Day : 1 Delhi
Arrival at Delhi
A Compass representative shall meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. Overnight stay will be at Delhi.
DELHI, the capital of kingdoms and empires is now a sprawling metropolis with a fascinating blend of the past and the present. Delhi is a perfect introduction to the composite culture of an ancient land and a window to the kaleidoscope - that is India.
India Gate, Delhi
After breakfast at the hotel, we shall embark on a full day's sightseeing.
The tour begins in Old Delhi with Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. The shrine is a simple black stone structure with an eternal flame burning at one end, a fitting tribute to a humble man who changed the world with nothing but the power of ideas.
Red Fort. The imposing red sandstone structure was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639, and remained seat of the empire for the next two centuries. Today, the Prime Minister of the India delivers his Independence Day speech to the nation from its ramparts.
A rickshaw ride takes us to Jama Masjid, one of Asia’s largest mosques. We shall view this magnificent structure from outside, its lofty domes and minarets reminiscent of a scene from the Arabian Nights.
Next, you will be driven to New Delhi, built by the British in the 1930s as their imperial capital. Majestic government and administrative offices line its wide, tree-lined avenues. Named after Sir Edwin Lutyens who was commissioned to design the city in 1911, this part of the city is also known as Lutyen’s Delhi and is a striking contrast to the old city.
The red sandstone arch of India Gate, memorial to Indian and British soldiers who laid down their lives in World War I, leads us to the Parliament House, the magnificent seat of the world’s largest democracy. We shall also see Rastrapathi Bhawan, the Indian President’s official residence. Inside is the famed Mughal Gardens with its resplendent fountains and manicured lawns. In spring, it opens its doors to the public .
The day’s tour ends at the Qutub Minar. Built in 1193 by Qutubuddin Aibak, a slave general, it is the tallest stone tower in India and marks the site of the country’s first Muslim kingdom. The iron tower in a square opposite is unique in that it never rusts, although it has been exposed to the elements for centuries.
If time permits, we shall visit the lotus-shaped Bahai temple south of Delhi. An ideal place for meditation, this Bahai House of worship is open to people of all religion.
Overnight at Delhi.
Ganga Arti, Varanasi
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Varanasi.
Upon arrival, a Compass representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel.
Situated on the western side of the River Ganga, the ancient city of Varanasi has been the religious and spiritual center for Hinduism since the dawn of time.
Varanasi’s high ghats, with pundits, astrologers, the recently bereaved praying for their dead, the bathers, the widows, the morning walkers, the wrestlers in their akharas, the mendicants in saffron, temple bells, swirling clouds of incense, and flickering ceremonial lamps make even a short walk or a simple boat-ride a fantastical, larger-than-life experience.
The cinematic nature of ordinary life in Varanasi is not lost on filmmakers and over the years, many have made Varanasi their backdrop, among them maestros like Roberto Rossellini, James Ivory and Satyajit Ray, as well as contemporary masters like Mira Nair. Fittingly, the first moving picture ever shot on Indian soil was filmed here in 1899.
Varanasi is also famous for Benarasi, the gorgeous brocade silk that serves as traditional wedding wear for girls in many communities in India. Red or green Benarasi silk lengths will also make for stunning table runners during Christmas.
In the evening, witness Aarti at the ghats of Varanasi. The chants of religious hymns by priests as they sweep the air with tiered lamps of open flame, the sound of conch shells, bells, gongs, the smell of camphor and incense sticks will mesmerize you as you sit by the dark waters of the ancient river. Your guide will be at hand to explain the proceedings and the significance of the Vedic hymns recited by the priests.
Overnight at Varanasi.
Day : 4 Varanasi
You will be transferred to the riverside before sunrise to board the boat that will take you to the middle of the river. As the morning progresses, Varanasi wakes up and the spiritual life of Hindu India unfolds before you along the banks of the river as devotees, priests, salesmen, wrestlers, saints and musicians take to the steps leading down to the water. The boat takes you to Dashashwamedh and Manikarnika, the holiest of the Varanasi ghats. A section of Manikarnika serves as a cremation ground and it is said the funeral pyre never dies here.
Back on the banks, we shall visit Kashi Vishwanath temple, built in 1776. The spire of this temple is made of gold. Hindus believe that a dip in the holy Ganges followed by a visit to the temple will grant them Moksha, liberation from the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Return to hotel for breakfast.
Proceed to Sarnath. This is the famed deer park where the Buddha delivered his first sermon to all of five disciples, making it one of the holiest places in Asia, attracting visitors from all over the world. The Great Emperor Asoka erected monasteries, stupas and an engraved pillar in the area, but most were destroyed subsequently by invading Muslim armies, except for the 110 feet tall Dhamekha Stupa that marks the spot where Buddha sat during his maiden sermon.
