Beats in India

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specialFrance had its bohemians and America had its Beats. The original Beat Generation, or Beat writers, were a core group of close friends who met in a neighborhood near Columbia University in the mid 1940’s. A San Francisco migration extended their group consciousness. In 1962 Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, two main figures in the Beats, set off to meet fellow progressive thinkers and poets Gary Snyder and Joanne Kyger embarking on a soul searching journey though India. Learn about the Hungryalists, visit Baul holy sites in Birbhum, pay homage at Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage places. Just as the Beats searched for the meaning of life Beat’s India opens that same adventure door for you.

NOTE: Any part of this tour can be customized to fit the needs of a single or two people travelling together

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Day 1 – Kolkata
Arrive in Kolkata where you will be met at the airport and driven to your hotel.

Day 2 – Kolkata
After breakfast, tour Kalighat and Howrah Bridge. Kalighat is a temple dedicated to Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction. The former name of Kolkata, Calcutta, is said to have been derived from the word “kalighat. The Howrah Bridge spans the Hooghly River and was originally named the New Howrah Bridge because it links the city of Howrah to its twin city Kolkata (Calcutta). On 14 June 1965 it was renamed Rabindra Setu, after a great poet and the first Indian Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, however, it is still referred to as the Howrah Bridge. In search of Spiritual aspiration the Beats visited the city’s soul temple, Kalighat, adding to the already vibrant bustle and devotion rituals. The Beat’s also were intrigued by Howrah Bridge and the colorful characters, often streets men or yogis, who stayed nearby.

After lunch visit College Street, stretching from Bowbazar to MG Road north Kolkata, which houses many centers of the city’s intellectual activity. Learn about the Hungryalist movement, and the influence that both Bengali literary members of this movement and the Beats had upon each other. The Hungry Generation was a literary movement in the Bengali launched during the 1960s in Kolkata, India. Due to their involvement in this avante garde cultural movement, the leaders lost their jobs and were jailed. This movement the Beats found akin to their own controversial struggle in their own country, America. One Hungryalist, Malay Roy Choudhury introduced Ginsberg to “three fishes with one head” Of Indian emperor, Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar. The three fishes symbolised coexistence of all thought, philosophy and religion.
Have coffee at the Indian Coffee House, a cafe that has attracted the city’s intellectuals for decades. Numerous bookstores are also located here and, in fact, it is the largest second-hand book market in the world, largest book market in India and collectively boasts of a collection of almost any title ever sold at Kolkata. One can buy rare books at throw-away prices and extensive bargaining take place. End your day with a visit to the National Museum, one of Asia’s finest, which houses rare antiques, ornaments, armor, fossils, stones, paintings of the Mughal era, regal outfits/uniforms, skeletons of rare animal and mummies, among other exhibits.

Day 3 – Kolkata/ Siuri
Drive to Siuri, home to the Bauls, troubadour poets and songs men who befriended Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, who were then visiting sacred places in Birbhum. The philosophy and songs of the Bauls are a notable representation of folk culture of the district. Baulism is a religion depicted by liberal philosophy and lifestyle which has links to the Sahajiya movement ( 16th century) and is derived from Sahajyan, a form of Vajrayana Buddhism, influenced also by Vaishnavism and Sufism. Chandidas and many other poets were part of the Sahajyan movement. The Bauls earn their living by singing and collecting alms. They accommodate people from any caste and creed. Rabindranath Tagore, the great Bengali poet, was inspired by their philosophy and patronized them actively. This area was a favorite haunt due to the inspiration the Bauls had on the Beat poets with their lively spiritual songs and carefree philosophy of life.

Day 4 – Siuri/Shantiniketan/Tarapith/Siuri
Today visit Shantiniketan and learn about Rabindranath Tagore and the Beats along with embarking on a pilgrimage of Tarapith afterwards. It was here, Santiniketan, which means abode (niketan) of peace (shanti), that Rabindranath Tagore started Patha Bhavana (the school of his ideals) whose central premise was that learning in a natural environment would be more enjoyable and fruitful. After he received the Nobel Prize (1913), the school was expanded into a university. Santiniketan is also an attraction because Tagore wrote many of his literary classics here. The Beats were quite fond of Tagore’s works because of the candor with which they were written and Tagore’s own quest for a spiritual and meaningful way of existing.

Visit Tarapith, a small temple town known for its Tantric temple and cremation ground where Tantric rites are performed. The main temple is a Hindu Temple dedicated to a fearsome Tantric aspect of the otherwise loving Divine mother, Shakti. Also nearby is Bama Khepa’s (the mad saint) ashram. Bama Khepa is said to have resided in the cremation grounds as a mendicant and perfected yogas as a saint. The Beats were enthralled with the concept that men in India, yogis, even in their day were still attempting to perfect spiritual athletics, so to speak.

