9 days Small Group Tours 17th - 17th Jan 201725th Sep - 4th Oct 2017Register for 2018 via our enquiry form Tailor make this journey and make it yours

Price

 

Twin share $2197 AUD

Single supplement $903AUD

Inclusions

  • Meet and assistance on arrival / departure at airports
  • 8 nights accommodation
  • Breakfast daily
  • Transportation in an air conditioned vehicle
  • English speaking local guides
  • All sightseeing as per itinerary
  • Entrances fees to sites mentioned in itinerary

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

In a land where myths, legends and age old practices continue to influence the way people organise their lives, Dussehra at Kullu, forms one such tradition. Dussehra is celebrated variously across India and the mountains of Himachal echo yet another tale. Its importance to the Kullu people dates back to the 17th century when King Jagat Singh was put under the curse of a Brahmin who was tortured for precious pearls he was believed to own. A sage advised the king to bring the idol of Ram to Kullu from Ayodhya. Legends recount different ways in which the idol was brought back eventually lifting the curse, and the King declared Lord Raghunath as the ruling deity of the Valley.

Since then, every year in October, Dussehra is celebrated, giving a peek into Kullu’s unique history and culture. The festival commences at Dhalpur Maidan, with a spectacular procession known as the Rath Yatra, of the idol of Lord Raghunath. Known as the 'Valley of Gods', more than 200 local deities offer homage to Lord Raghunath. The cool mountain breeze plays with the tinkling of bangles, anklets and trinkets as village people perform folk dances. At night, you can also enjoy the enthralling performances at the Kala Kendra International dance festival along with performances at the open theatre. On the last day, the chariot of Lord Ragunath is taken near the banks of the River Beas, and a pile of thorn bushes is set ablaze, symbolising King Ravana’s defeat, as referred to in Hindu mythology. Join these gods at Kullu in yet another celebration of defeat of evil.

Welcome to north India, the seat of many great rulers and empires which tell tales of a rich history and an equally rich cultural tradition, tread the mountainous terrains of the Himalayas that lead to Tibetan style palaces and forts, flowing streams and fields, temples and monasteries, mud brick houses, colonial-style cottages and much more. Let Crooked Compass take you to the fertile regions of Punjab and begin a journey, a whirlwind of history, culture, and customs as we explore lands which have beckoned for time immemorial. In the Himalayan region, we will not only give you glimpses of the bygone colonial era but also of the present Tibetan exile of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and a large Tibetan population here. This political narrative continues to coexist with the customs and traditions of the locals kept alive in festivals and their everyday lives. Let us give you an extraordinary experience of the ordinary lives of the people of this fabled land.

Day 1 - Arrival in Delhi

Welcome to the capital city, New Delhi! You will met on arrival at the airport and transferred to your hotel for an overnight stay before embarking on this incredible journey.

Overnight stay at Oberoi Maidens or similar

Day 2 - Train from Delhi to Amritsar

Amritsar, literally meaning ‘pool of nectar’ enfolds visitors into its warmth of hospitality. Welcome to a breathtaking city, brimming with life and replete with culture and religion, history and politics.

This afternoon, enjoy an excursion to Wagah border. Located on the ancient Grand Trunk Road which once spanned the Gangetic plains, lies the Wagah village which is a transit point between the two countries of India and Pakistan, 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. At once, a grand spectacle and a reminder of the painful and poignant birthing of the twin nations with a shared past, attracts many of spectators.

In the late evening you will visit the Golden Temple to witness the Palki Sahib ceremony or Sukhasan (the sacred religious text, 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. Having covered your heads and removed your shoes, you enter the complex. Notice the number of volunteers ready to assist, voluntary service being an essential component of the Sikh faith. Throughout the day, granthis (readers) take turns chanting from the holy book to the sound of stringed instruments. Now 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)

Overnight stay at Rajit Svaasa

Day 3 - Drive to Dharamshala

This morning you depart for the Golden Temple after an early breakfast at the hotel. Floating in the middle of the Amrit Sarovar (lake), the famous Golden Temple is surrounded by a marble courtyard; it’s reflection in the glistening turquoise waters, a photographer’s delight. Devotees queuing from the early morning, wait patiently for a glimpse of the Guru Granth Sahib. The chants of devotees who are reading from the scriptures will encircle you with a timeless, irresistible fulfillment. This peace and tranquillity 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.

You will also 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 to this sacrifice, which provided a turning point in the history of colonialism in the subcontinent. Having paid homage to their memory, relax with a shopping spree in the local markets. Brighten your mood after the sombre experience with the blaze of colours on display. Try on the famous Punjabi jootis (footwear) and admire the craft of phulkaari (embroidery style) which adorns traditional attire of the region.

Continue your drive towards Dharamshala, McLeodganj in the late afternoon.

