10 days Small Group Tours Register your interest for 2019 Tailor make this journey and make it yours

Price

 

Available On Request

Inclusions

  • Transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle
  • 9 nights accommodation
  • 9 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
  • English speaking local guide
  • Entrances fees to sights and monuments as per the itinerary
  • Domestic flights Delhi/Varanasi – Lucknow/Delhi
  • Access to Kumbh Mela festival
  • 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

Gods and demons, good and evil, and the eternal fight between the two, lie at the heart of Hindu mythology. Having asked for the demons help to obtain the nectar of immortality, the gods could not allow evil to become immortal and so they ran, carrying with them the kumbh (pot) with the demons in hot pursuit. Drops fell at four spots, of which one is Allahabad. During the auspicious alignment of stars and planetary bodies, the holy waters of the Ganga are transformed into nectar which can wash away the sins of 88 generations. Thousands of devout arrive hoping to fulfil their spiritual quest of moksha or freedom from the cycle of rebirth.

Amongst the overwhelming numbers that make this journey, it is no doubt the sadhus and their antics, offer the most alluring visual extravaganza. The naga sadhus (naked sages) of the Himalayas, clad only in cow dung ashes, lead the procession into the holy waters. Tapasya (meditation) takes various forms balancing on a single leg, keeping one’s hand raised for years on end. Another sadhu will show off the prowess of his penis in weightlifting! Competing for attention, are the Aghori sadhus who feast off human remains. Join this extraordinary religious convergence, and learn the deep philosophical culture underpinning the spiritual life of an ancient civilisation.

From the capital city of Delhi, you make your way to Allahabad to join in the three month long event, a grand festive affair which represents the spiritual quest of millions. Strike conversations, observe, and participate.  Understand the meaning of divine rituals to ordinary people and saints. Appreciate the thousands of ordinary people balancing the timeless and cultural with the new and modern in their everyday lives. In all this, Crooked Compass is with you, ensuring your comfort, taking you through the most interesting aspects of this convergence. Make the most of the location of camps, far enough for you to have privacy, close enough to make you feel part of the mela (fair). At all times, the vantage point offers a breathtaking vista of a life world different from fast-paced individuated modern lives.

Day 1 - Arrival in Delhi

Welcome to the capital of India, a city of historic importance, which has been inhabited since the earliest signs of civilisation. Its strategic and political importance has attracted political aspirants as well as those hopeful to carve a name for themselves in the arts under royal patronage. Fabled to have had at least nine lives, the city has a rich cultural heritage unlike any other. In the streets of Delhi, there is a rich mosaic of cultures, religions and people, who have all left their mark in art and architecture, music and drama, songs and museums. But most of all, it is the medley of people who inhabit the city who give it its distinctive character.

With assistance upon arrival you will be assisted with check in at your hotel.

Overnight Haveli Dharampura or similar

Day 2 - Delhi to Varanasi

Following breakfast, you’ll be transferred to airport for your flight to Varanasi.
Upon arrival at Varanasi airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Varanasi, also known at various times in history as Kashi (City of Light) and Benares, this is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities and is regarded as one of Hinduism’s seven holy cities. Pilgrims come to the ghats lining the River Ganges here to wash away a lifetime of sins in the sacred waters or to cremate their loved ones. It’s a particularly auspicious place to die, since expiring here offers moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death), making Varanasi the beating heart of the Hindu universe. Most visitors agree it’s a magical place, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Here the most intimate rituals of life and death take place in public, and the sights, sounds and smells in and around the ghats – not to mention the almost constant attention from touts – can be overwhelming. Persevere. Varanasi is unique, and a walk along the ghats or a boat ride on the river will live long in the memory.

This evening, witness the Aarti ceremony. The Aarti is performed on a stage by a group of young priests facing towards the river. It is a special ritual for the invocation of the River Ganga, which as per the sacred belief of the Hindus is a Goddess who descended from heaven to earth for a reason. The Aarti takes place every day and takes approximately one hour. (B)

Overnight at Suryuday Haveli or similar

Day 3 - Varanasi

Early this morning leave your hotel around 0530 for an early morning sunrise boat excursion on the holy River Ganges. A rowing boat ride at dawn along the Ganges is the quintessential Varanasi experience. The early-morning light is particularly good for photography and to see life (and death) as it unfolds along the ghats is a truly unique experience. An hour-long trip south from Dashashwamedh Ghat to Harishchandra Ghat and to Manikarnika Ghat and back is popular and be prepared to see a burning corpse at Harishchandra and Manikarnika Ghat. Photographs here are strictly not allowed.

After boat ride, drive back to your hotel for breakfast. Following breakfast, begin your city tour and visit Banaras Hindu University. This is one of the oldest educational centres in India, the Banaras Hindu University was built in 1917. The university was founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya as a centre for the study of Indian art, culture, music and Sanskrit. The university campus is spread over five square kilometres and houses the Bharat Kala Bhavan. The Bhavan has a fine collection of miniature paintings, sculptures from first to fifteenth centuries, old photographs of Varanasi and brocade textiles.

