We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open- Jawaharlal Nehru.
For centuries, even millennia, India has represented an unconquerable domain. From the time Alexander the Great burst across the mountainous Khyber Pass, conquerors and traders have coveted her riches. Phoenician traders, Persian spice merchants, Mughals, British colonials with their beloved legal and administrative wares – all tried to conquer India in their own manner. In India’s inimitable fashion, she absorbed them all.
Who, then, was the real conqueror ?
Since the beginning, India has entwined the world of the spirit with culture and everyday life. To such an extent that when mystic poet Amir Khusrau, the “Parrot of India” died in 1325, the entire nation mourned. Her buildings too, are magnificent reflections of the inner spirit. They’re every bit the marvel they were when they rose centuries ago. Everywhere you look there are celebrations of beauty. Floral tendrils twine in sculpted relief up the walls of an “ordinary” building. Figures dance with incomparable grace in a stylized frieze that marries art with geometry. Art isn’t something relegated to museums and temples, it’s integrated with every aspect of life.
India is very much rooted in the present too. A present full of intoxicating sensations; bazaars laden with dazzling silks, gems that are legendary, fragrant sandalwood, and oriental carpets from the weaving workshops of Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh.
Day 1 - Arrive in Chennai early morning by an international flight.
Arrive in Chennai and you will be met by our representative/s and transferred to your hotel.
Overnight in Chennai.
Today Chennai is India’s fourth largest city and the capital of Tamil Nadu state. Though the city has long been important for textile manufacture, a great deal of industrial expansion has also taken place. Gateway to the sunny-south, Madras was a seat of ancient civilization with a rich heritage of fine arts, sculpture and architecture.
Day 2 CHENNAI
Depart for the National Art Gallery and State Museum after lunch. National Art Gallery and the State Museum which has an outstanding collection of sculptures and bronzes. Drive through colonial Madras passing George Town and the 19 th century buildings of Madras University and High Court making a brief stop at the San Thome Cathedral which is the traditional site of the remains of the apostle Thomas.
Later in the evening return to your hotel.
Overnight in Chennai.
Day 3 CHENNAI
Post breakfast proceed to visit the Dakshinchitra ( approx. 45 minutes drive ) Dakshinachitra Museum, located in Chennai, is one of the living-history museums in India. It stores in itself great works of architecture, crafts, performing arts, and lifestyles that belong to South India. The museum has its vision and mission to promote the cultures of South Indian states by making them more engaging and enjoyable for its viewers. It is a project of Madras Craft Foundation which is an NGO that was opened to the public on 14th December 1996. The heritage museum is home to 4,220 artefacts and 1,000,000 pictures. A visit here will give you an in-depth knowledge of south Indian heritage and you will enjoy the most magnificent treasures of learning.
Later continue on to Mahabalipuram (approx. 45 minutes drive) Post lunch, explore the historical sites of Mahabalipuram.
Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram was built by the Pallava king Mahendra Varman as a seaport to connect his empire with Southeast Asia. Amongst the plethora of Hindu temples built by this dynasty in the 7th century, the major ones are in Mahabalipuram; the graceful shore temple, the cave temple, the single stone granite `Rathas’ or chariot temples and the world’s largest bas relief with themes from Hindu mythology called both `Arjuna’s Penance’ and `Descent of the Ganges’. The excellent quality of figure sculptures in the Mahabalipuram group of temples set the tone for the development of plastic art and in later years structural temples which provided a larger canvas for display of the sculptor’s skill. The Shore Temple is an outstanding example
and the solidity of its masonry has withstood over 12 centuries the onslaught of the monsoons, battering sea waves and the treachery of drifting sands.
The Indian temples, like the great cathedrals of Europe is a phenomenon of an Age of Faith. India was dotted with thousands of temples at the time Islam gained a firm foothold in the North and North Western parts. Having been relatively free from iconoclastic upheavals, the country’s south guarded by the Vindhya hills was able to protect a large number of its religious monuments from wanton destruction or calculated negligence.
The imposing temples of the Dravidian group which have exercised a compelling cultural influence for generations are products of five great ruling dynasties;
The Pallavas (600-900)
The Cholas (900-1150)
The Pandyas (1152-1350)
The Vijayanagar Kings (1340-1565)
The Nayaks (1600-1700)
The Pallava era represented a transition from the ancient to the medieval and the earliest surviving example of this Dravidian type are in Mahabalipuram.
Later in the evening return to your hotel (approx. 1.5 hours’ drive) Dinner is at leisure or an option exists for dinner at the Peshawari restaurant at the ITC Grand Chola hotel (30 minutes drive) and transport will be arranged.
