9 days Small Group Tours 26th Sep - 4th Oct 2017Register for 2018 via our enquiry form Tailor make this journey and make it yours

Price

$3557 AUD per person twin share

$1297 AUD single supplement

Inclusions

  • Return airport transfers including meet and greet
  • 8 nights hotel accommodation
  • 7 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, 7 Dinners
  • Air conditioned transportation
  • Sightseeing and excursions as per the itinerary
  • English speaking local guide
  • Entrance fees to all sites and monuments as per itinerary
  • Visit to Durga Puja Pandals
  • Witness Idol Immersion from Vivada Cruise with dinner
  • Scrubba Wash Bag

Exclusions

  • International 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

The ulu-dhwani (a sound made by rolling the tongue) and shankhdhwani (sound of blowing a conch) pierce the dark nights, warding off evil from wherever the sound carries. The streets are over-flowing with men dressed in their dhoti’s (unstitched garment for lower body) and women in their distinctive white and red saris. The nights are a glittering affair with light shows, elaborate arrangements and crowds that throng the cityscape. For five days every year in October, the city of Kolkata takes on a new visage as the city celebrates Durgapuja, the largest and most vibrant festival of Bengal.

The lanes and parks of Kolkata transform into an open art exhibition as various groups compete to set up lavish and innovative pandals (makeshift prayer arrangements), each displaying an interpretation of the Goddess Durga. The ten-armed Goddess saved the world from evil when she slayed the demon, Mahishasur. A deity that embodies ultimate power of the feminine both destructive and nurturing, today Durga is a symbol of woman power. In her modern incarnation, she brings a message of destroying evil in its many forms -hunger, poverty, gender discrimination, ecological change and even terrorism.

Come join us as we go pandal-hopping and treat yourself to a sensory extravaganza. Take delight in the beauty of a city turned into a gallery; be surrounded by silks and muslins, extravagant clothes, jewellery and makeup. Listen to the fascinating sounds that fill the air. Tantalise your taste buds with the offerings of Bengal. We promise you an unforgettable experience!

Crooked Compass welcomes you to a fascinating part of India, in Kolkata where, despite being a modern city, the underlying tempo of life is set by a cultural heritage dating back to ancient times. The cult of Goddess Kali or Durga dominates the lives of people. Notice innumerable references to the mother goddess which appears in almost every aspect of the city. Arrive in time for the Durga Puja in October and be mesmerised by the frenzy that seems to take over the entire city-scape. Join in the festivities as we celebrate the victory of good over evil.

From here you will move to another ancient civilisation, in Nepal. Compare the cult of the goddess with the Buddhist way of life of the hill people. Soak in unmatched beauty of the mountainous terrain which still manages to retain an old world charm, almost untouched by the destructiveness of modern life.

We will guide you through this mesmerising spectacle of living tradition, ensure your comfort as you participate in the festivities alongside the devout. Be prepared for an amazing journey of discovery, as we walk through various cultural experiences, local lives, cuisine, explore the meaning and forms of spirituality, and of course unsurpassed scenery.

Day 1 - Arrival in Kolkata (Calcutta)

Crooked Compass welcomes you to Kolkata, a city with a fascinating past and an equally mesmerizing present; the seat of the Indian renaissance and a historic centre of performing and visual arts. As we walk you through the city and its history, customs and traditions, do not forget to try local delicacies. For food lovers, the cuisine of this entire region is sure to entice. (D)

Overnight at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata – Superior Room or similar

Day 2 - Sightseeing of Kolkata (Ninth day of Durga Puja)

Kolkata was the first city of India to come under British colonial rule. The colonialists left behind an enduring legacy both in the form of magnificent monuments and also its intellectual landscape.