Dharamshala has a spectacular setting along a spur of the Dhauladhar range, varying in height from 1,250m at the lower town bazaar to 1768m at the pleasanter McLeodganj.  Surrounded by forests of Chirr, Pine, rhododendron and Himalayan Oak, it is set against a backdrop of high peaks on three sides, with superb views over the Kangra Valley and Shivaliks and of the great granite mountains that almost tower over the town.

The snow clad Dhauladhar ranges form a magnificent backdrop for the hill resort of Dharamshala. It is surrounded with dense pine and deodar forests, numerous streams, cool breeze and breath-taking surroundings and offers much for sightseeing ranging from temples, churches, and monasteries to museums, ancient towns, and beautiful landscape. (B)

2 nights at Norbu House or similar

Day 4 - Sightseeing of Dharamshala

Mc Leodganj, named after Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Donald McLeod, in the 1850s served as a civilian settlement outside the British garrison of Dharamshala. It was devastated by the 1905 Kangra earthquake and sank into obscurity after Independence until 1960 when the Dalai Lama arrived to establish his base here. Since then, McLeod has become a vibrant centre of Tibetan culture and Buddhism and is home to a large Tibetan population, including many monks and nuns. You will visit the residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the site of the Tibetan exile community’s main temple.

The Central Tibetan Administration or the Tibetan government-in-exile is situated downhill at GangchenKyishong which was established by the 14th Dalai Lama in 1959 after his exile. The organisation aims at the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees and to restore freedom and happiness in Tibet. Explore this fascinating organisation where its internal structure is government-like but clearly states that it is “not designed to take power in Tibet” and in fact it will be dissolved “as soon as freedom is restored in Tibet” in favour of a government formed by Tibetans inside Tibet. Stroll through the beautiful Norbulingka Institute which aims at renewing Tibetan tradition, expressions in art and literature as well as provides training, education, and employment to Tibetans. The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives has somewhere around 80,000 manuscripts and other important documents related to Tibetan history, politics, and culture.

You will then visit the 16th century Bhagsunag Temple complex which tells of a magical story behind its name. Legend has it that during the rule of King Bhagsu there was once a severe drought in his capital. The local chiefs requested the king to do something lest the people would begin leaving his kingdom. The King therefore set out in search of water and it is believed that at the Sacred Nag Dal (Lake) King Bhagsu managed to fill all the water of the lake into a small vessel. As the King lay down to sleep in the night, Nag or the Lord of Snakes was shocked to find the lake empty and he followed the footprints of King Bhagsu and challenged him for a duel and defeated him in the ensuing fight. The King prayed to Nag and moved by his prayers Nag granted him a boon that this place would henceforth be referred to by the King’s name first and then by Lord Nag’s name. Also enjoy the cool, spring-fed waters at the Bhagsu waterfall.

Walk through the local bazaar in the evening and take back Tibetan memorabilia of trinkets, traditional jewellery, mandala paintings, thangkas or Buddhist appliqué work scrolls and paintings. Tibetan dresses, woollen shawls, prayer wheels, trousers, slippers, prayer flags, and eco-friendly products amongst other things. (B)

Day 5 - Drive to Manali

Today you will drive through the mountainous terrain to Manali. Explore Palampur, the tea capital of north-west India which offers a spectacular landscape. Owing to its topography where there are countless streams and brooks, the town derives its name from the local word pulum which means plenty of water. A confluence of plains and hills with plains on one side and the snow-covered Dhauladhar ranges on the other form an intricate mesh in this scenic countryside. You will visit the lush tea gardens and rice paddies here.

You will then explore the many legends and Hindu mythology at the Baijnath temple and the Chamundi Devi temple. The famous temple of Lord Shiva, known as Baijnath, was constructed in 1204 A.D. According to popular legends it is believed to be one of the twelve jyotirlingas or a devotional object representing Lord Shiva where jyoti means ‘radiance’ and lingam means the ‘mark or sign’ of Shiva or a symbol of his pineal gland. The temple beautifully exemplifies the early medieval north Indian Temple architecture known as Nagara style of temples.  You will notice numerous images fixed or carved into the walls.

The Chamundi Devi temple is dedicated to a Hindu deity, goddess Durga or Chamunda. The Chamunda Devi Temple is said to be more than 700 years old. Its complex includes a large pond where devotees take a sacred dip. The main deity of the temple is kept hidden and is not accessible to the visitors. At the back of the temple a cave-like place, represents the stone lingam or embodiment of Lord Shiva and many brightly painted images of gods and goddesses are located in the vicinity of the Chamunda Devi temple.

You will then continue your drive to Manali. In the green valley of River Beas lies Manali, an adventurer’s and nature lover’s paradise. The hilly terrain is dotted with picturesque apple orchards and is home not only to Kullus but also Nepali and Tibetan refugees who own guest houses, restaurants and craft shops here.