Continue on to Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The temple is located in the premises of the Banaras Hindu University. The temple, built by the Birlas, was planned by Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. Unlike many other temples in Varanasi, this temple is open to all irrespective of caste or creed.

Next is Durga Temple. Durga temple is also known as the Monkey temple (because of the presence of huge number of monkeys), situated in the Durga Kund, Varanasi. The temple is dedicated to the Goddess Durga. It was built in the 18th century. Durga temple was constructed by a Bengali Maharani in the north Indian Style with multi-tiered shikhara. It is believed that statue of Goddess Durga is not human made; it appeared on its own within the temple.

Following lunch, enjoy the sightseeing of Sarnath. It was at Sarnath, that the Buddha gave his first sermon to the five disciples; preaching the middle path to find ‘Nirvana’. Realising the sanctity of the place, emperor Ashoka, in the 3rd. Century BC lavished riches on it; building and creating some of the finest monuments and legacies for future generations. The 34-metre high Dhamek Stupa is the most remarkable structure as it is believed to mark the spot where the Buddha preached his sermon. ‘Choukhandi’ stupa, raised by the great Mughal emperor Akbar in 1555 AD, is believed to be the place where Lord Buddha met his five disciples. The majestic Ashoka pillar records the visit of emperor Ashoka to Sarnath. It was originally adorned by a capital of four adorned lions – the symbol of modern India. The capital now is housed in the adjoining Sarnath museum. The modern Mahabodhi Society temple ‘Mulgandha Kuti Vihar’, opened to public in 1931, has a series of brilliant frescoes by the Japanese artist K. Nosi and a life size golden statue of the Buddha. A ‘Bodhi’ tree growing here is believed to be the offspring of one under which Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment. (B)

Overnight at Suryuday Haveli or similar

Day 4 - Varanasi to Allahabad

Today you will drive to Allahabad (approx. 120km / 04 hrs). On arrival transfer to your tented accommodation. On arrival the if road is closed for traffic due to Kumbh Mela, there will be a 5-6 km walk involved to reach your tented camp.

Allahabad is located in the southern part of the Uttar Pradesh and stands at the confluence of three rivers – The Ganges, Yamuna and invisible Saraswati.
Allahabad or City of God in Persian, is one of the fastest growing cities in India at present. The ancient name of the city is Prayag and is believed to be the spot where Brahma offered his first sacrifice after creating the world. It is one of four sites of the mass Hindu pilgrimage Kumbh Mela. It has a position of importance in Hindu scriptures for it is situated at Triveni Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganges and Yamuna, and the ancient Saraswati River. (B,D)

Overnight Tented Camp

Day 5 - Allahabad

Over the next two days you will witness one of the largest human congregations that has gathered on these river banks for millennia.

The holy river Ganga is intimately linked to life lived in the Hindu faith. Beginning at birth – the mundane (shaving head hair off a new born) at the ghats (river banks) is considered auspicious to the final immersion of the ashes, and the yearly shraadha (religious anniversary service). Hindus arrive here in the hope of washing away not only their own sins but those of their ancestors.

Also present in large numbers are the sadhus who seek out divine guidance. These sadhus, having given up normal familiar lives, live the rest of their lives in akharas where they learn, practice and preach the divine path to moksha (release from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth). Gathered on the occasion of Kumbh are practitioners of numerous akharas, including the cave dwelling reclusive Naga sadhus.

Amongst the ghats, Har-ki-Pauri (footsteps of Vishnu) attracts the most visitors, especially for the evening arti (religious ceremony) when floating arrangements of flowers and lighted diyas (lamps) add a glimmering mystical sheen to the holy waters.

As you arrive in the midst of these, sometimes overwhelming crowds, be rest assured that we have taken care of your very comfort. Your special tents are erected close enough to the Ghats to make you feel one with the experience of the devotees, yet maintaining an adequate distance to assure your comfort. Over the next few days you will have numerous opportunities to attend yoga sessions, witness the evening arti, visit akharas to chat with the sadhus and observe the practices associated with the Hindu faith. (B,L,D)

Overnight Tented Camp

Day 6 - Allahabad

While breakfast, lunch and dinner have been specially arranged at the camps, the rest of the day is free to explore and mingle, become submerge in the sacred, forget the profane. Understand a culture very different from the one embraced by modernity, appreciate the philosophy underpinning this life world and the intermingling of the two, of the ancient and the modern, which forms the essence of an Indian life. (B,L,D)

Overnight Tented Camp

Day 7 - Allahabad to Lucknow

Following breakfast, drive to Lucknow. Upon arrival check-in at your hotel. Lucknow – the hallmark of cultural extravaganza, known all over the world for its many splendours. A city that has a magical charm, be it the cultural charm or the monumental one, both are well conserved here to make Lucknow ‘The city of many splendours’. Walking through the lanes and by-lanes of Chowk and Aminabad you will discover the soul of Lucknow. (B)

Overnight Lebua Lucknow or similar

Day 8 - Lucknow

Today you will embark on a city tour of Lucknow. Driving past ‘Chatar Manzil’ (outside view only), you reach the world’s most unique architecture, ‘Asifi Imambara’. This monument was built as a relief measure for a devastating famine, in order to provide employment to the subjects of the state by Nawab Asif-ud-Daula’. This is the world’s biggest hall that is devoid of any pillar support, wood, iron beams or concrete walls. Salute the ‘Nawab’ (Prince) lying in peace inside and proceed to see his noble work. Also, see the ‘Rumi Darwaza’ or the Turkish Gate and the Asfi Mosque.

