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Taj, Mughal & Modern India

Taj, Mughal & Modern India
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Duration: 13 Days

Trip Grade: two star

Day 1: Flight arrival in Delhi

Arrive in Delhi. Welcome upon arrival in Delhi and transfer to hotel. Overnight at hotel.

 

Day 2: Tours – Delhi

In the morning visit Delhi, starting with the oldest part and the remains of the second city of nine that have existed here of the Hindu rulers from the tenth century and Qutab Minar, the victory tower of the first Muslim invaders who established the Slave Dynasty in the 12th century and lived within the same premises. Continue by visiting New Delhi, built by the British during the Raj its beautiful avenues, Secretariat, Parliament (then called Assembly), President’s House (then called Viceroy’s House) and India Gate built to honour the Indian soldiers who died during the first world war and the Afghan wars. End the tour at Humayun's Tomb, the first specimen of the Great Mughal architecture that flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth century and culminated in the masterpiece called the Taj Mahal. Humayun’s Tomb is the only monument ever built by a lady in the memory of her beloved husband.

In the afternoon visit Old Delhi. The walled city called Shahjahanabad was established by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1648. While Louis XIV in France was building his escape city of Versailles, Shah Jahan's city was being built and peopled. Traders built katras and kuchas (enclosed markets and lanes), the aristocrats their havelis and karkhanas (mansions and workshops), philanthropists built serais, shifakhanas and madarsas (inn, hospitals and schools) and the pious built masjids (mosques). Shahjahanabad today is a thriving commercial and trading centre and more people work here than ever before.

Red Fort, built of red sandstone, houses the famous Diwan-i-Khas, the beautiful audience chamber where the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan held court, seated on the Peacock Throne. There is a Sound-and-Light show every evening at the Fort.

Jama Masjid: Opposite the Red Fort is the largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid and as you descend its steps, you walk into the teeming Chandni Chowk.

Chandni Chowk, the Moonlight Square is the famous market place that started as a boulevard along a pool of water that reflected the moon. Historical accounts of this market are legion, of times when merchants came from Turkey, China, Holland and other distant lands, with weapons, exotic birds, pearls and tapestry. There was nothing that was not available here. Now the katras or wholesale markets are sandwiched between the shops, offices, churches, mosques, temples and gurudwaras. The market has spread and is famous for silks, cotton, voiles, muslin, brocades, braids and much, much more.

Overnight at Hotel Park.

 

Day 3: Drive Delhi–Agra, tour Taj Mahal

Morning drive to Agra (205 km/ 4.5 hrs). Check in at hotel.

In the afternoon visit Agra.

The glorious rise of Agra started with Mughal rule in India, during the golden period of the Mughal Empire during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Early next morning go for a sunrise view of the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan for his beloved spouse who died in 1630. Visit Agra Fort, built by Akbar as his citadel over the years 1565–73 in the finest architectural style. (Please note that the Taj Mahal is closed every Friday. This is for your information.) 

Overnight at hotel.

Visit Taj Mahal. Nothing, neither photographs nor descriptions, can prepare you for the experience of this monument; the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, where the cherished companion of Emperor Shah Jahan was laid to rest. Taj Mahal is an acclaimed architectural masterpiece and every individual sees in it many and often different wonders.  Overnight hotel.

The architectural masterpiece was built by Shah Jahan, in memory of his favourite wife and adviser, Mumtaz Mahal (Crown of the Palace), and 20,000 workers and artists, some coming from Europe and Persia, spent years working on this monument to love wrought in marble, sandstone, and semi-precious jewels. The complex is said to have taken at least 18 years (1631–48) to build. The state of the Taj declined with the fortunes of the Mughal Empire, the garden becoming overgrown. It was restored in the late nineteenth century. 

 

Day 4: Drive Agra–Ranthambore

Drive to Ranthambore, en route visit the Fatehpur Sikri (40 km/1 hr), arrive and transfer to resort. 

If time permits, wildlife viewing by jeep safari.

Visit Fatehpur Sikri, the imperial ruins of the dream capital city of great Mughal emperor, Akbar. The emperor experimented both with architecture and art to build a city expressing his ideals and vision. Agra and Fatehpur Sikri are not merely rich legacies of Mughal history; they are the finest examples of architecture, which combine Hindu and Muslim elements.

Ranthambore is an example of a well-managed and sustainable effort to keep the wildlife and people living in harmony. It has a growing population of the endangered Royal Bengal tiger and other species of wildlife and birdlife.

 

Day 5: Ranthambore

Today, you will enjoy game-viewing wildlife activities through the various circuits of this national park. Enjoy the immense park with its landscape of hills, lakes, and grassland. Look out for the wild boar, deer, bear, and beautiful bird species that make this place their home.

Jaipur (City of Victory) was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II, the Maharaja of the Kachhwaha clan of Rajputs, who ruled from 1699–1744. The city is a highly distinctive city, though built with ancient Hindu building styles that suggest a decline in architectural power and originality. The characteristic pink, a traditional colour of welcome, was paint added in 1853 in honour of the visit by Prince Albert, and the tradition has survived to this day.

Jantar Mantar (Observatory): Literally “Instruments for measuring the harmony of the heavens”, the Jantar Mantar was built between 1728 and 1734. Not content with brass, Jai Singh wanted things on a grand scale and chose stone, with a marble facing on the important planes. Each of the instruments serves a particular function and each gives an accurate reading. The observatory is a fascinating and attractive site to walk around.

 

Day 7: Jaipur Tour

In the morning proceed to Amber and before that, stop at Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) built for the royal ladies to watch the activities on the market street below without being observed themselves.

