INDIA 2017 - 2018 PURSUE YOUR PASSION!

INDIA, a feEling you cannot describe!

Bring everyone and everything along – your friends, your family, your dreams.

The itinerary presented here is a model of trips we’ve done in the past – the idea is to talk with you, discover what your interest are and then propose an itinerary based on our mutual exchange of ideas. You can trust me to take you on a unforgettable journey to places both old and new. And of course, you will benefit from the 30 years I have spent working and exploring this immense subcontinent called India.

Capacity: Minimum 4 - Maximum 12 guests.

Best time for travel: October to March - choose yours.

 

On this journey we not only introduce you to some of the very rich and diverse textiles and craft traditions of India, but you will also experience a little of everything that makes a trip to this country so exciting - food, shopping, history, architecture. The list in India just goes on and on.

 Illustration: Nathalia Hamid

Illustration: Nathalia Hamid

   

So many wonderful things happen to you in India, this most wonderful of countries.  There are whole libraries about the sights and sounds of India, its heat and dust, its tigers and elephants, its forts and palaces, its colors, monsoons, mangoes and spices. However, the trip you are about to take with me has a small but very important difference – it gives pride of place to the artisans, the craftsmen and women of this ancient land who have plied their traditional trades for hundreds of years. We must constantly remind ourselves that the many objects and artifacts that we will see on this trip were made by the many gifted and inventive artisans who breathed life into them. So what I want to do is to share with you a little of how, for the past thirty years, I have experienced this country through its craftsmen and artisans. I want to take you to some of those less visited nooks and corners of the country and introduce you to the live and work of its artisans.
I ask only one thing of you: be curious. Be curious and open your mind and your arms to this great gentle, welcoming sub-continent, so full of marvels and contradictions, great joy and great pain, and I assure you  that  you will feel yourself richer in so many small and wonderful ways.
This trip will sometimes involve long driving hours; sometimes you may find that the wifi doesn't work, and sometimes the hotel or the weather or the food may not agree with you.  Please remember that for this country to touch you in real ways you must sometimes be ready to trade in the idea of the all-inclusive holiday resort. I have always believed that there is no problem that a little patience and a sense of humor does not solve. Perhaps the best and most simple way to get right to the heart of Indian culture is by sampling its food – there is no greater gastronomic delight in the world than to inhale for the first time the lovely aroma of cooking spices.  Indian cuisine reflects almost 5000 years of various cultures interacting with the subcontinent, leading to an amazing diversity of flavors and regional cuisines. Since buffets are what most tour groups are exposed to, I think it would be an exciting experience for us to visit a few carefully chosen restaurants in the larger cities on our itinerary to try out the local cuisine. The cost of these meals is not included in the total cost of the tour which will, of course, include breakfast, buffets in the smaller towns, packed lunch boxes (for longish trips) and  bottled water.  A visit to a good restaurant gives you the freedom to leaf through local menus and order any dish you might want to try.
Collectors, architects, mystics, musicians, designers, anthropologists, photographers – whatever your calling, your field of work or study- India will give you memories to last a life time. So let this be the first of your many visits to India. You don’t need to knock on any doors here. Hospitality, as Indians proudly say, is a way of life here . 


Day 1, 2 & 3 - Mumbai (Bombay)

Namaste, Welcome to India!

How did Bombay (Mumbai) end up with the British? King Charles the Second of England married Catherine of Braganza of Portugal and part of the dowry was the Portuguese territory of Bombay! The Portuguese were not being generous – Bombay at the time was a string of seven islands separated by swamps and the climate was so unhealthy that it was said that a man wouldn’t last two monsoons there. When the Portuguese captured the islands they established a factory and called the place Bom Bahia (Good Bay) which the English pronounced Bombay. In 1995 Bombay became Mumbai , named after the stone goddess of the Colis, the deep sea fishermen who lived there before they were driven out by the British East India Company.

On arrival in Bombay (Mumbai) you will be received at the airport and transferred to your hotel near Colaba which is a shopper’s paradise and a great area to wander about and orient yourself. After a restful night and an informal tour briefing the next morning where we’ll meet our companions with whom we will sharing our time and space for the next few days, we will set off to get a feel of Bombay, a lively, cosmopolitan city with a population of about ten million.

