India Pilgrimage (14 days)

specialIndia is the birth place of four of the world’s major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Throughout its history, religion has been an important part of the India’s culture. Religious diversity and religious tolerance are both established in the country by law and custom. This tour embraces the path of Buddha and other religious traditions in India. Explore temples of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. Visit Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India and the Taj Mahal. Take “The Walk” and learn about the former street children who lead these tours. Pilgrimage Through India is a tour to inspire and change your life.

Day 1 – Delhi
Arrive in Delhi where you will be met by our representative holding a sign with your name on it outside of ground transportation. You will be privately driven to your hotel.

In the afternoon you tour Old Delhi which includes visiting the Jama Masjid Mosque, the Red Fort and Rajghat.

Begin your exploration of this vibrant and historic city of over fifteen million people. This fascinating city has many faces, from the ancient alleyways and monuments of Old Delhi to regal New Delhi. Visit the great mosque of Delhi, Jama Masjid, which dates back to the mid seventeenth century and is the largest mosque in India.

The Red Fort was originally referred to as “Qila-i-Mubarak” or the blessed fort, because it was the residence of the royal family. The layout of the Red Fort was organized to retain and integrate this site with the Salimgarh Fort. The fortress palace was an important focal point of the medieval city of Shahjahanabad. The planning and aesthetics of the Red Fort represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which prevailed during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan.

The Rajghat memorial has the epitaph Hē Ram, (literally ‘O’ Ram’, but also translated to ‘O God’), believed to be the last words uttered by Gandhi. The memorial was designed by Vanu G. Bhuta. It was originally designed to reflect the simplicity of Mahatma Gandhi’s life. The design that won the government of India invitational competition had the black marble slab surrounded by red earth as none of Gandhiji’s ashram residences had any

“English lawn”. The memorial has gone through a number of design changes since then, a few at the behest of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India.

Overnight Delhi, 4 star hotel

Day 2 – Delhi
In the morning embark on a half day tour of New Delhi to visit Qutab Minar and Humayun’s Tomb.

The Qutub Minar is located in Mehrauli in South Delhi. It was built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak of the Slave Dynasty, who took possession of Delhi in 1206. It is a fluted red sandstone tower, which tapers up to a height of 72.5 meters and is covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Qur’an. Qutub-ud-din Aibak began constructing this victory tower as a sign of Muslim domination of Delhi and as a minaret for the muezzin to call the faithful to prayer.

Explore the 16th century tomb of the Mughal emperor Humayun, with its graceful architecture and recently restored ornamental gardens. This World Heritage-listed site provides an introduction to the Mughal architectural style which reached its peak in the magnificence of the Taj Mahal. Continue to Rajpath – home to India’s government buildings and the President’s residence, all featuring the graceful Lutyen’s architecture which characterizes New Delhi, and India Gate, a memorial to Indian soldiers who gave their lives during World War One .

Later in the afternoon you may wish to explore central Connaught Place with its shopping and restaurants.

Overnight Delhi, 4 star hotel

Day 3 – Delhi/Varanasi
Transfer to the airport to board your flight to Varanasi. You will be met at the airport and driven to your hotel. After check in, you take an excursion to Sarnath – the buried Buddhist city where Lord Buddha gave his first Sermon.

Sarnath (Isipatana) or “deer park” is where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna. Sarnath is located 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi near Singhpur, a village one km away from the site, which was the birth place of Shreyansanath, the eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism. There is a temple dedicated to him, so This area is an important Jain pilgrimage site as well.

Isipatana is mentioned by the Buddha as one of the four places of pilgrimage which his devout followers should visit.

Overnight Varanasi, 4 star hotel

Day 4 – Varanasi
Early morning, take a boat ride on the Ganges River. After breakfast enjoy a city tour -visiting Bharat Mata Temple. Durga Temple, Vishwanath Temple and the marble Shiva temple at Benaras University, Visit the colorful markets. Take an evening rickshaw ride to the Ghat to witness Aarti ceremony (blessing given by a Hindu priest while lighting candles).

The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus and is a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. It is worshiped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism.

Varanasi is a holy city in Hinduism and is one of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus of all denominations. It is called the “city of temples” and one of seven most holy places for Hindus to make pilgrimage to in India.

Overnight Varanasi, 4 star hotel

Day 5 – Varanasi/Bodhgaya
After breakfast drive to Bodhgaya (approx.6-7 hours). Check into your hotel. Visit the Mahabodhi Temple and surrounding area.