Sarnath has a terrific museum that houses antiquities dating back to the 3rd century BC, notable among them colossal standing Bodhisatvas of red sandstone and the magnificent Asokan pillar that is India’s state symbol.
Proceed for a guided day tour of Varanasi beginning with the Bharat Mata Temple, where the deity is a marble relief map of undivided India.
Our next stop is the 18th century Durga Temple, where, according to legend, the idol of the goddess is not man-made but self manifested.
Tulsi Manas Temple has scenes and verses from Ram Charit Manas - the Hindi version of the Ramayana -engraved upon its white marble walls. The temple is in the traditional Shikhara style. Featuring towers that symbolize the great Himalayan summits or shikharas, this architecture style testifies to the origins of Hindu spiritualism in the solitude of the great mountain.
Up next, the sprawling Benaras Hindu University campus. Spread over 4000 acres, it is considered to be among the biggest residential universities in Asia. The University Campus houses an Art Gallery and the Mosque of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
Day : 5 Varanasi – Khajuraho
Ajanta Ellora Caves, Khajuraho
Following a leisurely breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Khajuraho. A Compass representative will meet you at the airport at the airport and transferred you to your hotel.
After lunch, we shall proceed for a half-day tour of the Western and Eastern temples of Khajuraho.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Khajuraho was built between the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. by the Chandela dynasty who ruled over Central India at the time. It is said that the name Khajuraho may be a corruption of the Sanskrit Kharjura Vahaka, the bearer of the scorpion. This may be a reference to one of Khajuraho’s popular sculptures, depicting woman undressing to remove a scorpion from her body.
Countless sculptures of gods, maidens, dancers and beasts adorn the sandstone walls of these temples but it is the sections containing erotic scenes that the temples are most famous for. Some interpret the eroticism on display as an indicator of the liberal outlook of medieval Indian society but the facts do not add up. As some scholars have pointed out, the female nude is a powerful fertility symbol and has been used in temples around the country. According to others, the figures carry Tantrik codes and are metaphoric, concealing a deeper symbolism.
The Western group of temples -
Kandariya Mahadev dedicated to Lord Shiva is the largest and grandest temple in the complex. The walls and the other interiors of the temples have over 800 exquisitely sculpted figures of gods and celestial maidens. The Chausat Yogini Temple is a Kali shrine and the only granite temple among the cluster, and also the oldest. The Lakshmana Temple is dedicated to Vishnu. Inside, at the southwest corner, you will find a subsidiary shrine where one of the sculptors of the temple had added his own likeness in an act of touching artistic vanity. Other temples include the Chitragupta Temple, dedicated to the Sun God, inside which the radiant deity rides his seven-horse chariot and the Matangeswara Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, famous for its eight feet high phallic lingam, and is the only temple in the complex still in use. Vishwanath Temple is a superb specimen of Chandela architecture, with stunning sculptures adorning its outer walls. The Varaha Temple houses a 1.5 m high Varaha, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as a giant boar that attempts (and fails) to find the end of the universe.
The Eastern Group of temples -
The Brahma and the Hanuman temples are the most famous and well-preserved temples of this group. The elaborate Vamana temple showcases all ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
The Southern Group of temples -
This includes the Chaturbhuja Temple which has a beautiful four armed image of Shiva. This is the only temple among the group which does not have any erotic sculptures.
In the evening, watch the Son et Lumière or the Sound and Light show at the Western Group of temples. Narrated by Indian film personality Amitabh Bachchan, the show brings the era of the Chandela kings spectacularly to life.
Overnight at Khajuraho.
Taj Mahal, Agra
Day : 6 Khajuraho – Orchha – Jhansi : By road
Jhansi – Agra : By deluxe train
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the station for your train from Jhansi to Agra.
We shall stop over on the way at Orchha, 12 km away. A medieval city founded by the Bundela rulers, the town is known for its chattris or cupolas, built in the memory of kings long gone. The river Betwa flows through the town.
Sightseeing at Orchha.
Continue your drive to Jhansi to board the train to Agra.
Situated on the banks of river Yamuna, Agra was the seat of the Mughal court till the 17th century. The Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri , both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, occupy pride of place among the many magnificent monuments that dot the city. Contrasting edifices of red sandstone, white marble and a maze of narrow streets that go back to the Mughal era characterize agra.
Overnight at Agra.
Day : 7 Agra
Breakfast will be at the hotel. Proceed for a day's sightseeing at Agra.