Later you will reach the Hussainabad Complex – The Clock Tower is the highest Clock Tower in Asia and in some ways superior to its counterpart, ‘Big Ben’. Today the clock stands motionless but has witnessed all times, the good, the bad and the ugly. Now enter the Babylon of East, The Hussainabad Imambara – known for its beauty and pieces of décor. This was built in 1840 by Mohammad Ali Shah and is still considered to be a sacred address by the natives. The beautiful chandeliers, silver seat, sandalwood décor and calligraphy on the walls all are so creative. Admire each one and bow down to the Nawab and his Mother sleeping inside. Also, see the Satkhanda that stands as Lucknow’s incomplete leaning tower of Pisa.

Continuing on, you will visit Dhobi Ghat to see the colourful Chikan Embroidered clothes hanging after their wash, and you will get to see the washer-men at work and observe the hanging clothes that are sun-dried after having gone through the hands of women artisans.

Following lunch, drive past the Kaiserbagh Complex that once was Nawab Wajid-Ali Shah’s Palace complex and the most beautiful of the palaces built in the Awadh region you visit the Baradari and the Kaiserbagh Gates. Though the palace complex is heavily encroached and redone, and it may be hard to believe that it ever was so beautiful, yet you will try and work your creative imagination to understand and reconstruct the complex.

Whilst in Kaserbagh you will now reach Kotwara House, abode to the legendary film maker, fashion designer, painter, poet, rather a couple with many feathers in their cap of creativity, Muzaffar & Meera Ali. Their Lucknow house is in the area of the palace complex of Kaiserbagh and the very aura, interiors and artefacts that adorn their living space is no less than a living museum of sorts. You will have access to the living spaces of the house to understand how this creative couple live, work and eat. You enjoy a great afternoon seeing their collection and workshop of Chikan, Zari and Mukaesh with an opportunity to interact with artisans at work. Also, enjoy a short dance clip from Muzzafar’s landmark films including Umrao Jaan or maybe watch one of his unreleased masterpiece over a cup of hot tea at his home. If you are lucky you’ll get to meet Muzzafar and Meera Ali as well. (B)

Overnight Lebua Lucknow or similar

Day 9 - Lucknow

After breakfast, you’ll visit the architectural marvel of age, La Martiniere School which was designed by the Frenchman Major-General Claude Martin as a palatial home. Even to this day, Claude martin is a revered personality in the city of Lucknow. Later on you will visit Dilkusha Palace & Gardens – This palace was built by a European architect for the Nawab – Sadat Ali Khan. The Nawab only saw this building on its completion and the first words that came to his lips were “Dil Khush Hua” meaning “My Heart is Pleased”, thus it was aptly named “Dilkusha”. The palace and gardens were used as a country house and hunting lodge by the Nawab and his begums. Light game consisting of deer and bears were kept in the surrounding woods for the Begums to indulge in some hunting themselves. Part of the palace was also used as a Maternity Home for the wives of the Nawabs.

You will also visit the grave of Walter Burley Griffin, the American architect who designed Canberra, Australia’s capital city. Griffin spent the last 15 months of his life in India where he designed the zenana (the quarters for elite Muslim women) for the palace of Raja Jahangirabad.

Driving past Sikanderbagh, the palace complex that fell prey to the British troops and the Mutineers in the revolt of 1857 and what remains is a gate and a few walls as a testimony to the bloody events of that period, you will now reach the Lucknow Residency a place where speechless walls are known to speak the gruesome tale of the 1857 mutiny. The sprawling British campus witnessed nothing less than 3000 deaths to keep the Union Jack flying. Yet the British could not defend their domain and the buildings were lost to the high spirited and enthusiastic Indians who fought till their last breath. The trees, bullet sprinkled walls, unusable canons, worn out firearms all cry aloud with the burden of deaths that were witnessed here. You also visit the graveyard to pay your homage to named and unnamed soldiers who gave up their lives in the defence of The Residency.

Following lunch, continue with your city tour and visit Shahnajaf Imambara. This Imambara is said to be a replica of the tomb of Hazrat Ali at Najaf in Iraq. It houses the replica of the Silver Rauza of Nazaf. It was built by Nawab Ghazi-ud-din-Haider the first independent King of Avadh and houses his tomb along with his three wives. (B)

Overnight Lebua Lucknow or similar

Day 10 - Delhi Departure

This morning, enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Later you’ll be transferred to airport for your flight to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi, we bid farewell to you, honoured to have initiated you into the timeless traditions of a land fabled for its spirituality. (B)