India Through the Lens with David Kirkland

Highlights

Join us for the ultimate photography tour of India and capture a side of this fascinating country few are likely to experience from behind the lens. Immerse yourself (literally) in the colour and spectacle of India’s Holi and Hola celebrations – two of the country’s richest and most photogenic cultural festivals.

Discover India in true style. This exclusive photography tour invites you to explore Rajasthan’s best kept secrets through exclusive experiences and expert local knowledge. From backstreet food tours in Delhi, to dining in century old stepwells and discovering village life in some of the country’s most time-frozen regions, giving you a rare insight into the real India and the rituals and life of its people. Embrace the fascinating highlights of classical Rajasthan whilst staying in handpicked properties showcasing India’s colour, character and class.

The group will be accompanied by international travel photographer, David Kirkland who will share his experience and the lessons he has gathered from more than 20 years travelling the world as a professional photographer. David is one of the most widely published travel photographers in the world. His passion for capturing traditional culture, and the way he photographs people and colour makes him the perfect companion for this tour of India.

Travel with David to visit the country’s highlights in a small, intimate group of photography enthusiasts and enjoy the special opportunities we’ll create just for you. You’ll dine in majestic settings reminiscent of the colonial era of the Maharajahs and be presented with exotic food dishes likely to exhaust the battery on your smart phone. Our waiters and entertainers will be carefully chosen for their striking features and dressed in the traditional attire of a bygone era for you to photograph.

Our itinerary, of course, will be woven around visiting India’s most celebrated and photogenic sites – bustling marketplaces, mosques, magnificent fortresses, and ancient monuments – but we’ll plan to get you there for the best light, and we’ll ensure you have ample time to be creative. If your interest is in landscape or people photography, we’ll help you find that special subject or setting so you can capture that one image which is likely to sit proudly in your home to remind you of this once-in-a-lifetime photography adventure.

Throughout the tour, David will look to help you personally with your photography, tailoring his assistance to your experience with a camera, the subjects you’re most interested in shooting, and your enthusiasm towards capturing outstanding photographs. Whether you’re starting out with a camera or you’re a more advanced photographer, it’s likely travelling with a photographer of David’s standing who is enthusiastic about sharing his craft, will enhance your ability with a camera and contribute to an even more memorable journey.

David invites you to join him on this exclusive, tailored journey into one of the most fascinating and colourful places on earth at a time when the very best of what the country has to offer a photographer is on show.

Join crowds of friendly, cheerful faces as they break into a spontaneous dance to the beat of dhols (drums) at both the Holi and Hola Mohalla Festivals. Be seduced by bright new clothes adorning children, women, and men, puffs of coloured paint and floating petals of flowers. Be lured by blaring loudspeakers, vying for attention as they issue invitations to partake in a langar (free community meal). Ogle at the nihangs (traditional Sikh warriors) in their outrageously oversized headgear and blue attire, or simply turn your attention to the hyperbolic displays of masculinities in the sporting arena – this is the Hola Mohalla.

On top of this, to take in some of Rajasthan’s  lesser-known gems, we’ll take you well off the tourist trail.

Journey map

Fitness level

Easy
Moderate
Challenging
Tough

Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival Delhi

Namaste! Welcome to India! On arrival, once you have cleared immigration and collected your luggage, our representative will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall holding a Crooked Compass branded signboard with your name on it. You will be accorded a traditional welcome with marigold garlands before you are led to your vehicle and transferred to your hotel.

The remainder of the day is yours at leisure. A tour briefing will take place this evening with David and your guide before heading out for a welcome dinner. (D)

3 nights at Oberoi Maidens or similar

Day 2 – Delhi

Following breakfast in your hotel, you will set off to explore some of the hippest places in Delhi. Discover the best street art in Delhi and listen to insights about the local art and architecture scene from your guide. Delhi has fast become a hub of street art, and some real artists have made the walls of Delhi their canvas. From gender inequality and deforestation to sci-fi fantasies and famous characters, Delhi’s walls speak a new language now.

Continuing on, visit a centuries-old stepwell in the heart of the capital where you will have plenty of time to capture some incredible photographs.

Pause for lunch with a food stop at a famous South Indian restaurant where you will enjoy a Dosa lunch and coffee (payable locally). After lunch, you will head to the Sikh Temple, Bangla Sahib Gurudwara where you can witness (and participate if you wish) in the community service as this temple feeds 10,000 people every day – morning, afternoon and evening. The food is cooked in the temple’s community kitchen as thousands of people shuffle through in their colourful turbans and white clothing. This is a truly ‘soul stirring’ experience. (B,L)

Day 3 – Delhi

This morning is an early start as you head to the vibrant Flower Market. This will be a true experience of discovery as you learn of the flowers of India witness the calm chaos of a wholesale marketplace. The colours, pace and volume of what you will witness is simply fascinating.