TAJ MAHAL – The magnificent Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Designed by Persian architect Ustad, the Taj Mahal’s massive white marble structure - with every square inch covered with breathtakingly fine inlay work - is in striking contrast to the red sandstone all around. So delicate it appears to float above the ground rather than sit. Eery, ethereal and heartbreakingly beautiful, the Taj is best viewed in the moonlight, or early dawn.
AGRA FORT – Built by Akbar in 1565 AD, this massive red sandstone structure looks longingly out across the river at the Taj Mahal. Emperor Shah Jahan spent his last days here, incarcerated by son Aurangzeb. Muamman Burj, an octagonal tower with beautiful marble work, served as his prison. According to legend, the Kohinoor Diamond was placed here opposite a window so that the grief-stricken Shah Jahan could gaze upon the reflection of the Taj in its facets.
SIKANDRA – A beautifully maintained tree-lined monument marks the grave of Akbar the great, the most illustrious of the Mughal Emperors. A great believer in communal harmony, Akbar created Din-i Ilahi, a unique religion that incorporated elements of Islam, Hindusim, Buddhism and Christianity. Fittingly, his memorial imbibes architectural motifs of all the faiths that inspired him.
ITMAD-UD-ULLAH - is a memorial commissioned by Nur Jehan, wife of Emperor Jehangir, in memory of her father Mirza Ghiyas Baig. Somewhat erroneously referred Baby Taj, this mausoleum of white marble predates the Taj by decades and may in fact have been the design blueprint for the Taj.
Overnight in Agra.
Panch Mahal, Fatehpur sikri
Breakfast will be at Hotel.
Proceed to Jaipur, stopping en route at Fatehpur Sikri.
Fatehpur Sikri - Emperor Akbar built this city in honour of sufi saint Salim Chishti. It remained the capital of the Mughals for 14 years. The white marble tomb of the Salim Chisti with its intricately carved marble screens is situated in the central courtyard of the structure.
One of the main attractions of the edifice is the colossal Buland Darwaza, a victory gate built to mark the conquest of Gujarat by Emperor Akbar. You shall also see the Diwan-i-Aam where Emperor Akbar held his legendary hearings with the general public. The Diwan-i-Khas area was meant for Akbar’s private consultation with his nine main ministers, or as he called them, his nine gems.
Fatehpur Sikri also houses the palace of Jodhabai, Akbar’s Hindu wife, and the house of the legendary Birbal - Akbar’s minister - the tales of whose extraordinary wit and wisdom are still the stuff of popular culture in India, inspiring countless comic books and children’s animation TV shows. Continue your drive to Jaipur.
Jaipur is often called the ‘Pink City’ from the facelift it received in 1853 to celebrate a visit by Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria. The city is interspersed with ‘havelis’, bazaars, opulent palaces and magnificent forts that showcase the glorious past of its Rajput rulers.
The Rajput princes were fierce warriors some of whom declared loyalty to the invading Mughals and proved to be formidable allies of the empire. Among them was King Jai Singh II, whom the Mughals gave the title Sawai Maharaja, or “King and a quarter”. Jaipur gets its name from this valiant king.
In the evening, we shall visit the Birla Temple, a stunning white marble structure dominating the southern Jaipur skyline. The three towers of the Birla Temple denotes three different approaches to religion and the carvings in the pillars depict images from the Hindu pantheon as well as those of Christ, Virgin Mary and St. Francis of Assissi.
Your visit will coincide with the evening Aarti, the ritual lighting of oil lamps. Priests wave lamps containing open flames in a sweeping circular motion in front of the deity, while devotees play drums and chant prayers. A truly hypnotic experience.
Overnight at Jaipur.
Amber fort palace, Jaipur
Proceed for a morning excursion to Amber Fort after breakfast.
AMBER FORT PALACE – The Amber Fort is situated on a hilltop in the outskirts of Jaipur and offers a panoramic view of the old city. We shall ascend to the fort the old fashioned way, riding a ceremonial elephant along a cobbled path up that opens into several havelis, step wells, courtyards and temples. Take a leisurely walk through the Sheesh Mahal or chamber of mirrors, Jas Mandir with its floral ceilings and latticed windows and the magnificent Shila Devi temple with its ornately carved silver door.
CITY PALACE – A wonderful blend of Mughal and traditional Rajasthani architecture, the sprawling City Palace was home to the rulers of Jaipur since the 18th century. A part of the palace has been converted as the City palace Museum and houses various items that reflect Jaipur’s princely past.