Overnight in Chennai
Day 4 CHENNAI
Post breakfast proceed to visit Kanchipuram (45 miles– approx. 2 hours drive) and known as the “Golden city of a thousand temples, all built in the 7 th and 8 th centuries. It is one of the seven holiest cities of India and the capital of the Pallava, Chola and Raja Dynasties. The soaring pyramidal towers called Gopurams of the temples can be seen from miles away. Kanchipuram is also famous for its silk weaving.
On arrival in Kanchipuram visit the Sri Ekambaranathar Temple, dedicated to lord Shiva and one of the largest in Kanchipuram, covering 12 hectares. Its 59 m high gopuram and massive outer stone wall were constructed in 1509 by Krishnadevraya of the Vijaynagar Empire. The temple’s name is said to derive from Eka Amra Nathar – Lord of the Mango tree, with four branches representing the four Vedas ( sacred Hindu text ) A plaque nearby claims that the tree is 3500 years old. Continue to visit the Kailashnath temple – Kailashnath is the oldest temple in Kanchi dedicated to Lord Shiva. Reflecting the freshness of early Dravidian architecture. It was built by the Pallava King Rayasimha in the 7 th century. The temple has the third largest prismatic lingam in Asia.
Post lunch return to Chennai. This evening Dinner is at leisure in any one of the hotel’s restaurants.
Overnight in Chennai.
Day 5 CHENNAI - MUMBAI
After an early breakfast check out and transfer to the airport for a morning flight to Mumbai. Bombay now known as Mumbai with a population exceeding 12 million, this one time group of low lying mud flats is now India’s economic power base and her most industrialized city, bustling with activities of incredible diversity and complexity, her color and elegance, her wealth corresponding with her historic struggle against poverty.
Certain affluent areas give Bombay an air of mini –Manhattan. Upon arrival in Mumbai transfer to the Taj Mahal Palace and en route stop at Dhobi Ghat, the city’s open air laundry! where “Dhobis’ (washer men) attend to an astounding quantity of washing daily. Clothes, linen, towels …. are washed in small open air cubicles rented out each day. An itemized account is logged in a notebook and clothes collected from households are returned a week later. Through the apparent chaos incredibly nothing gets lost from a countless number of pieces and most clothes somehow survive the beating they receive on the washing stones.
Later check-in to your hotel.
Post lunch visit the Prince of Wales Museum. This Museum is now called the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and was built in a confluence of Gothic and Moorish styles, and crowned by a sparkling white dome. It boasts a good collection of ancient Indus Valley artefacts dating back to 2000 BC plus some priceless Tibetan and Nepali Art. There is an entire gallery devoted to Buddhist tankha scrolls and another to Tibetan bronzes, but the chief attraction here is the collection of over 2000 miniature paintings from the various art schools of India.
Later in the evening enjoy a walking tour of South Mumbai (SOBO) near the Gateway of India and experience Mumbai.
Dinner & overnight in your hotel.
Day 6 MUMBAI
After breakfast proceed for a city tour to experience Mumbai and visit the Bhau Daji Lau Museum (earlier known as Albert & Victoria Museum).
Albert Museum, now called Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, an archive of the communities that migrated from across the country to Bombay has, in addition, a library that contains rare maps and several old manuscripts and books that reveal Mumbai’s history. The museum is located in the Veermata Jijabai Botanical Gardens, formerly known as the Victorian Gardens. Continue to visit the “Mani Bhawan” the museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.
Mani Bhavan – The building where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his visit to Mumbai from 1917 to 1934 is now a small, but engrossing, museum. Gandhi’s simple room remains untouched and there’s an excellent photographic record of his life, along with original documents such as letters he wrote to Hitler and President Roosevelt. The visitors from all over the world come to Mani Bhavan, to see the room Gandhiji occupied, its Picture Gallery, the Library Hall and the terrace where he was arrested on January 4 th , 1932 Later drive to Churchgate Railway Terminus to see the Dabbawallahs.
‘Dabbawallahs’, members of the Bombay Union of Tiffin Box Carriers, described by Prince Charles as the symbol of this enigmatic and intriguing city. Each morning, the 2500 dabbawallahs call on suburban housewives who pack a freshly cooked lunch into small circular aluminum or stainless steel containers - `dabbas’. Typically the dabbawallahs collect 30-40 boxes, range them out on a long pole and cycle to the nearest station. Here he hands them over to a fellow dabbawallah who then transports them into the city for delivery to the consumer. Over 100,000 lunches of maybe sabze (vegetable curry), chapattis (Indian bread), dal (lentils) and pickle, make their way daily across town to the breadwinner and back again. The service which costs a few rupees a week, is a good example of the fine division of labor in India, reliable and efficient for the dabbawallahs pride themselves on never losing a lunch box.
