11 days Small Group Tours Register for 2018 via our enquiry form Tailor make this journey and make it yours

Price

$3198 AUD per person twin share

$1297 AUD single supplement

Inclusions

  • Return airport transfers including meet and greet
  • 10 nights accommodation at the above mentioned hotels or similar
  • 10 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 9 Dinners
  • Transport services using air conditioned vehicle
  • All sightseeing tours / excursions as itinerary
  • English speaking local guide
  • Entrances fees to monuments as per itinerary
  • 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

Join crowds of friendly, cheerful faces as they break into a spontaneous dance to the beat of dhols (drums). Be seduced by bright new clothes adorning children, women, and men. 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 - we are at the Hola Mohalla.

For seven days in the month of March, the holy town of Anandpur Sahib hosts an unusual festival celebrating the martial arts skills of the Sikh community. In the midst of fighting, the tenth Guru began the custom of organising morale-boosting mock demonstrations by his regiments. Recitations of beautiful folk poetry from the region dreaming of a new religious ethos offset these militant displays to produce the edifice of the Sikh faith. Today, the tradition continues as a living reminder of the ethos of a spiritual revolt by the common people.

Teachings of saints have always emphasised the spirit of giving back to the community; at the Hola, a unique competition between organisers of langar stalls encourages this spirit. If people share, then no one will go hungry, is the message of the langar. Amidst the display of martial skills, it is this message from blaring loudspeakers which will no doubt leave a lasting impression.

Journey through the western fertile regions of northern India in a whirlwind of history, culture and customs. We take you to Hola Mohalla to provide a firsthand glimpse of the hearty spirit of the people of Punjab. As we join the crowds pouring in on refurbished tractors, buses, trucks, tempos, and even on foot, we take you through this exuberant spectacle in all its authentic flavours. With special camps and the nihangs as your guides, we have arranged to ensure your every comfort as we take you through the Hola as the locals do.

Day 1 - Arrival in Delhi, Afternoon Sightseeing

Welcome to the historic city of Delhi, the city of kings and queens and all those who aspired to rule India, the city of the arts, galleries and museums, of music and culture, of architecture and history, of politics and diplomacy. This city which has beckoned for centuries holds out a promise to one and all till today, making it a truly cosmopolitan city, a merging of cultures and offering a glimpse of India like no other.

Delhi is known to its inhabitants as the old and the new, denoting the pre British and British eras of construction. But you will find that realities have less distinct boundaries, with ancient monuments dotting the cityscape of Lutyen’s Delhi and reminders of the British period emerging from the lanes of the Mughal city.

Spend the afternoon in what is called New Delhi, the city envisioned by the British. On your way back contrast the swift architectural changes brought by the colonial rulers mirroring styles from across Europe and adapted to the Indian environment. Drive past the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace) and the secretariat buildings, the impressive Rajpath and the World War I memorial arch, the India Gate.

In New Delhi also lies one of its oldest monuments – next to the ruins of Quwat-ul-Eslam (Light of Islam) Mosque in Mehrauli, standing tall with pride is the Qutub Minar. Learn about Delhi’s most curious antique here, the un-corroded Iron Pillar, which dates back to the 4th century AD, believed to be sitting on the head of a ferocious snake. Even more interesting than the mythology is the metallurgical skills of the ironsmith who produced this puzzle cast in iron. On your way back to the hotel you will visit Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh Gurudwara in Delhi. (L,D)

Overnight stay at The Claridges or similar

Day 2 - Morning train to Chandigarh, Drive to Anandpur Sahib

We will take the train to Chandigarh. 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.

You will drive through the modern planned city of Chandigarh before we proceed to 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 five 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)

Overnight Deluxe Camp or similar

Day 3 - Anandpur Sahib

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.

Over the next 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.

To understand and learn more about this heritage you will visit the Khalsa Heritage Museum. (B,L,D)

Overnight Deluxe Camp or similar

Day 4 - Anandpur Sahib (Also Holi Festival)

After breakfast at the camp, we will spend the whole day at Hola Mohalla. (B,L,D).

Overnight Deluxe Camp or similar

Day 5 - Drive from Anandpur Sahib to Amritsar

Amritsar, literally meaning ‘pool of nectar’ enfolds visitors into its warmth of hospitality. Welcome to a breath-taking city, brimming with life, culture and religion, history and politics. A city as famous for the atrocity meted out by the infamous General Dyer on unarmed innocents and the violent aftermath of partition, as the glean of the pristine Golden temple infuses a rich and resplendent cultural tradition.

In the late evening you will visit the Golden Temple to witness the Palki Sahib ceremony or Sukhasan (the sacred Guru Granth Sahib is put to sleep).

At the entrance of the temple you leave behind the ordinary and mundane, and enter the pure and sacred. Covering your heads and having removed your shoes, notice the number of volunteers ready to assist as you enter the complex. Voluntary service being an essential component of the Sikh faith.