JANTAR MANTAR – In the early 1700s, Jai Singh II, a keen astronomer, commissioned five observatories around West Central India, of which this is the largest and the best preserved. Sixteen architectural instruments made of local stone and marble make up Jantar Mantar. Some of these instruments are still in use. We shall walk through and explore this surreal maze of giant geometric objects.
HAWA MAHAL - The ornamental pink facade of this "Palace of Winds" resembles a manmade honeycomb and is one of Jaipur’s best recognized sites. A five storied structure made of lime and mortar, adorned with fine trelliswork and elaborate balconies, Hawa Mahal was designed for free circulation of air. From the privacy of its ornate windows, locally known as jharokhas, the palace ladies would gaze out at the proceedings in the street below. It was built by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 and is dedicated to Lord Krishna. This afternoon is free for you to relax, shop or explore the city of Jaipur on your own. Shopping is a not-to-be-missed experience in Jaipur, particularly for gold and silver jewellery, pottery, tie-dye materials, silk, saris, wooden handicrafts and carpets. Overnight stay will be at Jaipur.
Day : 10 Jaipur - Jodhpur : By road
After breakfast, drive to Jodhpur and check in to hotel.
Tucked under a high cliff at the edge of the Thar Desert, and overshadowed by the magnificent Mehrangarh fort, the imperial city of Jodhpur was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha of the Rathores, a clan of Rajputs who claimed to be descendants of Rama - the epic hero of the Ramayana. Situated on a busy overland trading route, the city gave rise to many trading families known as Marwaris. They have still retained their mercantile skills and are owners of many leading business houses in India. The popular riding breeches known as ‘jodhpurs’ were originally designed here and named after the city. Jodhpur is also called the ‘Blue City’ from its blue hued houses around Mehrangarh Fort. Overnight will be at Jodhpur.
Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
Mehrangarh Fort - Chiseled out of the red sandstone cliff overlooking Jodhpur and perched a vertigo-inducing 400 feet above the city, the stupendous Mehrangarh fort spreads out over 5 kilometers and in the words of Rudyard Kipling, is the “work of angels and giants”. The fort, the foundations of which was laid by Rao Jodha in the 15th century, has never been taken in battle. The small matter of the 400 foot climb aside, intruders faced the daunting task of crossing seven gates to reach the fort, with massive cannons perched on the bastion walls providing further discouragement. The martial lineage notwithstanding, the fort’s exquisitely latticed windows, carved panels, and ceiling with radiant glass tiles lends it an undeniable charm.
Jaswant Thada - This white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II is known for its highly intricate lattice-work and offers a great view of the fort. The Maharaja was famed for his innovative irrigation techniques and to this day, locals offer prayers here for the benevolent king whose touch once healed their parched land.
Umaid Bhawan Palace - Designed by the British Royal Institute of Architects, the Umaid Bhawan is one of world’s largest private residences, with 347 rooms, eight dining areas, two theatres, one ballroom and huge reception halls. A part of the palace is now a museum, and displays a dazzling collection of weapons, antiques, clocks, furniture, porcelain work and paintings that belonged to the Maharaja.
Spend the afternoon strolling around the palace, exploring the museum or taking in the panorama of the city from your royal perch.
Overnight at Jodhpur.
jain Temple, Rankpur
After breakfast, proceed to Udaipur, stopping en route at Ranakpur for lunch and Jain temple visit.
RANAKPUR TEMPLES - dating back to the 15th century, are situated in an isolated, wooded valley of the Aravallis. The exterior of the Ranakpur Temple is considerably less embellished than the inside, following the Jain belief in the importance of a rich inner life within a simple exterior. Inside, the pristine marble central ceiling of the temple is so intricately carved with filigree work that it gives the impression of translucence.
We shall visit two more Jain Temples as well as a Sun Temple famed for its erotic sculptures.
Reach Udaipur and check in to your hotel. Relax.
Founded by Maharana Uday Singh, Udaipur is a fairytale city with beautiful lake palaces, islands, havelis and temples. Surrounded by the ancient massif of the Aravalli hills, Udaipur shimmers in white, and is also called the City of Dawn.
Overnight stay at Udaipur.
Day : 13 Udaipur
Proceed for sightseeing tour of Udaipur after breakfast.
Lake Palace, Udaipur
The fortified walls of the palace hold a maze of royal apartments, courtyards and reception areas which are connected through steep narrow staircases - a typical feature in Rajput palaces. On display are paintings, regal antique furniture and exquisite miniatures that attract thousands of visitors every day. The mirror room with its stunning stained glass work gives a panoramic view of Udaipur city. The walls of Mor Chowk, or peacock square, display gorgeous mosaics of peacocks, Rajasthan’s avian mascot. Amar Vilas showcases beautiful terrace gardens with fountains.