The Mahabodhi Temple, also called the “Great Awakening Temple”, is where Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, meditated under the Bodhi tree and is said to have attained enlightenment. Around this temple are many other temples of other religious sects.

Architecturally speaking, the Mahabodhi Temple is constructed of brick and is one of the oldest brick structures to have survived in eastern India. It is considered to be a fine example of Indian brickwork, and was highly influential in the development of later architectural traditions.

Overnight Bodhgaya, 4 star hotel

Day 6 – Bodhgaya/Rajgir/Bodhgaya
At sunrise visit the Mahabodhi Temple for prayer. After breakfast, drive to Rajgir.

Rajgir is sacred to the memory of the founders of both Buddhism and Jainism. Places of interest are Ajatshatru’s fort, Bimbisara’s Jail, Gridhakuta and the Vishwa Shanti Stupa. It is also the site of Vulture’s Peak where Buddha taught the Heart Sutra.

Return back to Bodhgaya. Rest of the day is free to explore as you wish.

Overnight Bodhgaya, 4 star hotel

Day 7 – Bodhgaya/Nalanda/Patna
Continue onward to Patna visiting Nalanda enroute.

Nalanda was the site of the world’s earliest university. Ancient Buddhist and Jain texts bear evidence that both the Buddha and Mahavir studied here.

After your hotel check in, enjoy sightseeing of Patna.

The cultural heritage of Bihar State is reflected in Patna’s many ancient monuments. Kumhrar and Agam Kuan are the sites of the ruins of the Ashokan Pataliputra. Didarganj Yakshi remains as an example of Mauryan art. There are five Gurdwaras in Patna which are related to different Sikh Gurus. Patna is a melting pot for India’s many religions.

Overnight Patna, 4 star hotel

Day 8 – Patna/Vaishali/Kushinagar
Early morning drive to Kushinagar visiting Vaishali enroute.

Vaishali is the center of the ancient land where all the events of the Ramayana took place. It was here that the good king, Vishal, established his kingdom and Ram and Sita took refuge during their 14 years of exile.

Check into your hotel.

Overnight Kushinagar, 4 star hotel

Day 9 – Kushinagar/Lumbini
Visit Makutabandhana, the cremation-site of Gautama Buddha’s body, also known as Ramabhar Stupa.

In ancient times, Kushinagar was known as Kushavati (Jatakas). It is referred to in the epic Ramayana as the city of Kusha the son of Ram, the famous king of Ayodhya. Kushavati was a celebrated center of the Malla kingdom of ancient India. Later, it would be known as Kushinagar, one of the most important four holy sites for Buddhists.

It is at Kushinagar that Gautama Buddha attained Parinirvana after falling ill from eating a meal of a species of mushroom, or possibly pork. Many of the ruined stupas and viharas here date back to 3rd century BC – 5th century AD when prosperity was at its peak. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka is known to have contributed to significant construction at this site.

Drive to Lumbini (Nepal). Check into your hotel.

Overnight Lumbini, 4 star hotel

Day 10 – Lumbini/Balrampur
Early morning visit to the birth place of Lord Buddha.

Lumbini was where the Buddha lived until the age of 29. It has a number of temples, including the Mayadevi temple. Also located here is the Puskarini or Holy Pond where the Buddha’s mother took the ritual dip prior to his birth and where he, too, had his first bath, as well as the remains of Kapilvastu palace.

Later drive to Balrampur.

Overnight Balrampur, 4 star hotel

Day 11 – Balrampur/Lucknow
In the morning, you visit Sravasti. The site of Jetavana Monastery is the main pilgrim destination, with meditation and chanting mainly done at the Gandhakuti (Buddha’s hut) and the Anandabodhi tree.

According to Buddhist tradition, Sravasti was called Savatthi because the sage Savattha lived there. The Buddha passed the greater part of his monastic life in Savatthi. Not far from the city was a dark forest called the Andhavana, where some monks and nuns went to live.

Gautama Buddha spent 21 rainy seasons under the sacred Peepal tree here. The famous incident of Angulimal happened in the forest of Sravasti, where the cruel dacoit who used to kill people and wear a garland of their fingers, was enlightened by Gautama Buddha.

Sravasti is also the site of great religious importance to the Jain followers. It is said that Mahavira Jain, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism, ‘influenced’ this place. It houses the famous Shwetambar temple.

Later drive to Lucknow.

Overnight Lucknow, 4 star hotel

Day 12 – Lucknow/Delhi
After breakfast, tour Lucknow.