Wander through the lanes of Asia’s biggest wedding card and paper wholesale market followed with taste of unique combination of Bedmi poori, Nagori Halwa and Chole Kulche, which are popular delicacies of Northern India.

Hop on a tuk-tuk to Asia’s largest spice market where spices were once so valuable that they caused invasions and fierce battles. As you explore, so will your taste buds. Taste some of Delhi’s delicious street food from jalebis to samosas.

Hundreds of traders and buyers throng this marketplace place for trading spices. The market is adjacent to the Fatehpuri Mosque, whose view can be enjoyed from the rooftop that also provides a panoramic view of Old Delhi.

As the sun begins to set, venture to Yamuna Ghat. This is a photographer’s delight. The reflection of the birds on the still water blended with the colours of the sunset combine to create a breathtaking scene. Just across from the ghat is an island of untouched marshland that renders Delhi as it was hundreds of years ago, lush and misty. As the colours change with the dipping sun, silhouettes of small but ancient temples dot the ghats and locals engage in rituals to end their day. The seagulls and other migratory birds come to feed and local boatmen slowly come back to shore.  The Ghats are peaceful and an insight into traditional life. (B,L)

Day 4 - Delhi to Agra

Departing after breakfast this morning, you will travel along the Express Highway to the city of Agra. Agra is the city of love and longing – meticulously planned, built and nurtured by three successive Mughal emperors – Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan, during the most glorious era of the Mughal empire. The buildings spread across Agra are stellar examples of Mughal architecture and engineering skills. Conversations about Agra usually begin with mentions of the Taj Mahal.

This afternoon, enjoy a visit Kinari Bazaar is one of the most famous markets in Agra for locals, situated behind the 17th century-old Jama Masjid. Here you will find jewellery, fabrics, cosmetics, decorative items, handicrafts, watches, perfumes and bags.

Continuing on, you will head to a viewpoint overlooking the Taj Mahal at sunset visiting a marble factory to see marble inlay attrition. (B)

2 nights ITC Mughal Hotel or similar

Day 5 – Taj Mahal and Festival of Flowers

This morning, head to the Taj Mahal and spend time here until the sun rises witnessing the beautiful wonder of the world changing its colour. This is one of the most beautiful times to view this iconic monument – one of the Seven Wonders of the World, celebrated for its architectural magnificence and aesthetic beauty. Emperor Shah Jahan built this exquisite white marble mausoleum for his favourite queen Mumtaz Mahal. The monument was commissioned in 1631 and took 20,000 artisans, 22 years to complete.

Return to your hotel for breakfast before heading to Mathura-Vrindavan to enjoy the excitement of the Festival of Flowers. The main celebration of Holi in Mathura-Vrindavan occurs the day before the main date of the Holi Festival where people play in the Festival with Flowers at Lord Krishna Temple (Banke Bihari Temple). (B)

Day 6 – Holi Festival – Delhi

Today is the Holi Celebration – a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Located in the suburbs of Mathura, for a truly local experience, this is where the love life of Krishna and Radha sprouted and grew. Legend says, that Krishna was jealous of her fairness and used to complain about his ‘dusky’ face to his mother. It was only to balance the skin tones of each other that he used to throw colours at Radha and paint her face. From his village Nandgaon, Krishna and his friends used to come to Barsana – Radha’s village to colour Radha and her friends. Today it is your turn to get amongst it – throw colour and capture the action. Later this afternoon, you will return to Delhi. (B) 

Overnight at Pride Plaza Aerocity or similar

Day 7 – Fly to Chandigarh, Drive to Anandpur Sahib

This morning, you will transfer to the airport for your domestic flight to Chandigarh. On arrival, you will be met and you will drive through the modern planned city of Chandigarh before reaching Anandpur Sahib. Rest as we drive past the vivid greens and yellows of the ripening produce of agricultural lands and over bubbling streams into what is colloquially known as the white city of India, Anandpur Sahib or the ‘abode of bliss’. Throughout the year thousands of Sikh pilgrims make a trip to the city in search of that bliss in the precincts of the over forty Gurudwaras of the city. From each of these we can hear the strains of Gurubani and Shabad Kirtan (chantings of religious scripture) blanket the entire city all the year round. For seven days every year, however, this pristine atmosphere gets taken over by the revelry of the Hola Mohalla.