Day 5 – Siuri/Jessore Road/Kolkata
Drive back to Kolkata visiting the famous Jessore Road en route along the Bangladeshi border. Jessore Road is the main road from Jessore, Bangladesh into India, which hundreds of thousands of refugees used to flee the war of independence (Bangladesh Liberation War) between West Pakistan and East Pakistan which was soon to become Bangladesh and where refugge camps were set up. In September 1971, Ginsberg was so distraught by what he saw that he wrote one of his more important poems, September on Jessore Road, when he returned to New York. Overnight in Kolkata.

Day 6 – Kolkata/Gaya/Bodhgaya
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Gaya. You will be met and driven to Bodhgaya.

Day 7 – Bodhgaya
This morning see the famous Bodhi tree of enlightenment. According to Buddhist traditions, Prince Siddhartha, a wandering ascetic sat in meditation under a bodhi tree. After three days and three nights of meditation, Siddhartha claimed to have attained enlightenment and insight. His disciples used to visit this place during the full moon in the month of April-May, according to the Hindu calendar. This spot became known as the day of enlightenment, Buddha Purnima or Bodh Gaya and the tree as the Bodhi tree. The Beats were interested in the philosophy of Buddhism and thus made pilgrimages to various holy places.

Day 8 – Bodhgaya/Varanasi
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Varanasi where you will be met and driven to your hotel.

Day 9 – Varanasi
Sunrise boat ride on the holiest river in India, the Ganges, and attend aarti (light with blessing) ceremony. After breakfast drive to Sarnath, Deer Park, where Siddhartha taught his first sermon after attaining enlightened. The Beats spent hours along the Ganges River witnessing cremations, frequenting the ashrams, making pilgrimage to Sarnath and studying life. Afternoon visit a silk weaving factory and see how the famous Varanasi silk is made. The Beats began their journey in western garb but by the middle of their India sojourn had taken to wearing lightweight “pajama like” clothes bought at local shops. Gandhi’s handspun Khadi cloth and clothes made from Varanasi silk were favorites.

Day 10 – Varanasi/Delhi
Transfer to the airport for your flight onward. You will be met and driven to your hotel. Overnight in Delhi.

Day 11 – Delhi/ Dharamsala
Transfer to the airport for your flight to DHM Airport, 12 miles from Mccleod Ganj, Dharamsala. Check in to your hotel

Day 12 – Dharamsala
Early morning visit to the monastery for a prayer puja. Explore the Tibetan Library which houses many original texts and books important in preserving Tibetan culture. Dharamsala is the home of the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile following the political uprising in 1959. His presence and its Tibetan culture make Dharamsala a popular destination. By now the Beats had dabbled in Tibetan Buddhism as well as Hinduism and wanted to visit this important spiritual center now gaining fame in north India.

Day 13 – Dharamsala/Rishikesh
Drive to Rishikesh, famous for its many Hindi ashrams and the Maharishi Yogi. Explore the temples. Visiting Rishikesh gave the Beats a more in depth look at the practice of yoga and meditation under Hindu teacher guidance. Located in the foothills of the Himalaya of northern India, Rishikesh attracts thousands of visitors each year, some pilgrims as well as tourists. Rishikesh is a vegetarian and alcohol free city by law and has also banned the use of plastics bags by shopkeepers and vendors. Rishikesh is known as the gateway to the Himalayas.

Day 14 – Rishikesh/Haridwar/Nainital
Drive to Nainital visitng another sacred city, Haridwar, en route. Hardiwar is considered to be one of the seven holiest places for pilgrimage in India. It is in Hardiwar that the sacred Ganges River, after flowing from its source at Gangotri Glacier, enters the Indo Gangetic Plains.

Nainital at an altitude of 6358 ft sits in a valley containing a pear-shaped lake, approximately two miles in circumference, and surrounded by the highest mountains in the world. Magnificent views can be seen of the vast Indian plain to the south and of the mass of tangled ridges lying north bounded by the great snowy range, Himalaya. Views alone may be considered a spiritual experience along with the sheer power of nature as referred to by the Beats, who loved the remoteness of this area as well.

Day 15 – Nainital/Almora
A journey to Almora hosts spectacular pristine beauty and many noted temples, best made known by Swami Vivekananda, Gandhi, Tagore and Jim Corbett. Temples include Kasar Devi (area also has a Chabad House), Mahadev Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva situated beside the river Ram Ganga and a sun temple (only the second in the world) located at Katarmal only a short distance from the town. The highly revered temple of Shakti or Mother Goddess is in Dunagiri, also known as the birthplace of modern day Kriya Yoga. Almora was a highlight of the Beats Himalayan experience.

Day 16 – Nainital/Pantnagar/Delhi
Drive to Pantnagar for your flight to Delhi. You will be met at the airport and driven to your hotel.

Day 17 – Delhi
After breakfast explore Old Delhi visiting the Red Fort, Qutab Minar, India Gate, Humayun’s Tomb and Jama Masjid. The afternoon is free for you to explore or shop as you wish. Connaught Circle has a number of English book stores to browse, other curio places of interest and restaurants and cafes.

Day 18 – Depart Delhi
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

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