Lunch can be arranged at the popular `Trishna’ restaurant located within the heritage section of the city. The restaurant is noted for its seafood and prepares authentic recipes from the west coast of India. The late New York Times gourmand R. W. Apple Jr. declared this spot’s seafood worthy of hopping a plane for.
Dinner & Overnight in Mumbai.
Day 7 MUMBAI - AURANGABAD
Post breakfast check-out and transfer to the Gateway of India pier and board a chartered motor launch for an excursion to Elephanta Island, located some four miles from the city, originally called Gharapuri (‘Fortress City’) and renamed ‘Elephanta’ by the Portuguese who found a large stone elephant near the landing place. Within the main rock-cut temple, probably dating from between 450 to 750 A.D. are found large sculptured panels, the most interesting of which is the three headed Shiva shown as the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. Other Shiva panels include one of the God’s dancing the ‘Tandava’ and thereby causing the world to shake.
Check–out and transfer to the airport for a flight to Aurangabad.
Aurangabad, one of India’s fastest growing cities, was originally known as Khadke and founded in 1610 by Malik Amber, a slave who later became the Prime Minister to the king of Ahmednagar. It was subsequently changed to Aurangabad in honor of the great ughal ruler Aurangzeb who used it as a center for his Deccan campaign which occupied him for the second half of his 49 year rule.
Upon arrival in Aurangabad, transfer to your hotel. The evening and dinner is at leisure Overnight in Aurangabad
Day 8 AURANGABAD - DELHI
Proceed to visit the Ellora Caves after breakfast. The Ellora Caves are located 19 miles from Aurangabad and it will take about 1 hour. There are 34 Hindu, Jain and Buddhist caves at Ellora cut out of the volcanic lava of the Deccan trap. Lying near an important ancient trade route between Ujjain and the west coast, the caves that were abandoned and forgotten are believed to be the work of priests and craftsmen who used the route. They tell the story of the evolution of these three religions. Over 2000 years old, they have been compared to the pyramids for their amazing construction, sculptures and frescoes. The most marvelous of all is the stupendous rock temple of Kailash.
12:15 pm - Return to your hotel. 3.00 pm - Depart for the airport and check in for an evening flight from Aurangabad to Delhi.
Delhi, the Empress of Indian cities has a fascinating history and stimulating present. She has often been sacked and left naked and desolate. But she could not be despoiled of the incomparable situation that marks her for the metropolis of a great empire. The capital of India, Delhi has been the seat of power of a number of dynasties – the Rajputs, the Afghans, the Turks and the Mughals who continued their imperial line until the British. Scattered over are surviving ruins, remnants of mighty edifices, tombs of warriors and saints which, in an impressive sense of magnificence are memorials not of a single city but of supplanted nations.
This is a city full of history and it is a city split in two. Old Delhi was the capital of Muslim India between the 17th and 19th centuries. Here you find dense, crowded streets with mosques, museums, and forts that tell the story of Muslim rule. It is contained within the 17th-century walled city of Shahjahanabad and centers on the main street known as Chandni Chowk.
New Delhi, on the other hand, was established as the capital of India when the British took over. Its streets are more open and contain embassies, government buildings, parks, and fountains. At its center is Connaught Place, once the commercial hub of the British Raj. Upon arrival in Delhi transfer to your hotel & check in. Dinner & Overnight at your hotel.
Day 9 DELHI
Post breakfast, drive through the boulevards of New Delhi and pass India gate which is a memorial built to the 85000 soldiers who died in World War I and the Afghan battles of 1919. At the other end of Rajpath stands the official residence of India's President, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a complex of buildings that mix Mughal and Western architectural styles. Prior to independence, this was the home of India's last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. Close by is Sansad Bhavan, the large though less imposing parliament building Later visit the National Museum & National Gallery of Modern Art
National Museum which is one of the best in the country with its collection formed from the nucleus of the exhibition of Indian Art in 1947. It displays a rich collection of the treasures of Central Asia and India including ethnological objects from prehistoric archaeological finds to the late medieval period. The museum has in its possession over 200,000 works of art of both Indian and foreign origin, covering more than 5,000 years of Indian cultural heritage. Its rich holdings of various creative traditions and disciplines which represents a unity amidst diversity, an unmatched blend of the past with the present and strong perspective for the future, brings history to life. The Buddhist art section is most known for the sacred relics of the Buddha (5th-4th century B.C.) unearthed from Piprehwa, Basti district. The collection covers archaeology, arms, armour, decorative arts, Jewellery, manuscripts, paintings, etc.