Start your morning driving past some of these reminders of the British rule- the Fort William, which is now the largest urban park in Kolkata, impressive Raj Bhawan or the Governor’s House, historic churches, colonial clubs and High Court, Town Hall and the General post Office. Visit the picturesque Howrah Bridge. Spread across the Hooghly River, some 80,000 vehicles and a million pedestrians cross this bridge every day, along with thousands of cattle and bicycles. Lying at the east end of the bridge is the Mullik Ghat flower market. Here the abundant bounty of the blooming flowers, the early morning sounds of the city waking to life at the ghats (river banks), bathing, washing and offering prayers, provide a vision to remember.

After lunch visit Belur Math, located on the banks of the Hoogli River. It is a place of pilgrimage for people professing different religious faiths, from all over the world. Founded by Swami Vivekananda to promote Vedanta philosophy which preaches the unity of all religions, this is an important place for those who seek spirituality as a way of life. Notice the unique temple architecture, which, true to its philosophy depicts all the major religions of the world in its construction. Witness thousands of devotees as they celebrate the symbolic power that regulates creation, stability and destruction.

Following your visit of Belur Math, you cross the Hoogli River by boat to the very famous 200 year old Dakshineswar Kali Temple. Built in the 19th century upon the behest of goddess Kali herself, who manifest herself in a dream, the temple is an example of the Bengal school of architecture. Although devoted to the Goddess, the temple has a deep association with the Vedanta philosophy. Learn it’s fascinating spiritual history as you explore the temple grounds. (B,L,D)

Overnight at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata – Superior Room or similar

Day 3 - Sightseeing of Kolkata (Tenth day of the festival)

Begin  your morning with the visit to the home of an extra-ordinary woman, Mother Teresa and her orphanage, the Shishu Bhawan. Discover a different history here, one which embraced human suffering in an all-enveloping love and compassion.

Lunch today is at the “Aaheli” Bengali which serves dishes from all over Bengal. The Bengali cuisine is almost synonymous to the delicate French cuisine as because it is vast and should be enjoyed course by course. It is like Bengali poetry or music, which lingers in one’s mind long after one had tasted it. Don’t forget to try some of the delectable sweet preparations of Bengal.

Following lunch you will go to the Zamindar’s house for Bara Bari Pujo to witness the puja of the royalty.

In the evening, teary eyed devotees bade an emotional farewell as idols of goddess Durga and her four children – Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartik – were immersed in river Hoogly on the tenth day.

Married women decked in the ritualistic red-and-white sarees marked the event with the customary “Sindoor Khela” or smearing each other and the idols with red vermillion to prepare the goddess and her clan for their long journey home, as dhaaks (traditional drums) play on in the background.

You will board the Vivada Cruise to watch the idol immersion from other side of the river. Enjoy the delectable dinner on board. (B,L,D)

Overnight at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata – Superior Room or similar

Day 4 - Sightseeing of Kolkata

Begin your morning with a visit of Victoria Memorial Hall, which is a perfect example of Indo-gothic architecture, incorporating Mughal elements, and filled with Victorian memorabilia, British Raj paintings, and hundreds of other curiosities. Acres of immaculately kept gardens provide much needed breathing space in the crowded city. Goats and their herders, cows, cricketers, footballers, horse riders, hawkers, picnickers, and all manner of street life find refuge here. Also visit Marble Palace and the Indian Museum.

You will board the tram, another heritage from the British era to reach the University. This University has produced some of the most brilliant minds of the country; it has been the hotbed of new and revolutionary ideas in cultural and political fields. But it was in the Calcutta Coffee House that these new and elicit ideas were first professed, during long hours spent over small cups of coffee. Be it heated debates and discussions or the profession of a forbidden love; it took place in the Coffee House which is located in a street lined by bookshops and publishing houses, both big and fledgling. (B,L,D)

Overnight at The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata – Superior Room or similar

Day 5 - Fly to Kathmandu

You shall make your way towards another ancient city, Kathmandu. Leave for Kathmandu by flight (AI 247 – 1330 / 1515 Hrs) – (*Flight operates only on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.) Perched on top of the world amidst beautiful landscapes, the city is a melting pot of cultures just like Kolkata. Yet culturally, the two cities could not be more vastly different. Get accustomed to these enchanting new sights, sounds and smells which surround you for the next few days. Prone to massive jams, you will still come to love these streets and their colourful chaos. And if you are lucky, the jam will be caused by the ceremonial procession of Kumari, the only living Goddess in the world. Here people’s lives are intertwined and driven by a sense of community. Only just beginning to develop, older parts of the town still bear no house numbers, because each person is known by name. (B,L,D)