In the afternoon, visit the Hadimba Temple. Built under the patronage of Maharaja Bahadur Singhe in the 16th century, this beautiful and much-revered temple is made out of stone and carved in wood depicting gods, animals, dancers, and plants. Admire the fine wood carvings as you listen to stories from Hindu mythology Mahabharata about Hadimba, the demon wife of Pandava Bima, to whom the temple is dedicated.

Across the Beas River and at an altitude of 1,982 metres lie the Vashist Hot Springs. These are renowned for its sulphur hot springs which is believed to be endowed with great healing powers for various skin ailments. In the vicinity, you will also visit the pyramidal stone temple dedicated to the Hindu missionary, Vashishta Muni who is believed to have meditated here, and another temple dedicated to Lord Ram. (B)

2 nights at The Himalayan or similar

Day 6 - Sightseeing of Manali and Kullu Dussehra Festival

This morning, visit the ancient seat of the kings of Kullu at the Naggar Castle nestled amid the hills and forest greens. It is believed to be constructed in the 16th century using a combination of stone and timber, a typical architectural style found in the Himachal region as a measure for making the structures earthquake-resistant. The Castle has a long history, from it serving as the throne of Kullu King Sidh Singh, then as a courthouse to a heritage hotel. The Palace holds the Jagti Patt Temple inside, which has three small shrines within the premises, each holding immense religious importance including a 2.4m long stone slab. This slab is deemed sacred as is said to have been carried here by a swarm of deities in the form of honey bees. The Naggar Castle also houses an incredible collection of art work including the paintings of Nicholas Roerich, the famous Russian painter.

He had chosen Naggar as his residence when he came to India in 1929. His residence has now been converted into an art gallery which houses a number of rare paintings and other specimen of art by him.

In the afternoon, join in the celebrations of the Kullu Dussehra. This is the time when all the local deities are brought together along with the idol of Lord Ram and worshipped in a grand manner. Listen to the many legends that are kept alive in the valley and enjoy the colourful festivities. (B)

Day 7 - Drive to Shimla

In the morning, you will head towards Shimla. In the Himalayan foothills lies the beautiful town of Shimla which is named after the Hindu goddess, Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Kali. It is surrounded by pine, deodar, oak, and rhododendron forests, the lush green valleys with quiet streams and swaying fields with a backdrop of the snow-covered Himalayan ranges. As you drive on the winding roads to Shimla, you will see the mountains dotted with cottages and residential houses among other buildings. Since Shimla once served as the Summer Capital during the colonial period, you will walk take you through an interesting tour of history in this town which boasts of splendid colonial edifices, many colonial style cottages, churches and bakeries. (B)

2 nights at Clark’s Hotel or similar

Day 8 - Sightseeing of Shimla

In the morning, visit the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS). During the colonial period, the complex was chosen by Lord Lytton in the latter half of the 19th century, for constructing the building that was to be the final Vice Regal residence. Revisit India’s recent history as you explore the beautiful building. Many important historical decisions and conversations have taken place here including the historic ‘The Shimla Conference’ which was designed to ease the political situation of the time as well as to advance India towards its goal of full self-government as well as the final pronouncement to partition the Indian subcontinent into two. The complex now functions as the IIAS. The Institute aims to provide an environment suitable for academic research in social science and natural science and indeed the complex offers a beautiful garden landscape with a collection of rare and exotic plants and numerous grasses, and reading facilities for the same. The interior has elaborate wood-work that has stood the real test of time. It also displays portraits of every Governor-General and Viceroy, collection of furniture used by the British political dignitaries as well as an overwhelming collection of Indian arms.

You will then explore the quiet hilltop known as Inveram where the State Museum of Shimla is located. The museum was once an old Victorian mansion which now collects and preserves the ancient artistic, historical, archaeological, and ethnological works. Admire the rich cultural and historical splendour displayed here.

Next, visit the second oldest church in north India, i.e. the Christ Church. It was built in 1857 in a neo-Gothic style to serve the Anglican British community in Shimla. The Church remains one of the enduring legacies of the British Raj where its silhouette is visible from miles around the vicinity of Shimla city. It holds a great collection of books and ancient scriptures. During the night, the Church is illuminated with lights which give a magical charm to its structure. It holds a great collection of books and ancient scriptures.

In the late afternoon and evening, stroll through the famous Mall Road of Shimla where you will find many eating joints, shops selling crafts and other items, beautiful colonial style cottages with a backdrop of clear skies, mountain hues and a pleasant breeze on the skin. (B)

Day 9 - Delhi

Today, you will drive to the Chandigarh Railway station to board the train to Delhi. Upon arrival into Delhi, you will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight. Please ensure you do not have a flight booked until the evening. (B)