Approaching the vicinity of the city, the crowds gradually swell, pouring in for the coming days of festivities of the Hola. Experience this amazing atmosphere and prepare for ever increasing numbers over the next few days. You will arrive at your tents specially pitched for the occasion, far enough not to be disturbed but yet not so far that you cannot hear the singing of traditional Thadi Jathas (ballads of the Sikh martyrs) in the all night divan (congregation in the name of the Guru). (B,L,D)

2 nights Anand at the Sutlej or similar

Day 8 – Hola Mohalla Festival

The Hola Mohalla festival coincides with Holi, the festival of colours, but their significance is different.

While one is the celebration of harvest, the other is a celebration of community. With attendees pouring in for almost a week before Holi, attendance sometimes swells to about one million in the last three days.

Witness mock battles, exhibitions, display of weapons during the day, followed by kirtans, music and poetry competitions in the evening. An unlikely combination one may think, yet both have an intimate connection to the Sikh faith. In the day, military displays recall the strength and skills of those who defended these lands which gave birth to a new spirituality. The recitations through the night not only sing praises of that valor but the beautiful folk poetry speaks of the life of common people, the simplicity of their faith, and their virtues, encouraging the listener to follow the righteous path.

The Nihangs (warriors) play a central role in the festivities which conclude with sporting events. Here, they carry out their traditional activities, a living reminder of Sikh history. Participants treat the audience to wrestling and performances of Gatka (mock encounters with wooden swords), an indigenous martial art form. Another popular event is bareback horse-riding and other feats of bravery such as standing erect on two racing horses. Many a Nihang warrior will be ready to delight you with displays of his prowess with weapons. Some of the art forms displayed no longer have a role in modern life, but are kept alive only due to the patronage received by the Sikh people who don’t want to let go of this heritage. The deeds and words of the Guru’s could get lost if not retained through the loving attachment of its followers.

Your meals whilst at the festival, which is an integral part of the Sikh institution,  has everyone sitting  together in Pangats (Queues) and eating communally. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Fly to Jaipur via Delhi

After breakfast, drive to Chandigarh Airport for your flight to Jaipur known as the Pink City and Capital of Rajasthan, the Land of Maharajas. The Pink City is a favorite amongst photography lovers for its symmetrical arches and colorful buildings. This tour brings together the most picturesque locations, with an opportunity for you to learn more about Jaipur’s history and culture.

Upon arrival, check into your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure. This evening, enjoy watching a Bollywood film with the locals at the  famous Raj Mandir. This is one of the most spectacular cinemas in the country which can accommodate over 1000 viewers! The beauty of this experience, is to observe the interactive audience – the way they sing, cry and dance in the aisle is unlike anything you have seen before.

The Raj Mandir Cinema opened on 1st June 1976 with the film “Charas”. It was designed by architect W.M. Namjoshi in a spectacular Modern Art style. The exterior of the building consists of various asymmetrical shapes, zig-zags, curves and even stars set into the facade, all lit at night by concealed lighting. The theatre’s name is located on top of the building in large red neon letters and it also boasts the legend ‘The Showplace of the Nation – Experience the Excellence’. In the large foyer, there are chandeliers set into domes in the ceiling. A large ramp (rather than stairs) take patrons up into the balcony area. Seating in the auditorium is provided in stalls and balcony areas. The decoration in the auditorium is awesome, with indirect lighting that changes colours, hidden behind and underneath a frond fern leaf-like plaster trough which has openings all over the ceiling and walls. The cinema is equipped to screen 70mm films.

The Raj Mandir Cinema is the best-known cinema building in India. It certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the most remarkable cinemas in India. (B)

2 nights Samode Haveli or similar

Day 10 – Jaipur

Following breakfast, you will visit Abhaneri Stepwell (Chand-Baori Stepwell). The Chand-Baori dates back to 8th-9th century. It was likely constructed before the temple. According to Morna Livingston in Steps to Water: The Ancient Stepwells of India, Chand Baori is one of the few stepwells that has “two classical periods of water building in a single setting”. The oldest parts of the step-well date from the 8th century onwards. An upper palace building was added to the site, which is viewed from the tabulated arches used by the Chauhan rulers. Adjoining the baori is the architecturally splendid and sculpturally beautiful Harshat Mata Temple, which was built between the 7th-8th century, but was destroyed and damaged by Mahmud Ghazni. Many of its pillars, columns, statues now lie scattered.

Later this afternoon, visit the local bazaar and explore the winding backstreets to get a glimpse into local life in Jaipur. Mingle with the street vendors, play street cricket with the children. This is one of those opportunities where you may be able to capture some incredible portrait shots. Do not forget Jaipur’s signature landmark, the Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds, the most photographed building in the city. (B)

Day 11 – Jaipur to Narlai

An early start this morning as we drive to Lake Maota overlooking iconic Amer Fort. This is a prime location to shoot this beautiful fort and its reflection on the lake in the morning light. (Subject to water levels).

Continuing on, today we drive to the rustic village of Narlai. Check into your hotel, a former Royal hunting lodge.