We will take in The Gateway of India, the Prince of Wales Museum, the Gothic façade of Victoria Terminus, then drive to Lower Parel where a lot of old, industrial buildings have been recently converted into some very interesting stores and restaurants. After lunch we will go on to sprawling Crawford Market which has been the center of market life in South Bombay since it was built in the days of the British Raj. Cross the streetand you will enter a labyrinth of specialized markets – Zaveri Bazaar (gold), Mangaldas market (cloth and textiles) etc. Back to the hotel to freshen up and find ourselves a restaurant that specializes in good Indian food.

Included Activities

  • The Gateway of India
  • Prince of Wales Museum
  • Victoria Terminus
  • Crawford Market & Bazaar
  • Shopping at Lower Parel
  • Drive past the Municipal Corp., University of Mumbai, Highcourt, and the Rajabai clock tower all constructed in the Gothic style.

 Cost not included in the package

Visits to a few carefully chosen restaurants in the larger cities to try out the local cuisine. 

A meal can cost roughly between 600 to 2000 Rs depending on the restaurant and alcohol consumption.  

  • Lunch: In a modern restaurant-café.
  • Dinner: Traditional North Indian food, authentic décor

Accommodation:

Hotel: Trident in Nariman Point

Nights: 2   (breakfast included)


Day 4 - Mumbai - Bhuj

Early the next morningwe fly to Bhuj , the capital of Kutch in the Western State of Gujarat, a city that has literally risen from the ashes after being devastated by an earthquake in 2001. For the next few days we will acquaint ourselves with the stunningtraditional crafts of Kutch. We will have time to look at sublime examples of their various crafts and reflect on the incredible diversity of the artisanal traditions there. We will meet with artisansfrom many different trades and many communities and tribal villages,  and look at the work done by co-operative networks (NGO’s), some of whom have done a great deal to empower women and sustain and promote the work of local artisans. After dropping off our bags at the hotel we will visit the Old & New palaces so typical of the architecture of the region and then go to Smita Dugar’s workshop/studio at WAMA. This is an organization set up to work with artisans and their crafts, and to createsustainable work and opportunities for the rural women of Kutch. Samita will explain and demonstrate the different embroidery traditions among the Kachchhi communities – Hariijan, Aahir, Jat, Rajput, Sodha, Rabari among others.

 

IMG_1239.jpg

Included Activities

  • Wama introduction & demonstration by Smita Dugar.
  • Aina Mahal & Prag Mahal : 18th. and 19th. century Indian palaces   
  • If time permits The Kutch Museum.
  • A colorful evening market walk.

 Bhuj is vegetarian and the consumption of alcohol is prohibited. 

  • Most of the meals will be at  the Hotel and we will take our lunch boxes along on the long trips. 

Accommodation:

  • Hotel: Mangalam or Prince
  • Nights: 1- (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included)

Day 5 - Bhuj - Dhammadka - Mundra - Mandvi

Bhuj - Dhammadka: This is a very special day when we will visit with and experience the exquisite AJRAKH(azrak, blue in Arabic) work, a decorative textile craft, of National Award winner, Abdulrazaq Mohammad Khatri from the Khatri community. Using block printing and natural dyes, ajrakh work is a complex process of precise and uniquely geometric floral designs. They obviously serve a very practical sociological purpose too because colors and designs worn by men denote the communities they belong to while the prints and embellishments worn by women may point to their age, marital status and group identity.
We will start with the dyeing bath, the finishing process, block printing, then move to the Khatri home for a more detailed demonstration of the use of natural colors and printing, and browse about in their well stocked ajrakh store.  Time permitting, we stop at Ismail Mohammad Khatri’s workshop also specializing in traditional ajrakh.  On the way back to Bhuj, we will stop at SHRUJAN, an ONG that works with a network of nearly 80 villages and carries beautiful, high quality work.

AJRAKH: Built around 2600B.C Mohenjo Daro (in Sind, Pakistan) was an important settlement of the ancient Indus Valley civilization. A sculpture unearthed there shows a bearded man wearing a shawl engraved with a trefoil pattern and traces of red pigment – a garment very similar to the red and indigo hand printed ajrakh, scarf widely worn in the region.

Mundra: We continue driving for an hour until we reach Mundra, the home and workshop of Shakil Ahmed Khatri with whom we’ll explore the world of batik. After a demonstration we will have the unique privilege of viewing his traditional and innovative batik work.