Originally known as the Awadh (Oudh) region, Lucknow has always been known as a multicultural city, and flourished as a cultural and artistic capital of North India in the 18th and 19th centuries. The city is known for its great Urdu poets and for having its own distinct Nawabi style cuisine, which includes kebab with various kinds of biryanis and breads.

Transfer to the airport for your evening flight to Delhi. You will be met and driven to your hotel.

Overnight Delhi, 4 star hotel

Day 13 – Delhi/Agra
You are met at your hotel and driven to the starting point of the Salaam City Walk, which starts at 10AM.

The Salaam City Walk is a guided tour around the New Delhi Railway Station and Paharganj area in which former street children share their personal stories of survival with the participants and show them the contact points and shelter homes Salaam Baalak Trust provides. For the past three years it has been run by the Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) – a non-profit organization, taking care of street and former street children living in Delhi. Through this program the young guides get an opportunity to improve their communication and marketing skills independently.

The Walk aims to sensitize people to the lives of street children and helps to provide a deeper insight about street life from the people who have experienced it themselves.

Mid-afternoon, you drive to Agra. Check into your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight Agra, 4 star hotel

Day 14 – Agra/Delhi (closed on Friday)
Embark on a sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal. Explore this amazing monument.

The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is widely recognized as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” The Taj Mahal is the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles.

In the afternoon, you drive to Delhi visiting Sikandra enroute.

Sikandra is Akbar’s Tomb. Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great (1555–1605), started building his own mausoleum, near Agra, that was to be a perfect blend of Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Jain designs and motifs, as a symbol of his religious tolerance and secular views. However, he could not complete it and died. His son Jehangir completed his tomb, popularly known as Sikandra after Sikandra Lodi, who established the community where Akbar’s Tomb is located.

The tomb building is shaped like a truncated pyramid and has five story’s while the main tomb has a distinct square design. There are spacious cloisters on the ground floor. An elaborately decorated vestibule occupies the center of the southern side, highlighted by exquisite carvings, artistic paintings and inlay work in geometric and floral designs enshrining the tombstone of Akbar.

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight or you can extend your trip with a 4 day visit to Dharamsala.

CALL NOW to BOOK 415-331-3791

– 13 nights accommodation in twin share bed and breakfast basis
– All present applicable tax.
– All transfers, sightseeing, excursion, air-conditioned car.
– English speaking local guide during sightseeing.
– Monuments entry fee for one visit only as per program.
– Adequate mineral water during sightseeing/vehicle.
– Train fare in AC car from Lucknow to Delhi.
– Boat ride in Varanasi.

The above quotes do not include:
– Any airfare, airport tax, visa fee.
– Any meals except mentioned in quote include.
– Any items of personal nature, liquor, laundry, calls, etc
– Any other services/items not mentioned in program/quote include.

Dharamsala Extension (4 days/3 nights)

Day 15 – Delhi/Dharamsala
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight to Dharamsala where you will be met and driven to your hotel in Dharamsala.

Day 16 –.Dharamsala
Explore McLeod Gang, a suburb of Dharamsala often referred to as “Little Lhasa” because it is the home to Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso a modern day “Siddhartha”, and the Tibetan Government in Exile. The Tibetan settlement of Dharamsala began in 1959, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet and the India Prime Minister allowed him and his followers to settle in McLeod Ganj (in Upper Dharmsala), a former colonial British summer picnic spot. Today there are many temples, monasteries and schools here. McLeod Ganj has also attracted many foreigners who wish to study Tibetan Buddhism encouraging tourism and commerce in the Tibetan Community. See Namgyal Monastery, the main monastery for monks training and the Tibetan Village School, which teaches lay children.

Day 17 – Dharamsala
Visit the Tibetan Library. In 1970, The Dalai Lama opened the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives which houses over 80,000 manuscripts and other important resources related to Tibetan history, politics and culture. It is considered one of the most important institutions for Tibetology in the world and is under a new director, Geshe Lahkdor, the old translator of the Dalai Lama.

Drive to Tilokpur and see Tilopa’s Cave, the Kagyupa Tibetan nunnery and the rural village.

Tilopa was a tantric practitioner and mahasiddha. He developed the mahamudra (Tibetan) method, a set of spiritual practices that greatly accelerates the process of attaining bodhi (enlightenment). Tilopa is regarded as the human founder of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

Day 18 – Depart Dharamsala/Delhi
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight to Delhi and onward

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