On the rugged hills that surround Jaipur stand wondrous forts: Amber (Amer), Jaigarh, and Nahargarh. Amber was once the capital of the old state of Dhundhar. Visit Amber Fort housing the massive gateways, courts, stairways, and pillared pavilions and palaces, which recall the glory and wealth of Amber’s association with the Mughals.

Continue your tour with a visit to the Jaipur City Palace, part museum and part home of the erstwhile royal family and Jantar Mantar, the Royal Observatory built by the Maharaja Jai Singh. Overnight at hotel.

 

Day 8: Flight Jaipur–Udaipur & tour

Early morning transfer to airport for flight to Udaipur. Upon arrival, transfer from airport to hotel.

Udaipur was the last capital of Mewar state, which remained independent and fought the greatest Mughal armies that controlled most of the Indian subcontinent in those times. One of the most romantic cities in all of Rajasthan, Udaipur is better known as the city of lakes. The marble palaces, beautiful gardens, and placid blue lakes enhance the beauty of this city.

Evening, take a boat ride on the Lake Pichola, one of the many lakes in Udaipur, housing the summer residence of the ruler on an island in the middle called Jag Niwas. Jag Niwas palace is now converted to a five star deluxe hotel called Lake Palace. Another island on the Pichola Lake has Jag Mandir Palace, built in 1622 as a pleasure palace for royal parties and functions.

The afternoon is free for you to explore and shop.

Overnight at hotel.

 

Day 9: Flight Udaipur–Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay)

In the morning visit the Udaipur City Palace, part of the palace is a museum and a part is still the home of the former rulers of Mewar. The palace is a labyrinth of courtyards richly decorated with inlaid mirror-work, galleries covered with frescos, temples, and kiosks from where one can see the Pichola Lake and the palaces in the middle. Also visit Jagdish Temple and the pleasure gardens of the royal ladies called Saheliyon ki Bari.

By late afternoon transfer to  the airport and take the flight to Mumbai.

Arrive in Mumbai, transfer to hotel.

 

Day 10: In Mumbai

Made up of seven islands on the eastern edge of the Arabian Sea, Mumbai draws people from all over the country to its busy streets and booming economy. As well as being India’s largest city and commercial centre this is also the home of “Bollywood”, an industry that produces more films per year than any other city in the world. Its natural harbour made Mumbai an attractive prospect for the ruling British and it became a major centre of maritime trade upon the opening of the Suez Canal in 1870. Today Mumbai accounts for over 40 percent of India’s sea-going trade.

We take a sightseeing tour of the city this morning, visiting the honey-coloured Gateway of India arch and the macabre Tower of Silence. Built by the Parsis fleeing persecution in Persia during the seventeenth century, the Towers are the final resting place for their dead. Being Zoroastrians the Parsis were not allowed to bury or cremate their dead, so instead they were deposited in these Towers to allow nature to dispose of them. We also visit the Municipal Dhobi Ghats and the Prince of Wales Museum, which has an excellent collection of Indian miniatures from the Mughal and Rajasthan schools. At the Mahatma Gandhi Museum we learn a little of the great man’s life and ideas, through an impressive collection of books, photographs, and letters.

 

Day 11: Flight Mumbai–Varanasi  

After breakfast, transfer to domestic airport to take the flight to Varanasi at 09:30 hrs.

Arrive in Varanasi at 13:00 hrs, transfer to hotel.

Varanasi, certainly one of the oldest Hindu pilgrimage centres in India, is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth, its age making it a contemporary with ancient Thebes and Babylon. Lying on the banks of the sacred River Ganges, Varanasi is steeped in the lore and traditions of Hinduism, and since its inception as one of the principal centres of Shiva worship some 1200 years ago, it has attracted devotees from across the world to its myriad of temples and ghats. It is believed by many that this is where the material and spiritual worlds cross and countless thousands come here to cleanse themselves along the banks of the Ganges and partake in the rituals of aarti.

After checking in at the hotel, we make a short journey north, to the sacred site of Sarnath, the cradle of Buddhism, where the Buddha preached his first sermon following his attainment of enlightenment. We will visit the main shrine, the Dharmarajika Stupa and the Dhamekh Stupa, the spot where he first espoused the teachings that were to form the very principles of the Buddhist faith. We will also see the nearby Ashoka Pillar and the monastery, the centre-pieces of what is in effect probably the most expansive collection of Buddhist temples and monasteries on earth. At its height this remarkable site housed over 1,500 monks, before its decline and subsequent destruction by Muslim armies saw it all but disappear. It was rediscovered by British archaeologists in the middle years of the nineteenth century, since which it has recaptured some of its original prestige and now represents one of the four holiest Buddhist sites on earth.

Returning to Varanasi after our visit we will spend the afternoon exploring the old city and the riverfront by taxi, cycle rickshaw, and on foot, before a sunset boat ride along the sacred Ganges itself, hopefully catching sight of the local priests performing the revered aarti ceremonies. Varanasi can boast some 80 or so riverfront ghats, including a number of ‘burning ghats’ where public cremations take place along the water’s edge. Please be aware that photographing the cremation ceremonies is not really acceptable. Overnight stay at hotel.

 

Day 12 : Flight Varanasi–Delhi

This morning we will take a dawn boat ride along the Ganges, when the city is bathed in the glow of the early morning and the pilgrims are practising the puja ceremony to the newly awakening sun. The rest of the day is free to explore more of this most fascinating of cities at your leisure, immersing yourself in the eclectic mayhem of the city’s narrow streets and alleyways, a truly unforgettable experience and an incredible insight into the lives and cultures of traditional Indian life; after the visit, return to hotel.

 

Day 13 : Flight Delhi departure home-bound

After breakfast transfer to airport to take the flight to Delhi or Kathmandu.

Note: Clients who wish to travel on to Kathmandu, can take the Varanasi–Kathmandu flights.

 

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