Mandvi, visit the Vijay Villas Palace and the Ship building yard. The center of attraction at Mandvi is the Vijay Vilas Palace, a royal abode set in the middle of well-laid gardens with water channels and marble fountains. The architect and craftsmen from Jaipur designed and constructed the palace in 1920 AD. The palace has all the elements of Rajput architecture. Ship building yard. On the banks of the Rukmavati River, just south of the bridge, you can visit the still-active shipbuilding yard. Craftsmen still assemble ships out of wood, for local or international guests, and you can feel free to watch them work. It is gives a opportunity its watch handmade ship being built which will make one truly appreciate craftsmanship. 

 Dhammadka

Dhammadka

Included Activities

  • Dhammadka, block printing and natural dyes - Ajrakh.
  • Lunch box picnic
  • Drive to Mundra and Mandvi - will be a long excited day.

Accommodation:


Day 6 Mandvi - Bhadali - Nirona - Nani Aral

Early the next morning we will drive north for approximately an hour to the Resort that is located in the village of Nani Aral. We will spend a day and a night there visiting nearby villages to meet local artisans and look at their work.

Bandhani or Indian tie&dye: “My art is my identity” reads the visiting card ofUmarfarul Khatri, and that is exactly what his work reflects! The word bandhna in Hindi means to tie, and bandhani work in India started with the Muslim Khatri community of Kutch. The art of bandhani is a supremely skilled process, and the technique involves dyeing a fabric which is tied tightly with threads at several points thus producing an astonishing variety of subtle patterns.

Hand-bells of Nirona: While the men of the Lohar blacksmith family patiently hammer away at the copper they use to fashion the bells, their women inside the patio keep busy polishing the bells with mud paste and copper powder.

Lacquer work:  We willvisit with the family of Bhavik Bhacchaya who belongs to a semi nomadic tribe and watch him as he uses his traditional tools to create designs of the most wonderful colors and turns out wooden spoons, bread rolling pins, toys, containers, and other utensils.  

 Lacquer work

Lacquer work

Included Activities

  • Bhadli - Bandhani or Indian tie&dye.

  • Craft villages, Nirona - Rogan Art, Hand bells, leather & Lacquer work

Accommodation: 

  • Hotel: Infinity Rann of Kutch or Sham e Sarhad village resort
  • Nights: 1 - (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included)

Day 7 Hodka Village

 We leave Nani Aral early and drive to look at some outstanding examples of embroidery work, and push on to Hodka where we spend the night.

 Sham e Sarhad: this beautiful Village Resort is owned and operated by The Village Tourism Committee of the indigenous people from Hodka village. We will be using this unique setting as a base to explore the daily lives of indigenous communities that populate the region. The accommodation is in bhungas (circular mud huts) or spacious tents (with all modern amenities) typical of the surrounding Banni region.  Dinners in the evening are usually followed by singing or dances by the campfire with local musicians playing traditional instruments.

We will visit the uniquely decorated and painted homes (which often double up as work spaces and studios) of several families of artisans, learn about their customs and their livelihoods, and of course, view and admire their leather work and the sheer range of their embroideries (pakko, neran, kambhiro, appliqué etc.)

Dhoro:  In Ramji’s family compound we visit his shop to look at his applique work. He will then take us to the home of a relative who specializes in leather work.

Banni: Mother & Son team: the mother fashions incredible designs from mud while the son turns out exceptional leather work.

Ludiya: On the way to Khavda famous for pottery we will stop at Ludiya village to see their traditionally painted mud houses, and the embroidery and wood carving crafts of the Meghwal community.

White Rann:  The Great Rann of Kutch is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar Desert in the Kutch district of Gujarat, and the adjoining Sindh province in Pakistan.  It is about 7,505.22 square kilometers in size and is reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world. Best time to visit is at sunset or on nights of the full moon. 

Passports!  Keep your passports handy- we will need them to get written permission to visit the Rann.

 Bhadali

Bhadali

Included Activities

  • Villages
  • White Rann

Accommodation:

  • Hotel: Sham e Sarhad village resort
  • Nights 1  -  (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner & out door music included)

Day 8 - Bhuj -  Bhujodi - Little Rann

Bhujodi: Early the next morning we will visit Vankar Vishram Valji, master weaver and winner of several national awards. He will take us around his workshops, and give us a demonstration of his superb work. He has a wonderful store on the premises that specializes in an extensive collection of hand-made blankets, shawls and throws. If time permits, we can visit a craft park nearby. 