This evening, enjoy dinner in an ancient stepwell lit by 110 lanterns. This is truly an experience that will linger in your mind for many years to come. Taste the flavour of true Rajasthani royal hospitality at the 16th century old Baori (stepwell). Your journey to stepwell begins in the courtyard with a welcome drink enjoyed in the company of a resident royal who will regale you with stories and history of the locals before you are transferred by bullock cart. The ride may be a little rough, but it is all part of the experience. You will be guided into the dusk as the village starts to sleep with the starlit sky appearing above you. You will pass the yogi who mediates by a blazing fire before you reach your lantern lit destination. Your culinary journey is about to begin with elaborate fare offered over the next few hours whilst you are entertained by a local yogi singing devotional folk songs. Following dinner, return to the hotel for a cup of herbal tea. (B,D) 

2 nights at Rawla Narlai or similar

Day 12 – Narlai

After breakfast, start your beautiful day with interacting with the local people in Narlai village. Time here seems to have stood still and many traditional practices can still be witnessed today.

This afternoon, enjoy a countryside safari. The rugged countryside of the Godward region is explored by jeep. You will visit a nearby village where you can see the different local craftsman working their trade, famous temples with beautiful architecture and a visit to a traditional working farm. Another interesting stop is the Stud Farm that houses the famous pure bred horses which are typical to this region. This is an experience that not many people will get to have in their lifetime. (B)

Day 13 – Narlai to Jojawar

Following breakfast, you will depart to Jojawar. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel. This afternoon, enjoy a Jeep Safari: The country around Jojawar boasts very interesting landscapes, with the picturesque Aravalli Hills in the east, and broken rocky hills interspersed with farms and scrub forests all around. The Pre – Cambrian Aravalli Hills are one of the oldest mountain ranges of the world, and a geologist’s paradise. The camel herding Rabaris are an ethnic group only to be found around Jojawar.

Our specially designed late afternoon tour take you to homesteads of these Rabaris, into their farms, through pretty little hamlets where time seems to have stopped. We take a break under the shade of a drooping acacias next to a very beautiful small shrine dedicated to a folk deity. Spend time interacting with the locals taking in the country landscapes. Unlike any other, your jeep safaris is undertaken in our fleet of classic vintage vehicles. (B,D)

Overnight Rawla Jojawar or similar

Day 14 – Jojawar to Jodhpur

Today starts with a train safari! In India, a train journey is an experience in itself. Strangers meet and form ties that sometimes last a lifetime. To the swaying of the train, friendships are forged, life-stories exchanged. Alongside incessant chatter, playing of games and exchanging food, people add richness to the tedium of long journeys.

The train route goes up the scenic Kambli Ghat Pass. The engine laboriously and slowly pulls the train through the most beautiful forests and hills. Return in your resplendent vintage Chevy, taking a break for tea and cucumber sandwiches at a tiny Forest Rest House.

Continue on to Jodhpur, the Blue City, en-route visit traditional villages which are ideal for the photography. On arrival in Jodhpur, enjoy a walking tour through the inside of the fabulous blue washed and walled city with its bustling market and narrow cobbled streets. Dinner this evening is on a rooftop of a haveli overlooking the fort. (B,D)

Overnight Ajit Bhawan or similar

Day 15 – Bishnoi village – Delhi

This morning is all about culture. Western Rajasthan is home to the Premier Ecologists of the world, the Bishnoi’s. This tribe have protected nature for more than 500 years and are responsible for the very survival of species like the Black Buck Antelope (India’s most beautiful antelope and a rare and protected species today). They share a beautiful relationship with this special animal, where the antelope stays close to the Bishnoi habitation, never leaving it and displays complete trust to the Bishnoi people. You will also meet the Raikas (shepherds) with their glorious costumes and the Piliwals and Meghwals – the Brahmin farmers and weavers.

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight to Delhi where your tour will end on arrival. (B)

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What’s included

  • Return airport transfers
  • 14 night’s accommodation
  • Meals as per the itinerary
  • Private transportation by air-conditioned vehicle
  • Single entrance fees for sights as per the itinerary
  • All activities, sightseeing and excursions as per the itinerary
  • Services of a qualified licensed English speaking local guide in each city
  • Bottled drinking water inside the vehicle during sightseeing and long drives
  • Road taxes, parking fees, fuel charges, interstate taxes
  • All currently applicable taxes
  • Domestic flights in economy class Chandigarh to Jaipur and Jodhpur to Delhi
Exclusions
  • International & domestic flights
  • Visas
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • All services, meals other than those indicated above
  • Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
  • All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips etc

**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.

* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.

* A minimum of 6 adults is required to guarantee this departure.

A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.

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