Overnight at Dwarikas or similar

Day 6 - Sightseeing in and around Kathmandu

Nepal is dotted with temples, both Hindu and Buddhist. Start your morning at Pashupatinath, one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world. Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, the temple which is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is the seat of the most important Hindu deity of Nepal. As temple entry is restricted, you shall view the temple from the east banks of the river. The large double roofed pagoda of brass and gilt gold with its silver gateway set in gorgeous mountains, is a bewitching sight.

You will then go to Boudhanath or Khasti, another World Heritage Site. There are more than 45 Buddhist monasteries in the area but what is truly a vision is the Stupa, one of the biggest of its kind. Four pairs of watchful eyes in the four cardinal directions, look out for righteous behaviour and human prosperity. Join the worshippers who are constantly circumambulating the Stupa and spin the sacred wheels to send out prayers into the world.

A short distance from Boudhanath is Gokarna Mahadev, the triple roofed temple which stands next to the banks of the Bagmati River. In the inner sanctum there is a Shiva lingam (the symbolic penis of Lord Shiva) which is particularly revered. The temple has an astonishing collection of sculptures and reliefs all around the site, some of them dating back more than a thousand years. We will start seeing these treasures right from the road which leads to the temple courtyard. Notice the Nandi bull, the vehicle of Lord Shiva as you wander around the complex. (B,L,D)

Overnight at Dwarikas or similar

Day 7 - Kathmandu

The Patan city, also known as Lalitpur is a centre of fine arts. It is enclosed within four stupas which are believed to have been constructed in 3rd century AD, by Emperor Ashoka. Planned on a circular format with Buddhist stupas at each of the four points of the compass, it is a beautiful finale to your journey through this mystical land. Spend your morning admiring the skills of artisans and the beautiful fruits of their labour.

A short distance from Kathmandu lies Bhadgaon, also known as Bhaktapur (the city of devotees). It is the city of culture, a living heritage, and Nepal’s cultural gem. It is one of the three royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley and an excellently preserved ancient city, a living custodian of traditional arts and crafts, pottery and weaving industries. Here you will find fine examples of architecture, historical monuments and excellent temples, alongside beautiful ponds with the ever present backdrop of majestic mountains. Come face to face with rich local customs, a living culture, religion, festivals, musical mystic, all in this rich town. (B,L,D)

Overnight at Dwarikas or similar

Day 8 - Sightseeing of Kathmandu

The living Goddess or Kumari resides in the elaborately decorated Palace Complex which was once the royal Nepalese residence. In case you are unable to catch a glimpse of her during a ceremonial possession do not hesitate to wander in the Kathmandu Durbar square – a UNESCO World Site with its cluster of temples and courtyards where you can join devotees who gather to catch just such a glimpse.

Be adventurous and try out local cuisine or amble in the markets to try your hand at the art of bargaining. Look for mementos in fine craftsmanship, reminders of your journey and a bond with this land where all arts and crafts have an underlying religious sentiment, of peace and of prosperity.

Among the famous and spectacular sights of Nepal is the Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath – a 2500- year old site. Perched atop a hillock it can be reached by climbing up a stairway of 365 steps. As you are climbing up, learn about the fascinating mythology associated with its appearance. You cannot fail to notice the hundreds of monkeys; learn the equally fascinating tale which explains their presence. Take a breath and prepare to be mesmerised by the hypnotic gaze of the Buddha’s third eye, spreading its message to the world. (B,L,D)

Overnight at Dwarikas or similar

Day 9 - Departure from Kathmandu

This morning your tour ends after breakfast as we wish farewell to you as you continue to your next destination. (B)