Before reaching the Hotel we will visit nearby Villages - to see the local tribes such as Rabari, Koli and Bajania still maintaining their rich heritage of lifestyle clothes, jewelry and dances. Their embroidery is exquisite. One can see the Negroid Sidhi tribes - people of Gir and Kutch.

Little Rann: The smaller 4,953 sq. kilometer Little Rann of Kutch is a fascinating stretch of flat, salt-cracked barren desert that is home to large colonies of flamingos, dwindling populations of the Asiatic wild ass, antelopes, foxes, wolves, jackals etc.

 

 Bhujodi

Bhujodi

Included Activities

  • Lunch at home with Bhujodi master weaver Vankar. 
  • If time permits will stop at the Craft Park & Villages.
  • Drive to Little Rann  

 Accommodation: 

  • Hotel: Rannriders
  • Nights: 1 - (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included)

Day 9 - Little Rann - Modhera - Patan - Ahmedabad

After spending the night at Rann Riders we will go on a jeep safari to take in the bird and animal life in the Little Rann Sanctuary, pick up our bags, and drive about two hours to Patan, well known for its exquisite but time consuming Patola silk saris, and for the beautiful Rani ki Vav (The Queen's Step Well) which has been declared a a Unesco Heritage site. Two and a half hours later we will be in Ahmedabad, the capital of the state of Gujarat (birthplace of the father of modern India, Mahatma Gandhi).

On the way to Patan we will stop at Modhera's Sun Temple, dedicated to the Hindu Sun-God Surya.  Build in 1026 AD. The Sun temple is of a unique architecture. The temple comprises there separate, axially aligned and integrated elements: Surya Kund -  water tank with 108 auspicious stone steps and mini shrines , Sabha Mandap  - open religious gathering hall with 52 intricately carved pillars representing 52 weeks in a year. and Guda Mandap, main temple. Lotuses open with surise and close itself with sunset. The entire temple is therefore based on an inverted lotus-base plinth. Designed so that the rays of the rising and setting sun on the day of the solstice fell on the idol.

Dinner on the terrace of MG Hotel Agashye. Great atmosphere, traditional vegetarian Gujarati cuisine, especially the iconic thali which is a large serving plate that contains a great variety of dishes.

 Patan - Patola silk Ikat

Patan - Patola silk Ikat

Included Activities

  • Little Rann Safari
  • Sun Temple at Modhera
  • Patan, Patola silk sari workshop
  • Step well Rani ki Vav
  • MG Hotel Agashye, dinner on the terrace, traditional thali.

Cost not included in the package

Visits to a few carefully chosen restaurants in the larger cities to try out the local cuisine. 

A meal can cost roughly between 600 to 2000 Rs depending on the restaurant and alcohol consumption.  

Accommodation:

  • HeritageHotel: House of MG
  • Nights 2 - Breakfast 

Day 10 - Ahmedabad

We start early with a walk through the typical Gujarati adjoining house colonies in the old city known as POLS : These small neighborhoods are both the backbone and heartbeat of the old city of Ahmedabad. In recent years, families have started moving out to live in more modern houses further from the city center, but many of them still feel a strong attachment to the close-knit communities of the pols that shaped their lives while they were growing up. Many of them have their own temple or small shrines at the center of the neighborhood.

Next stop - the incredible Calico Museum Of Textiles, justly regarded today as one of the foremost textile museums of the world. Its outstanding collection of Indian textiles spanning almost five centuries attracts both members of the general public as well as historians, textile aficionados and research scholars.  Most significantly, it has become a major reference source for handicraftsmen, designers, as also for the Indian machine-textile industry. The textiles were collected with a vision to build awareness, and preserve for posterity the incomparable textile heritage of India.
The Sarabhai foundation, started in 1959 by Smt. Sarladevi Sarabhai and Shri Ambalal Sarabhai, is a non-profit devoted, among other things, to the ‘promotion of science, art and literature’. (we will try our best to get the tickets in advance - the museum has a very strict number of people per day entrance policy.)

