning industrial centre, even though the vast stretches of lush paddy fields, dusty roads and crowded bazaars make it seems almost like an overgrown village. All activities at Madurai are centered around Sri Meenakshi Temple, which is in the heart of the old town and is one of the most stunning living temples in the country.
Later in the evening you will be taken to visit the beautiful temple for evening ceremony.This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva’s consort Parvati who is known here as Meenakshi. The temple complex is within a high-walled enclosure, at the core of which are the two sanctums surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and grand pillared halls. Especially impressive are the 12 gopurams. Their soaring towers rise from solid granite bases, and are covered with stucco figures of dieties, mythical animals and monsters painted in vivid colours.

Overnight in Madurai

Day 15    Madurai – Chennai

Day 15 Madurai – Chennai

This morning you will be taken to visit the temple complex one more time. Afterwards you will be taken to the airport in time to board your flight to Chennai. On arrival in Chennai you will be met by our representative and taken to your hotel. Situated on the eastern coast of India, Chennai (earlier called Madras) is the fourth largest of the Indian cities, after Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi. It used to be one of the bastions of the British Empir and a trading post for the East India Company. Today, this metropolis is a microcosm of ancient traditions and cultures co-existing with modern day industry and commerce. It is a fascinating city with ancient temples and unique culture, golden sandy beaches merging with the breakers of the Bay of Bengal and a marvellous tradition of music and dance.

Overnight in Chennai

Day 15    Madurai – Chennai

Day 15 Madurai – Chennai

This morning you will be taken to visit the temple complex one more time. Afterwards you will be taken to the airport in time to board your flight to Chennai. On arrival in Chennai you will be met by our representative and taken to your hotel. Situated on the eastern coast of India, Chennai (earlier called Madras) is the fourth largest of the Indian cities, after Mumbai, Calcutta and Delhi. It used to be one of the bastions of the British Empir and a trading post for the East India Company. Today, this metropolis is a microcosm of ancient traditions and cultures co-existing with modern day industry and commerce. It is a fascinating city with ancient temples and unique culture, golden sandy beaches merging with the breakers of the Bay of Bengal and a marvellous tradition of music and dance.

Overnight in Chennai

Day 16     Chennai

Day 16 Chennai

Today you will be taken to for a sightseeing tour of Chennai – visiting Fort St George and Kapaleeswarar Temple.The Fort St. George, a 350-year-old fort with wide battlements is a reminder of the British Empire.Today, the old buildings in the fort house the Tamil Nadu State Government Secretariat and theLegislative Assembly. Within the fort complex, a number of other early buildings still stand, of which St. Mary's Church is the most interesting. The church has many paintings, records and registers, eachwith a story to tell.

The renowned Kapaleeswarar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple complex has thetraditional market, the tank and Brahmin residential houses. Another ancient and important temple here is the Krishna Parathasarthy Temple, which dates back to the 8th century during the reign of thePallavas. It is dedicated to Lord Krishna.

Overnight in Chennai

Day 17    Chennai

Day 17 Chennai

Today after your breakfast you will be transferred to Chennai International Airport for your onward journey with a bunch of enthralling and mesmerizing memories of your tour.

Travel Insurance

Yes. All Zigi Tour’s guests are required to purchase travel insurance prior to their India tour. Your leader will record your insurance details on the first day.We have negotiated very special rates with our colleagues at Holiday Extras – with no upper age limits and no medical declaration for UK tours.

To obtain a quotation simply call them on 0800 2800 104 – Please ensure you quote our special price code Q4228

Dust Masks

Unfortunately pollution is a global phenomenon. It is advisable to carry dust masks if you are sensitive to dust or may have conditions like asthma, etc.

Charcoal Tablets

They’re an incredibly effective way of stopping diarrhoea and preventing dysentery (Delhi Belly). It quickly absorbs the toxins or pathogens that are causing the problem and keeps you strong.

Passport Pouch

A pouch to keep your personal belongings like passports, loose money, personal medications, Photo ID, etc. is strongly recommended.

Camera

India is a place of endless eye candy and spectacles that you won’t see anywhere else. Naturally a camera comes in handy.

Personal water filter

We provide complimentary mineral filtered water for our tours. It is strongly advised to consume only packaged drinking water or carry water purification tablets.

Power adapter

It is important to carry international travel adapters to charge your electronic items such as laptops , phones, toothbrush, tablets, etc

Electrolytes

It is important to stay hydrated. Electrolytes can be easily added to a bottle of water to get an extra boost of hydration.

Sunscreen

A good sunscreen is strongly advised to protect your skin from tropical weather.

Travel Backpack

Travel back pack comes in handy whilst you are on a day tour or just venturing out. It can be stored to keep your belongings such as camera, tablet, water bottle, snacks, etc