Saheliyon Ki Bari - Maharana Sangram Singh built this “Garden of the Maidens” in the mid 18th century on the shores of Fateh Sagar Lake. The garden has expansive lawns with four fountains. Each fountain has a spout in the form of elephant trunk and is situated over dainty kiosks. The water flow from the fountains in the garden is controlled solely by water pressure. No pumps are used. The garden has a lotus pool, a sitting room decorated with paintings and glass mosaics.
Bagore Ki Haveli was built in 1751 on the Gangaur Ghat overlooking Lake Pichola. The haveli has now been made into a museum of traditional puppetry and hosts music performances in the evenings. The haveli has over a hundred rooms that display a rich selection of Mewar paintings, ethnic costumes as well as artifacts such as hookahs, nutcrackers, jewelry boxes, rose water sprinklers, hand fans, pan boxes, copper utensils and dice boards.
Situated north of the City Palace, bang in the center of the city, lies the magnificent 17th century Jagdish Temple. A marvelous example of Indo-Aryan architecture, the temple enshrines a giant black stone image of Lord Vishnu. The outer walls of the temple and the tower are heavily embellished with carvings depicting Vishnu and scenes from the life of Krishna.
An evening motor launch cruise over Lake Pichola provides you a panoramic view of Udaipur city and the surrounding mountains to the majestic Jag Mandir Palace, situated in the middle of the Lake.
Overnight at Udaipur.
Citi Palace, Udaipur
Have breakfast at the hotel. The rest of the morning is free. Later you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Mumbai. Reach and check in to the hotel.
The bustling city of Mumbai is India’s commercial capital and home to Bollywood, the world’s largest movie industry. Originally an archipelago of seven Arabian sea islands, Mumbai gets its name from Mumba Devi, a goddess worshipped by Koli fishermen, the original inhabitants. By the 19th century, reclamation work joined the islands in a narrow promontory that is the Mumbai of today.
A city of contrasts, Maybachs and Ferraris jostle for space on Mumbai roads with the strikingly retro, low-maintenance Premier Padmini cabs, while glitzy malls housing the world’s most desirable brands find themselves hemmed in by buzzing local markets.
Overnight stay at Mumbai.
Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai
Day : 15 Mumbai - Departure
Proceed for city tour of Mumbai after a leisurely breakfast at the hotel.
The huge arch of Gateway of India is perhaps Mumbai’s best known landmark. This magnificent structure was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, it was ironically also the point from where the last British ship sailed for England in 1947 after India gained independence. The arch, dramatically illuminated at night, provides a spectacular view from the sea. A flight of steps leads down to the sea where motor launches bob in the water, awaiting tourists for a short cruise. Towards the east of the Gateway of India lies Apollo Bunder, Mumbai’s most popular promenade. The place is abuzz with street vendors and fortune-tellers. Local families come for walks and tourists feed flocks of pigeons in the old dockyard.
Marine Drive is the spectacular crescent of light facing the sea that you may have spotted as your flight landed in Mumbai. This sea-facing promenade runs from Nariman Point to Malabar Hill along the Arabian Sea and is aptly named ‘Queen’s Necklace’. The buildings along the road follow an unmistakable art deco style.
Dhobi Ghat - This is Mumbai’s open air Laundromat. Washermen, locally known as dhobis, pick up dirty laundry from households all over Mumbai and bring them here for some vigorous cleaning. At the dhobi ghat, hundreds of fishermen stand at their wash pens, dip clothes in soapy water and repeatedly hurl them on flogging stones in great explosive, watery arcs. Later they are ironed and home delivered, all for a pittance. The synchronized choreography of hundreds of dhobis at work is not lost on Mumbai’s filmmakers, and the dhobi ghat has appeared many times on screen, in TV commercials and feature films alike.
Gateway of indai, Mumbai
The Prince of Wales Museum - This impeccably maintained museum had it foundation stone laid in 1905 to commemorate a visit by the then Prince of Wales. It would, however, open its doors to the public only in 1922, having served as a military hospital in the intervening years including the entire duration of World War I. The museum has an enviable and eclectic collection that includes 3000 B.C. artifacts from the Harappan civilization, ancient and medieval sculptures, a wealth of miniature paintings, an arms section that includes the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s personal armour, ancient and medieval artifacts from all over the subcontinent as well as China and Japan, a modern art gallery and so on. A must visit.
Later, you will be transferred to the international airport for your flight home.
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