In the afternoon we could visit Gandhi’s famous ashram on the banks of the river Sabarmati, the Shreyas Museum of Folk Arts and/or the kite museum. We end the day with a special treat- a walk around a unique museum built of straw, mud and dung –the Vechaar museum- devoted entirely to the preservation of about 3500 copper, brass, and bronze utensils. They form part of the personal collection of Mr. Surendra Patel who acquired and collected them meticulously over the course of many years. We will round off our museum visit with dinner on the premises, at the famous Vishala pastoral restaurant.

 Ahmedabad old city

Ahmedabad old city

 

Included Activities

  • Calico Museum Of Textiles
  • Gandhi's Ashram and/or other museums.
  • Vechaar museum
  • Walk through Pols in the old city.

 Cost not included in the package

Visits to a few carefully chosen restaurants in the larger cities to try out the local cuisine. 

A meal can cost roughly between 600 to 2000 Rs depending on the restaurant and alcohol consumption. 

  • Lunch at a popular café.
  • Dinner at Vishala pastoral restaurant.

Accommodation:

  • Heritage  Hotel: House of MG
  • Nights 2 - (Breakfast included)

 


 Day 11 - Ahmedabad - Jaipur

In the morning before departure, we will visit Textile Mill Owners Association building, beautify preserved designed by Le Corbusier.

We arrive in Jaipur by air–often called The Pink City because of its distinctly colored buildings - the gateway to the desert state of Rajasthan.

 

 Hawa Mahal is often called the Palace of Winds

Hawa Mahal is often called the Palace of Winds

Included Activities

  • Amber Fort
  • Anokhi Museum. 
  • Heritage walk.
  • Lassi wala
  • Shopping

 Cost not included in the package

Visits to a few carefully chosen restaurants in the larger cities to try out the local cuisine. 

A meal can cost roughly between 600 to 2000 Rs depending on the restaurant and alcohol consumption. 

  • Lunch at Somod Haveli heritage Hotel or Chaisa for more of an International menu.
  • Dinner it will be a special traditional Rajasthani meal

Accommodation: 

  • Hotel: Triden - Somod Haveli -  or Derarawatsar
  • Nights 2 - (Breakfast included)

 Day 12, 13 & 14 - Jaipur - Sanganer - Bagru

Amber Fort: If you want to ride an elephant this is the place to do it, all the way up to the entrance to the fort. The Fort's architecture is a magnificent blend of Hindu and Mughal influences. Made out of red sandstone and white marble, it consists of a series of courtyards, palaces, halls, and gardens. Perhaps, the most beautiful part of it is the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) with its intricately carved, glittering walls and ceilings.  We then drive through the old town to the graceful building that houses the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing dedicated to the collection, preservation and interpretation of block printed cloth. There will be a demonstration where you can test your skills!

If time permits: Other sites:  Hawa Mahal is often called the Palace of Winds and is a striking landmark. Built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh specifically for the women in the royal family, this building allowed them to watch the city’s processions through tiny, latticed windows and balconies without ever being seen. This five-storey pyramidal monument resembles a giant honeycomb and gets its name from the pink wind vanes that are perpetually in motion.

Heritage Walk: A great way to discover this old pink city is on a guided walking tour. 

 After lunch we’re off shopping! Jaipur is easily the shopping and bargain capital of North India, Temptation is everywhere and there’s really no pointtrying to resist it.
Clothing, home furnishings and accessories: Anokhi, Hot Pink, Kilol, Soma, Rasa, Ambika.
Tribal jewelry: Amrapali

Early the next morning we drive to Sanganer famous for its textile printing and handmade paper industry. Sanganer prints are unique and one of a kind – dazzling colors always printed on white backgrounds. Despite the accessibility of modern techniques like screen printing, the Chhipa community, justly famous for their block prints, continue to use the mud resist or wax resist process. Almost every member of the Chihhpa family is involved in the washing, dyeing and printing of clothes. While theprinters are predominantly Hindus, and followers of the renowned Marathi poet saint Namdev,  the dyers and blockmakers are mostly Muslim.   The Saraswati River which is mentioned in ancient Vedic texts and dried up somewhere around the 16th. century,  once flowed through here, and the rare qualities of its water is said to have highlighted the radiance of natural dyed fabrics.  