Continue to visit the National Gallery of Modern Art – which has an excellent collection of arts and paintings, is housed in a former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Some of the best exhibits are on the ground floor which is devoted to post 1930 works. This gallery has a great collection of paintings and art work from from different schools of India including famous artists like Amrita Shergil, Guru Rabindernath Tagore and British painter Thomas Daniell.
Return to your hotel for lunch which will be arranged at the ‘Three Sixty Degree’ restaurant. Around 3:30 pm - Drive to Gurgaon a Delhi suburb to visit the Museo Camera en- route visit the Kiran Nadar Art museum.
Kiran Nadar Art museum. Established at the initiative of the avid collector Kiran Nadar, the wife of computer Czar Shiv Nadar this museum opened its doors to the public in January 2010, as the first private museum of Art exhibiting Modern and contemporary works from India and the subcontinent. The KNMA as a non-commercial, not-for-profit organization intends to exemplify the dynamic relationship between art and culture through its exhibitions, publications, educational and public programs.
The growing permanent Collection of KNMA is largely focused on significant trajectories of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art. Its core Collection highlights a magnificent generation of 20th century Indian painters from the post-Independent decades and equally engages the disparate art practice of the younger contemporaries. An exhibition “A life in 9 lives” will be on display.
Later continue on to Gurgaon a trendy suburb and visit The Museo Camera – This is a modern museum to showcase the art, science and history of photography. A
space that has on display antique cameras from over 100 countries, photographic equipment down the ages, historical archives, the works of legends as well as cutting edge contemporary lens based art. This is where professionals and amateurs have the rare opportunity to learn and experience the magic of photography, and through it, to explore the arts, ideas, and issues of our time. Museo Camera is spread over 18,000 sq. ft. of built space besides housing a unique collection of vintage cameras and Photographic equipment, The Museum also has gallery spaces for curated events, teaching facilities, studios for workshops, seminar rooms, a multi-media resource centre a library, a cafe and a Museum shop that retails among other things, rare Photographic memorabilia.
Later in the evening return to your hotel.
Day 10 DELHI
9.00 am- Begin the day with a visit to Humayun’s tomb, the tomb of the second Mughal Emperor Humayun, which was commissioned by his senior wife Haji Begum, in
the 16th century. This is an early example of Mughal architecture. The design elements of this tomb – a squat building lighted by high arched entrances topped by a protuberant dome and surrounded by formal gardens, were to be refined over the years to the magnificence of the Taj Mahal.
Continue to visit the historical part of the city starting with `Shah Jehanabad’ which has some dramatic remnants of the Mughal Empire in the imposing Red Fort and Jama Masjid India’s largest mosque, built by Emperor Shah Jehan, creator of the Taj Mahal.
You will ride rickshaws through its principal street, Chandni Chowk, originally renowned throughout Asia with its tree-lined canal flowing down its center. These days it is a
bustling jumble of shops, temples, mosques and workshops of goldsmiths, silversmiths, silk traders and embroiderers. Experience the hustle and bustle of Old Delhi and streets of Chandni Chowk sitting in a cycle rickshaw / walking. Culminate the Old Delhi tour with a photo stop at Raj Ghat the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation. Built on the banks of the Yamuna River, is a simple memorial that marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated in 1948. A pretty park has been created around the memorial.
The afternoon is free for shopping or to relax at your lovely hotel.
Overnight in Delhi.
Day 11 DELHI - MATHURA - AGRA
7.00 am- After an early breakfast, check-out and drive to Agra via Vrindavan & Mathura (approx. 2.5 hours’ drive) on a newly built Yamuna Expressway. (Delhi to Mathura is approx. 2.5 hours drive) Vrindavan, is located 10 miles from Mathura, is a little town and a major place of pilgrimage on the banks of River Yamuna. Attracting about 500000 pilgrims every year, mainly during major festivals like Janmashtami, Holi and Radhashtami, it is noted for its numerous temples, both old and modern, big and small (allegedly 5000 altogether).
Vrindavan is synonymous with the childhood pastimes of Sri Krishna.
(In Vrindavan most of the temples are closed between 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm)
Upon arrival in Vrindavan visit the Banke Bihari & Govind Dev Temples One of the most popular in Vrindavan and famous all over India is the Banke Bihari
Temple, built in 1864. There are curtains in front of the richly decorated Murti. After the prayers the curtains are drawn apart to give darsan (viewing) to a long line of devotees.