Throughout the day, Granthi (readers) take turns chanting from the holy book to the sound of stringed instruments, devotees will carry the enormous shrine on their shoulders to the sanctum where it rests till the early morning. The beauty of the temple is rendered divine in the stillness of the night sky. Find an unmatched peace in an experience which no words can describe adequately. (B,L,D)

Overnight Ranjit Svaasar or similar

Day 6 - Sightseeing of Amritsar

Departing after an early breakfast at the hotel, we travel to the Golden Temple. Floating in the middle of the Amrit Sarovar (lake) this famous temple is surrounded by a marble courtyard, reflecting the glistening turquoise waters, a photographer’s delight. Devotees queuing from the early morning wait patiently for a glimpse of the Guru Granth Sahib (holy Scripture). The chants of devotees who are reading from the scriptures encircle the visitor in a timeless, irresistible fulfilment. This peace and tranquility has cloaked the decades of strife in Punjab which had not left even the Temple unscathed.

The building adjacent to the clock tower offers a langar, where millions are fed throughout the year. Volunteers partake in the preparation and serving of food, and it is here that we will have lunch.

Later in the afternoon, you visit the Jalianwala Bagh (garden), a site of extreme importance in India’s struggle for independence from British rule. An estimated 1650 bullets were fired on an unarmed peaceful gathering under instructions of General Dyer. With no route of escape from the bullets raining upon them, hundreds of hapless souls jumped to their death in the well located within the compound.

Today, it is maintained as a memorial, which provided a turning point in the history of colonialism in the subcontinent. Having paid homage to their memory, relax with some late afternoon shopping. Brighten up your mood after the sombre experience with the blaze of colours on display at the local markets. Try on the famous Punjabi jootis (footwear) and admire the craft of phulkaari (embroidery style) which adorns traditional attire of the region.

Located on the ancient Grand Trunk Road which once spanned the Gangetic plains, lies the Wagah village, a transit point between the two countries of India and Pakistan and sometimes referred to as the Berlin wall of the east. Every evening, at sunset a spectacular ‘flag down ceremony’ takes place on both sides amidst a coordinated parade and cultural programs. A grand spectacle and a reminder of the painful and poignant birthing of the twin nations with a shared past, attracts thousands of spectators. (B,L,D)

Overnight Ranjit Svaasar or similar

Day 7 - Drive from Amritsar to Bhatinda, with enroute stop at Tarn Taran, later visit to Faridkot

On your drive to Bhatinda you shall visit the Gurudwara at Tarn Taran. Be prepared to be mesmerised yet again in the presence of this all-encompassing faith. Admire the glittering golden dome and the sacred tank where you witness hundreds taking a dip.

You arrive in Bhatinda in time for lunch. After lunch we visit the Gurudwara Tilla Baba Farid, an important example of the syncretism of the Sikh faith. Devotees flock to this Muslim saint, who is held in esteem by the followers of all religions. (B,L,D)

Overnight stay at Bahia Fort or similar

Day 8 - Sightseeing in Bhatinda, Drive to Mandawa

Bhatinda encapsulates a rich cultural, religious and political past dating back to ancient times. Of these, the Qila Mubarak (fort) built of bricks and stones, and dating back to 1763, is the most fascinating. Here the first Muslim Empress of the region, Razia Sultan took command of the throne of Delhi. It is here that she was later dethroned and imprisoned, defeated by dissenting nobles who could not bear to have a woman as their leader.

You leave behind the greens of Punjab as you move into the desert. Lush crops give way to the shrubs fighting for existence in otherwise inhospitable lands. In the north of Rajasthan is Shekhawati, a mini desert, where the extraordinary Havelis (a style of large dwellings in the Indian subcontinent) built by the traders take one’s breadth away. Small fortresses, temples, mosques, and intricately designed baolis (step-wells), and a deer sanctuary add beauty to these lands. (B,L,D)

Overnight stay at Castle Mandawa or similar

Day 9 - Sightseeing in Mandawa

You will spend the day admiring the traditional homes of some of the most famous business houses of India. The Marwari community is famous for its business acumen, dominating the commerce of the country. The ancestors of the present families built large haveli with their increasing wealth. Mandawa is filled with fine example of these Marwari dwellings, and is sometimes called an ‘open art gallery’ for the many paintings adorning their outer walls.

The skills of the local artisans were honed to perfection bringing to life a mesmerising array of subjects – tales from mythology, patrons of the painters, and the arrival of locomotives all feature in these paintings. Walk down these streets which proclaim the grandeur of the medieval era, of human grit and determination which seems to almost challenge the harsh desert lands with a life and beauty unsurpassed.

The use of vibrant colours offsets the gloomy, forbidding monotony of yellow desert sands. (B,L,D)

Overnight stay at Castle Mandawa or similar

Day 10 - Drive from Mandawa, drive to Delhi

After breakfast you start your journey back to Delhi. Arriving in time for lunch the rest of the day is at leisure. (B,L,D)

Overnight at The Claridges or similar

Day 11 - Morning Sightseeing of Delhi, departure

You will visit Old Delhi, the city of Emperor Shah Jahan, the seat of Mughal power and still an important nerve centre. Discover the fascinating life of medieval India which continues to live on in these lanes that have attracted one and all for centuries. Experience the fluid intermixing of the old and new worlds of Delhi, producing a unique city life as we enjoy a thrilling rickshaw ride traversing narrow lanes teaming with vehicles and pedestrians all jostling for position and lining the streets.

Visit the historic Jama Masjid and drive past the Red Fort.

Later in the evening, you bid adieu after what has been an exciting journey. Vibrant and colourful, thought provoking and sombre, spiritual and aesthetic, encapsulating in it a glimpse of the wonderful land of India. (B)