On to the Paper Makers. The history of the clan of the Khanzad Kaagzis (kaagaz is Hindi/Urdu for paper) dates back to the fourteenth century when the characteristics and variety of paper made by them in Tizara (Alwar district of Rajasthan) earned them great fame and popularity especially among the royal houses. 

We might be running short of time but we’ll do our best to drive the 20kms. west to the small village of Bagru, another famous center for block printing. Bagru prints are characterized by circular designs as well as linear and floral patterns, and each of the colors of these prints has a separate significance. For instance, the red in the prints stands for love, yellow for spring, indigo is reminiscent of the god Krishna, and saffron denotes the seer or yogi. The wooden blocks are usually made of teak wood, and the vegetable dyes use madder, turmeric, pomegranate rind and indigo. Sadly, these are now beginning to be replaced by chemical dyes.

On the 14th, Morning ride Elephant Safari! In Keeping with the Traditions of Rajasthan, we invite you to explore the state in a “Regal Style” on Elephant back. One of the grandest creatures of the world. With a gentle swaying gate of a dancer. From a photogenic vantage point of 14 feet in the air, a walk through the land on elephant –back promises a magnificent timeless experience. Dera Amer – behind the hills of famous Fort Amer. Foothills of the Aravali Range and surrounded by wilderness of a reserved forest. Drive to the pick up point – where gaily caparisoned Elephants are waiting for you. Hop on (Two persons to One Elephant) …..and ride through the Agricultural fields, hills and ancient monuments. The birdlife in the thick forest is thriving and though Panthers make only a rare appearance – wolf and Hyenas are often sighted by guests. Antelopes are in abundance. The guests shall also stop by at the local villages and get to see the local village Potter and other craftspersons and also visit the local village homes. The Safari (about 2 hours) – end with a Lunch at the Safari camp located inside the Reserved Forest. After lunch market & local bazaars. 

 Pipar

Pipar

Included Activities

  • Sanganer- visit textile printing workshop and store.
  • Sanganer - hand -made paper industry.
  • Bagru- charming village dedicated to wood block printing.

 Cost not included in the package

Visits to a few carefully chosen restaurants in the larger cities to try out the local cuisine. 

A meal can cost roughly between 600 to 2000 Rs depending on the restaurant and alcohol consumption.  

  • Dinner at a roof top restaurant.

Accommodation:

  • Hotel: Trident - Somod Haveli -  or Derarawatsar 
  • Nights 2 - (Breakfast & Lunch box included)

 


Day 15 - Jaipur - Fatehpur Sikri - Agra

Early the next morning we drive to Agra stopping on the way at the World Heritage Site of Fatehpur Sikri, often called the abandoned city or the ghost city. It was here that the Sufi saint Shaikh Salim Chisti had predicted the birth of an heir to the Mughal throne, and when that prophecy came true the Mughal Emperor Akbar built his new capital there.  For various reasons, the city was abandoned shortly after Akbar’s death but the well-preserved buildings are a magnificent example of Mughal architecture at its peak.              

Included Activities

  •  6 hour drive to Agra with a stop at Fatehpur Sikri. 

 Cost not included in the package

Visits to a few carefully chosen restaurants in the larger cities to try out the local cuisine. 

A meal can cost roughly between 500 to 2000 Rs depending on the restaurant and alcohol consumption.  

  • Dinner can be International in case you are tired of Indian food.

Accommodation: 

  •  Hotel: Trident or ITC Mughal
  • Night: 1 - (Breakfast, Lunch box included)

Day 16 - Agra - Delhi

No matter how many photographs you’ve seen of the Taj Mahal, seeing it in the flesh, so to speak, is still a very physical and emotional experience. Built between 1631 and 1648 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj is easily the zenith of the great flowering of Indo-Islamic architecture in the seventeenth century. Its rhythmic combination of solids and voids, concave and convex, light and shadow, arches and domes greatly enhances the aesthetic aspect of the whole, and the combination of lush green and reddish pathway with the blue sky overhead showcases the monument in a great variety of changing tints and moods. Given the heat of the day and the large crowds in attendance, sunrise is probably the best time to visit the monument.

However, there’s life after the Taj.  The Agra Fort, built on the banks of the River Yamuna,  is probably the finest Mughal fort in India. The fort and palace was begun by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and later his grandson Shah Jahan added many exquisite buildings using white marble. Started as a military structure, it became a palace along the way and, sadly at the end, a prison because that is where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb after he had seized power. He is rumored to have died in a tower with the walls reflecting his beloved Taj.