The curtain before the deities is not left open like at other temples but every few minutes it is pulled shut and then opened again. The deities do not wake up until 9 am. The temple has mangala-arati only on one day in the year and once a year can the lotus feet of the deity be seen, on Akhyaya Tritiya. Many devotees come every day, specially in the month of Sravana, during Jhulan Yatra, the swing festival. The murti is said to have been discovered by the musician-saint Svami Hari Das in Nidhi Van, a kadamba grove where Banke Bihari was originally worshiped. A contemporary of the Six Gosvamis, Svami Haridasa, known for his bhajans, was the guru of the famous
Continue on to visit the Govind Dev temple
Later drive to Mathura ( 30 minute drive ).
Mathura is a sacred city and it is believed that Lord Krishna was born here. On arrival in visit the Mathura Museum which has a fine collection of stone sculpture and terracotta, gold, silver and copper coins, clay seals, ancient pottery, paintings and bronzes.
Later drive to Agra (approx. 1.5 hours drive)
Agra, the city of Taj Mahal was once one of the grand cities of South Asia. With the arrival of the Mughals in 1526 led by Babur, Agra entered a completely new era during
the reign of emperors Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. Akbar made it a great center for learning, and for art, commerce and culture. It is therefore not surprising that modern Agra still reflects its Mughal heritage most conspicuously in its monuments.
Check in to your hotel in Agra on arrival.
Amongst the Muslim rulers, Emperor Akbar and his
grandson Shah Jehan lifted the powerful Mughal Empire to unprecedented heights of cultural glory and aesthetic achievements. Later in the afternoon visit the Taj Mahal at sunset. At the day’s end, the monument appears to change its hue, tinted by the glow of the setting sun.
Taj Mahal with its incredible lacy white grandeur, is perhaps the most perfect architectural monument in the world. To the poet Tagore it was a “tear on the face of
eternity” In memory of his wife, the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan planned and built this most extravagant and incomparable monument to his love. Amazingly graceful from any angle, it is the close-up detail that is really astounding.
The evening is at leisure.
Day 12 AGRA
Early morning an option exists to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise Return to your hotel for breakfast. Post breakfast, drive to visit the red sandstone of Fatehpur Sikri (Agra to Fatehpur Sikri 1 hour drive). Fatehpur Sikri becomes more conducive to the sun’s rays than the reflective white marble of the Taj. We begin our day driving out to this World Heritage site built in the 16 th century by the Mughal Emperor Akbar probably India’s greatest king. Later return to Agra (approx. a 1 hour drive from Fatehpur Sikri).
Post lunch, proceed to visit Agra Fort and Mehetab Bagh
Agra Fort situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, the fort was built by the great Mughal visionary Emperor Akbar. His son Jahangir and grandson Shah Jehan added
to this imposing structure during their rule. The palaces, mosque and audience halls contained within its massive wall of red sandstone are perfect examples of blending
Islamic and Hindu traditions. Later continue on to visit the Mehtab Bagh across the Yamuna River.
Mehtab Bagh was the last of eleven Mughal-built gardens along the Yamuna opposite the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort and was built by Emperor Babur. It is also noted that Emperor Shah Jahan had identified a site from the crescent-shaped, grass-covered flood plain across the Yamuna River as an ideal location for viewing the Taj Mahal. It was then created as "a moonlit pleasure garden called Mehtab Bagh." White plaster walkways, airy pavilions, pools and fountains were also created as part of the garden, with fruit trees and narcissus. The garden was designed as an integral part of the Taj Mahal complex on the riverfront terrace pattern.
Day 12 AGRA - DELHI
Early morning an option exists to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise Return to your hotel for breakfast. Post breakfast, proceed to visit the Agra Fort & Tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah,. Agra Fort situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, the fort was built by the great Mughal visionary Emperor Akbar. His son Jahangir and grandson Shah Jehan added to this imposing structure during their rule. The palaces, mosque and audience halls contained within its massive wall of red sandstone are perfect examples of blending Islamic and Hindu traditions. Continue to visit the Tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, which became the first Mughal structure totally built from marble and pioneering the extensive use of `pietra dura’, the inlay work, which became so characteristic of the Taj Mahal. This mausoleum is small and squat when compared to a soaring Taj, but the smaller, more human scale has its own attraction, and the beautiful patterned surface of the tomb is exquisite.
Later you could choose to visit Kohinoor, the erstwhile jewellers to the Mughal Court featured in National Geographic and one of the marble inlay factories steeped in this decorative art culture.
Post lunch, check out and drive to Delhi (approx. 4 hours drive ). We will drop you at the airport or to hotel of your choice.