Included Activities

  • The Taj Mahal at sunrise
  • Agra Fort
  • Marble in laid workshop.
  • Drive New Delhi (4 hours)

 Cost not included in the package

Visits to a few carefully chosen restaurants in the larger cities to try out the local cuisine. 

A meal can cost roughly between 500 to 2000 Rs depending on the restaurant and alcohol consumption.  

  • Lunch in Agra
  • Dinner in Delhi

Accommodation: 

  • Hotel: Royal Plaza or Country Inn
  • Nights 2 (Breakfast included)

Day 17 & 18 - Delhi

Our last 2 days will be spent in Delhi, the capital of India. In the morning we tour the city and discover Old Delhi with its narrow, colorful streets and bazaars with their traditional workshops, ancient and modern monuments - the Mughal Emperor Humayun's tomb, the 13th. century tower, the Qutub Minar, the Red Fort built of red sandstone, India's largest mosque, the Jama Masjid as well as the imposing buildings of Parliament built by the English architect, Edward Lutyens. 

 After lunch some last minute shopping atDilli Haat, a sprawlingoutdoor market exhibiting authentic crafts from all overthe country. We go on to Haus Khas village and wander through narrow alleys to take in a very vibrant scene where boutiques and shops selling handicrafts, curios, carpets and designer clothing have mushroomed in old homes converted into business premises.

 OPTIONAL: The Kingdom of Dreams: A culture fun stroll along a fantasy boulevard offering arts, crafts, and dining options. We could book a show at the Nautanki Mahal and experience Bollywood-style theatrics or head to the Showshaa Theatre for a variety of plays.

Included Activities

  • Old Delhi on "Cycle Rickshaws"
  • City tour monuments.
  • Dilli Haat
  • Khan market
  • Haus Khas village

Other Activities non included

Visits to a few carefully chosen restaurants in the larger cities to try out the local cuisine. 

A meal can cost roughly between 500 to 2000 Rs depending on the restaurant and alcohol consumption.  

  • Lunch, Dinner two days to chose from aromatic dishes cooked with several spices, notably saffron and other delights!

Accommodation: 

  • Hotel: Royal Plaza or Country Inn
  • Nights 2 - (breakfast included)

 FOR THOSE WHO WANT MORE!

 5 Days 19 to 23 - Varanasi or Benares

Varanasi, one of the holiest of India’s cities defies easy description. It is, above all, the city of the Hindu God Shiva, and devout Hindus believe that to die in Varanasi is to be liberated forever from the endless cycle of births and rebirths. It is a maze of narrow streets, which wind behind the ghats (the stone steps near the river), and it is well documented that Buddha walked the narrow streets of this ancient city and delivered some of his earliest sermons there. The streets are lined with shops selling saris, sweets, flowers, paan (betel leaf) which sit cheek by jowl with stone carvings and some of the most exquisitely carved temples. There are hundred of temples and ghats that stretch from Raj Ghat in the north to Assi Ghat in the south. The city is popularly known as 'Kaashi', and there was a time when stringent laws of inheritance and re-marriage forced hundreds of elderly widows to come and settle here and spend the rest of their lives in penance and devotion to God.

We are so fortunate! October 30th is Diwali. Deepawali or Diwali, also called "festival of lights", is one of the five prominent festivals celebrated in India. A breathtaking sight! It is an ancient Hindu festival, which spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness or good over evil. Brightly decorated deities are taken out in the streets of Varanasi and the houses and the ghats along the river are lit up by thousands of earthen oil lamps. The holy Ganges itself is a marvelous sight with a multitude of colorful clay lamps bobbing on its waters. Thousands of devotees from the holy city of Varanasi,from the surrounding villages and across the country gather in the evening on the ghats of the Ganges to watch the evening ritual - the "aarti"- performed by 21 young Brahmin priests and 24 girls. The rituals involve the chanting of hymns, rhythmic drum beating, and conch shell blowing.

We will then explore the rich crafts of Varanasi. The narrow lanes and famous bazaars of Varanasi are all alive with displays of the rich silk brocades for which Varanasi is justly famous, particularly the Kinkab superbly woven in gold and silver in various styles and colors. We will also visit some villages around Varanasi, where the community of artisans who weave the thousands of dhurries and carpets live. In the late afternoon we will visit the Ghats on the Ganges River to witness the 'Deepmala Ceremony'  where a thousand earthen lamps are floated on the water as an auspicious omen of well being and prosperity.  

Very early the next morning we drive through the city to the Ghats on the banks of river, and embark on a boat ride to catch the sunrise on the Ganges.  At dawn multitudes of pilgrims descend into the holy waters to cleanse themselves of their sins and perform the ritual immersions and prayers at the Ghats. To witness this spectacle of the practice of religion unchanged over thousands of years is one of the most extraordinary experiences of a visit to India.
After the boat ride we disembark at “Harishchandra Ghat” where Hindus cremate their dead and the funeral pyres burn day and night. The walk through the narrow lanes of the oldest section of the town will bring us to the the temple of Kashi Vishwanath - The Lord of the World, Shiva -the nucleus around which the life of Varanasi revolves. The streets around the temples are lined with shops selling bangles, wooden toys, Banarsi silk sarees, brass and copper utensils and the ubiquitous Banarasi Paan. There are also a number of shops here selling the famous vegetarian delights of Varanasi Cuisine along with a variety of "sweets" and more than 20 types of Sharbats or iced fizzy drinks.

The next morning we drive to 'Sarnath', 10 kms from Varanasi, revered as the place where Buddha preached his first sermon to his first five disciples. The nearly 44 metre high 'Dhamek Stupa' is truly a most remarkable structure, believed to mark the exact spot where that first sermon was preached. We will also visit the 'Buddhist Vajm Vidya Temple' where we hope to meet the monks and learn a little about Buddhist practices and meditation.    

 

Included Activities

  • Diwali festival
  •  Arti
  • Boat ride on the Ganges river
  • Buddha shrine

Accommodation: 

  • Hotel  
  • Nights:  4

 

4 Days 24 to 27 - Khajuraho erotic temples & Panna National Park

We fly to Khajuraho.

The Khajuraho Temples in Madhya Pradesh are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in India, and reveal a burst of extraordinary aesthetic inspiration that was never to repeat itself.
The graceful and intricately sculpted images of gods and goddesses, nymphs, musicians, and real and mythological animals on the temple walls represent the many manifestations of Shiva and the divine energy (Shakti), the male and female principles, the yin and the yang. The graphically erotic artwork is a supreme example of passionate interactions between humans, of kama in all its aspects both mundane and divine; the sensuous poses detail the contoured bodies of the nymphs engaged in a number of routine activities - putting on make-up, washing their hair, knotting and un-knotting their girdles, and playing explicit games of love and seduction.

During the medieval era there was a common belief that erotic sculptures or alankaras and their attendant decorative motifs was both protective and auspicious.

Panna National Park. A moment of tranquility to end our journey: situated in the Vindhya hills along the tranquil Ken River, one of the cleanest rivers in the world. The park itself is a vast plateau dominated by lush tropical forests, deep ravines, cascading waterfalls and thick teak forests. 

After Lunch – proceed for JEEP SAFARI – to Panna National Park.

Back to Delhi, rest a little and get ready for your international departures back Home.

   

Included Activities

  •  Khajuraho Temples
  • 2 nights at the dance festival
  • Khajuraho - rickshaw ride to the village
  • Safari - Panna National Park
  • Cooking demonstration

Accommodation: 

  • Hotel Khajuraho: Lalit Temple View
  • Hotel Panna: Sarai at Toriah
  • Hotel Delhi: Rest at a Hotel until transfer to airport for your international flight. 
  • Nights:  3
  • Khajuraho:  (breakfast included)   (lunch & dinner not included)
  • Panna: (All meals are included)
  • Delhi: (Dinner included)

One on One Basis

If you are interested in “specialized shopping” or wish to pursue a new business venture in India and are unsure how to go about it you may contact me olgav@kokocompany.com - we can work on a One on One Basis. I can help you plan your journey, travel with you and introduce you to artisans, connoisseurs, and specialists in your field.  This will help you avoid the usual hitches and make your trip more interesting and fruitful.


Itinerary disclaimer

Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements prompted by our own research and the suggestions by travelers. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your itinerary a couple of days prior to travel. Please note some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes.