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Home - India Expedition – Off Beat 16 Days

India Expedition – Off Beat 16 Days

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Durations : 16 Days
Destinations : Delhi – Agra – Gwalior – Khajuraho – Varanasi – Lucknow – Calcutta – Darjeeling – Delhi
India Travel AgencyDay 01 Arrival at Delhi:
You will be met on arrival at the International airport.

Transfer to your hotel. Relax. 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.

Overnight will be at Delhi.

Day 02 Delhi :
After breakfast at the hotel start a guided tour of Old Delhi.

The tour will begin with a visit to Raj Ghat, a simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. He is also famously known as the “father of the nation”.

One of the most important buildings of Old Delhi is the RED FORT. The magnificent Red Fort was built during the years 1638 – 48 when the Moghul Empire was at its peak. In 1638 Shahjahan transferred his capital from Agra to Delhi and laid the foundations of Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi. It is enclosed by a rubble stonewall, with bastions, gates and wickets at intervals. Of its fourteen gates, the important ones are the Mori, Lahori, Ajmeri, Turkman, Kashmiri and Delhi gates, some of which have already been demolished. His famous citadel, the Lal-Qila, or the Red Fort, lying at the town's northern end on the right bank or the Yamuna and south of Salimgarh, was begun in 1639 and completed after nine years. The Red Fort is different from the Agra fort and is better planned, because at its back lies the experience gained by Shahjahan at Agra, and because it was the work of one hand. It is an irregular octagon, with two long sides on the east and west, and with two main gates, one on the west and the other on the south, called Lahori and Delhi gates respectively. While the walls, gates and a few other structures in the fort are constructed of red sandstone, marble has been largely used in the palaces.

Continue your tour to Jama Masjid by bicycle rickshaws, one of Asia’s largest mosques. People stream in and out of the mosque continuously and the presence of a nearby bazaar means that the area is rarely quiet.

Enjoy the rickshaw ride at Old Delhi peddling through the narrow by lanes of Chandani Chowk.

After lunch proceed for a sightseeing tour of New Delhi, which reflects the legacy of the British left behind. The division between New and Old Delhi is the division between the capitals of the British and the Mughals respectively. The division in the walled city and New Delhi also marks the division in the life-styles. The walled city is all tradition where one will be able to glean a past life-style in all its facets, colors and spells. New Delhi in contrast, is a city trying to live up to the best of 21st century standards.

Imperial Delhi will include the Qutub Minar, the tallest stone tower in India. It is built in red and buff sandstone with a diameter of 14.32 m at the base and about 2.75 m on the top with a height of 72.5 m. Qutbu'd-Din Aibak laid the foundation of the tower in AD 1199 for the use of the mu'azzin (crier) to give calls for prayer and raised the first floor, to which were added three more floors by his successor and son-in-law, Shamsu'd-Din Iltutmish (AD 1211-36). All the tiers are surrounded by a projected balcony encircling the tower and supported by stone brackets, which are decorated with honeycomb design, more conspicuously in the first floor.

Next stop would be the majestic Humayun’s Tomb. Humayun died in 1556, and his widow Hamida Banu Begum, also known as Haji Begum, commenced the construction of his tomb in 1569, fourteen years after his death. It is the first distinct example of proper Mughal style, which was inspired by Persian architecture. It is well known that Humayun picked up the principles of Persian architecture during his exile, and he himself is likely to have planned the tomb, although there is no record to that effect.

The tour also includes a drive past the imposing India Gate, the Parliament building and the Rastrapathi Bhawan, the President’s residence.

Overnight will be at Delhi. Day 03 Delhi – Agra: By Road 201 km in 4 hr
Proceed for Agra in the morning after breakfast.

Stop at BABY TAJ or the ITMAD-UD-ULLAH – The interiors of which are considered better than the Taj Nur Jahan, the Empress of Jehangir for her father in 1628, built itmad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb. The tomb is a resting place of the powerful personality in Mughal Court, Itmad-Ud-Daulah, whose life is very interesting. Formerly a very poor Persian merchant then named Mirza Ghiyas or Ghiyas Beg he became a minister and a trusted treasure in Akbar's court. After Akbar's death in 1605, his son Jahangir rose into power. Jahangir made Ghiyas Beg his chief minister and honored him with the title of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, the Pillar of State. Later, Jahangir met a beautiful daughter of Ghiyas Beg named Mehr-Un-Nissa and married her. Mehr-Un-Nissa soon played a significant role in the Jahangir's court and was called Nur Mahal, the light pf the Place. Owing to her influence, her father and brother were granted with privileges in the court. When Ghiyas beg (Itmad-Un-Daulah) dies in 1622, Nur Mahal decided to build a mausoleum for him. Queen Mumtaz Mahal or the lady of the Taj was also from this prevailing family. The mausoleum is entirely made of white marble and graced with intricate decoration of inlay work, and marble-screen work belonging to the Islamic style. With its tranquil, small garden on the bank of Yamuna River, the tomb stands impressively elegant from a distance.

Reach and check in at hotel.

AGRA: Two great Mughal monarchs, Akbar and Shah Jahan, transformed the little village of Agra into a befitting second capital of the Mughal Empire - giving it the name Dar-ul-Khilafat {seat of the Emperor}. Today a visitor to Agra is caught up in a world of contrasting edifices, of red sandstone and white marble, narrow galleys and quaint buggies, and that irresistible charm that this favorite city of the Mughals still retains. It is not surprising, that modern Agra still reflects its Mughal heritage most conspicuously. A walk down the narrow bustling streets of the city will introduce the visitor to the wafting aroma of Mughlai cuisine.

Proceed for day sightseeing of Agra.

AGRA FORT – The red sandstone structure is surrounded by chahar-bagh, a foursquare formal garden. Built by the famed Mughal emperor Akbar in 1565 AD, the fort is predominantly of red sandstone. Ensconced within is the picture perfect Pearl Mosque, which is a major tourist attraction. It lies on the bend of the river Yamuna, almost in the heart of the town. Akbar built it as his citadel over the years 1563-73 in the finest architectural style. It has imposing gates and walls of red sandstone and a moat.

Proceed for a HERITAGE WALK to the other side of River YAMUNA with your guide after lunch.

The other side of the TAJ MAHAL across the river Yamuna where Mughal History has been written in edicts of stone, the river Yamuna lined with the residences of mobility was the artery, the very lifeline, which fostered the development of Mughal Agra. These heritage relics have been weaved together for a historic experience of Mughal Agra. You would walk through the various monuments in midst of rural setting intertwined with the communities along with stunning view of the TAJ MAHAL.

Enjoy the extended hospitality of the local villagers sipping a cup of Masala Chai on the Tea Terrace with standard, comfortable, clean, affordable, and safe facilities. The whole village walk through India’s Mughal History and amiable people is an unforgettable experience.

Overnight will be at Agra.

Day 04 Agra – Gwalior via Fatehpur Sikri: By Road 177 km in 4 hr

Enjoy the sunrise tour of TAJ MAHAL.

TAJ MAHAL – Little needs to be said about this architectural wonder, which is always the soul raison-de-etre for every tourist's visit to Agra. Built by Shah Jahan, the Taj is a white marble memorial to his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. This monument took 22 years to be completed and was designed, and planned by Persian architect Ustad Isa. Apart from its stunning design balance and perfect symmetry, the Taj is also noted particularly for its elegant domes, intricately carved screens and some of the best inlay work ever seen. Return for breakfast at the hotel.

Proceed to Gwalior en route visiting Fatehpur Sikri.

Family Vacations in India Fatehpur Sikri is 37 km west of Agra. JALAL – UD – DIN – MUHAMMAD AKBAR named Akbar, Humanyun's son, accessed the throne at the tender age of 14. While hunting around Sikri his curiosity was aroused by the songs of some minstrels about the celebrated Khwaja -Mu'inu'd-din Chisti, the founder of the Chisti order of SUFIS. Akbar, who was without a male heir heard about Saint Salim Chisti and visited him in the year 1568, the saint blessed him with 3 sons and in gratitude Akbar ordered the great mosque of Fatehpur Sikri, built under his supervision. As a mark of respect to the saint, Akbar shifted his capital to Fatehpur Sikri and built various secular buildings like the Diwan -I-Am, Diwan-I-Khas, Jodhabai palace, Birbal's house, Marian's house and the Panchmahal.

Reach and check in at your hotel by early afternoon.

A little southward of Agra is the ancient city of Gwalior. Centuries of history can be witnessed even today in its monuments, temples, museums and cultural traditions. The magnificent Gwalior Fort, with its reflections of art, religion and military might, is an enduring symbol of this glorious past. The colorful history of this city dates back to the eight century and is a mosaic of Rajput clans of the Pratihasas, Kachwahas and Tomars, each leaving their marks on the city’s magnificent monuments. Gwalior's history is traced back to a legend in 8th century AD when a chieftain known as Suraj Sen was struck by a deadly disease and cured by a hermit-saint Gwalipa. As a gratitude for that incidence, he founded this city by his name.

The new city of Gwalior became existence over the centuries. The cradle of great dynasties ruled the city Gwalior. With different Dynasty, the city gained a new dimension from the warrior kings, poets, musicians and saints who contributed to making it renowned throughout the country. The city is also the setting for the memorials of freedom fighters such as Tatya Tope and the indomitable Rani of Jhansi. Today the old settings stand side by side with the trappings of modernity.

In the evening proceed for the SOUND & LIGHT SHOW at the fort. Return to the palace for a dinner on the terrace.

Overnight will be at palace.

Day 05 Gwalior:
Proceed for a sightseeing tour of the city visiting the following interesting monuments.

Gwalior Fort: Standing on a steep mass of sandstone, Gwalior Fort dominates the city and is its most significant monument. It has been the scene of momentous events, imprisonment, battles and jauhars. A steep road winds upwards to the fort, flanked by statues of the Jain tirthankaras, carved into the rock face. The magnificent outer walls of the fort still stand, two miles in length and 35 feet high, bearing witness to its reputation for being one of the most invincible forts of India. This imposing structure inspired Emperor Babur to describe it as “the pearl amongst the fortresses of Hind ".

Man Mandir Palace: Built between 1486 and 1517 by Raja Mansingh.The tiles that once adorned its exterior have not survived, but at the entrance, traces of these still remain. Vast chambers with fine stone screens were once the music halls, and behind these screens, the royal ladies would learn music from the great masters of the day. Below, circular dungeons housed the state prisoners of the Mughals. Emperor Aurangzeb had his brother, Murad imprisoned, and later executed here. Close by is Jauhar Pond, where in the Rajput tradition, the Ranis committed mass sati after their consorts had been defeated in battle. At Man Mandir Palace, a poignant ambience of those days of chivalry and heroism still lingers in the silent chambers.

Gujari Mahal: Within the fort are some marvels of medieval architecture. The 15th century Gujari Mahal is a monument to the love of Raja Mansingh Tomar for his intrepid Gujar Queen, Mrignayani. The outer structure of Gujari Mahal has survived in an almost total state of preservation; the interior has been converted into Archaeological Museum housing rare antiquities, some of them dating back to the 1st century A.D. Even though many of these have been defaced by the iconoclastic Mughals, their perfection of form has survived the ravages of time. Particularly worth seeing is the statue of Shalbhanjika from Gyraspur, the tree goddess, the epitome of perfection in miniature. The statue is kept in the custody of the museum's curator, and can be seen on request.

Sas Bahu ka Mandir: Two architecturally beautiful 11th century temples.

Jai Vilas Palace: A splendor of a different kind exists in the Jai Vilas Palace, current residence of the Scindia family. Some twenty-five rooms have been turned into the Jivaji Rao Scindia Museum. These rooms are evocative of a regal lifestyle in the yester years. Jai Vilas is an Italianate structure which combines the Tuscan and Corinthian architectural modes. The imposing Darbar Hall has two central chandeliers weighing a couple of tons, and hung only after ten elephants had tested the strength of the roof. Ceilings picked out in gilt, heavy draperies and tapestries, fine Persian carpets and antique furniture from France and Italy are the features of these spacious rooms.

Eye catching treasures include: a silver train with cut glass wagons which served guests as it chugged around the table on miniature rails; a glass cradle from Italy used for the baby Krishna each Janmashtami, silver dinner services and swords that were once worn by Aurangzeb and Shah Jahan. These are, besides, personal mementoes of past members of the Scindia family: the jeweled slippers that belonged to Chinkoo Rani, four-poster beds and gifts from practically every country in the world, hunting trophies and portraits. The Scindia Museum offers an unparalled glimpse into the rich culture and lifestyle of princely India. Ghaus Mohammed's Tomb, Gwalior TourismGhaus Mohammed's Tomb, Gwalior TourismSun Temple : Located near the Residency at Morar, the newly constructed Sun Temple takes its inspiration from the famous Konark Sun Temple in Orissa.

Ghaus Mohammed's Tomb: The sandstone mausoleum of the Afghan prince, Ghaus Mohammed, is also designed on early Mughal lines. Particularly exquisite are the screens, which use the pierced stone technique as delicate as lace.

Sarod Ghar: This Museum of Music has been set up in the old ancestral house of the legendary Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan. It houses ancient instruments of the great Indian Masters of yesteryears. It also houses an impressive collection of photographs and documents. Sarod Ghar is a unique institution devoted to promoting Indian classical music, heritage and culture. Through this 'window' to the past, music lovers can gain a better understanding of the evolution and history of our classical music and a deeper perspective and insight into the context of the art, as it exists today.

Overnight will be at the beautiful palace.

Day 06 Friday Gwalior – Jhansi: By Train Departure: 0933 hr Arrival: 1043 hr Jhansi – Khajuraho: By Road 175 km in 4 hr
Enjoy an early breakfast and drive to the station for train to Jhansi.

Reach and drive to Orchha for sightseeing. It is a medieval city founded by the BUNDELA rulers with palaces and temples of the 16th & 17th century – which has remarkably withstood the onslaught of time. The town is known for its CHATTRIS, which were built in the memory of the kings, and the river BETWA flanks the place. Enjoy your lunch at Orchha. Drive to Khajuraho and reach by early evening.

Situated in the northernmost part of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is famous for its enchanting temples and its legendary Khajuraho dance festival. The name Khajuraho is derived from the Khajur tree (the date palm tree), which is grown abundantly in the region. The Khajuraho Temples are dedicated to a celebration of womanhood, her myriad moods and facets. Famous for its erotic architecture, the carvings include, women writing a letter, applying eye makeup, combing her tresses, dancing & playing with her child. Her innocent, blushed, charming, seductive, ardent beauty, all depicted in exquisitely sculptured details. These temples have been designed and carved to lead the eyes from ground level upward till you seem to be looking at heaven.

In the evening enjoy the SOUND & LIGHT SHOW at the temple complex.

Overnight will be at Khajuraho.
Day 07 Saturday Khajuraho:
Breakfast would be at the hotel.

After breakfast proceed for a tour of the FAMOUS WESTERN & EASTERN TEMPLES of Khajuraho.

The Western group of temples: Primarily built in one style the temples have the ardhamandapa or the entrance, the Mandapa or the assembly hall, the antarala or the vestibule and finally a pradakshina or a circumambulation running around the grabha griha or the inner sanctum. The temples are divided in three major zones, the western, the eastern and the southern temples of which the western temples are the most popular ones.

The arch of Kandariya Mahadev shrine has meticulously carved various themes of life. Celestial beings, lovers serenading musicians all the movements captured in stone, frozen in time, yet retaining a quality of warm, pulsating life. The very stone seems to have taken on the living, breathing quality of the carved figures. Outer walls have three horizontal panels showing deities of the Hindu pantheon, and groups of lovers, a pageant of sensuousness, vibrantly alive. The Chousat Yogini temple dedicated to kali is also present but without the deity in the sanctum. The Matangeshwara temple is the only shrine used for worshipping. The temple is almost devoid of ornamentation. The Varaha Temple stands opposite the Matangeshwara temple and is dedicated to the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu in form of a Boar. The monolithic figure is exquisitely carved with 764 divine figures around it. The Lakshmana Temple, dedicated to the four armed and three headed man-lion-boar statue of Vaikuntha is the best preserved and the most evolved Vishnu temples. There are sculptures depicting many mythological stories such as the churning of the ocean and Kalia mardan. O n the exterior the entire range of the Khajuraho temples is on display. Ecstatic street singers and the architect of the temples, surrounded by his apprentices are among the noteworthy images on this temple. The Vishwanath temple was supposed to be embedded with jewels, but only a stone lingam is what remains now. The exteriors of this temple however are the most stunningly beautiful. Here one can see nymphs can be seen playing on their flutes, removing thorns from their feet, fondling children and looking into a mirror. Some of the most erotic depictions are seen as well. Another interesting temple is dedicated to the Sun God, the Chitragupta temple. It shows the Sun God driving the chariot drawn by seven horses. The exteriors show, royal processions, elephant-fights, hunting scenes, group dances and the lavish lifestyle of the Chandela kings and their court in its all pomp and glory.

Enjoy a late lunch and then return for Eastern Temples.

The Eastern Group of temples: The Brahma and the Hanuman temples are the most famous and well-preserved temples of this group. The Vamana temple shows all the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

This place also has a few temples belonging to the Jain religion, probably because one of the descendants of the Chandela dynasty may have adopted Jainism. The prominent among these are the Ghantai temple, the Parsvanath and the Shnatinath temple.

In the evening visit SHILPAGRAM and enjoy the dance program.

Overnight will be at Khajuraho.

Day 08 Khajuraho – Varanasi: By air
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel.

Proceed to the airport for flight to Varanasi.

Picturesquely situated on the crescent shaped left bank of the holy River Ganges, Varanasi, one of the ancient seats of learning in India, is said to be a compound of the names of two streams, the VARUNA and the ASSI, which still flow in the north and south of the city respectively. This name seems to have been corrupted, in medieval times to Varanasi, which was in use till May 1956, when it was changed to Varanasi, by an order of the Government of India. Varanasi is probably one of the most ancient living cities in India. From time immemorial it has been a great religious center for Hindus and one of their most sacred places of pilgrimage, being visited by millions of people every year. To every visitor Varanasi offers a breathtaking experience.

The rays of the dawn shimmering across the Ganges; the high-banks; the temples and shrines along the banks bathed in a golden hue …soul stirring hymns and mantras along with the fragrance of incense filling the air…and the refreshing dip in the holy waters gently splashing at the Ghats. Varanasi – The land where experience and discovery reach the ultimate bliss. Varanasi is also renowned for its rich tapestry of music, arts, crafts and education. Some of the world – renowned exponents India has produced in these fields were schooled in Varanasi’s cultural ethos. Luminaries apart, Varanasi abounds in the art of silk weaving, an exotic work of art, which manifests itself in precious Banarasi silk saris and silk brocades that are cherished as collector’s items across the world today.

Visit Sarnath - 5 miles out of Varanasi for a day excursion: One of the holiest Buddhist sites in the world, where Buddha preached his first Sermon in 590 BC. Here he revealed the eight-fold path that leads to the attainment of inner peace, Enlightenment and Ultimate Nirvana. Witness the ruins of a once flourishing Buddhist monastery and then visit a fine Museum which houses an excellent collection of Buddhist art and sculptures found at the site.

Enjoy the museum at SARNATH and return by evening.

Overnight stay will be at Varanasi. Aarti at Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi TravelsDay 09 Varanasi:
Morning drive to Daswamedh Ghat and take a boat ride on the sacred river Ganges to see the cremation Ghats and witness the living traditions of one of the world's oldest and most important religions. (To start at 0500 hrs. for the best lifetime experience) For you to appreciate this remarkable city, we’ll transfer you to the banks of the River Ganges before the sun rises. Board a boat with your guide and proceed to the middle of the river, where at sunrise the sight unfolds before you. Thousands of faithful come daily to the banks to bathe and pray while in the background, temples and palaces rise in tiers from the water’s edge. Then return for a walk through the cobblestone streets along the banks of "Ganga". As shops are opening, the place now becomes a beehive of activity as the faithful are coming and going. Visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple while returning to the hotel.

Breakfast will be at the hotel.

Proceed for guided tour of Varanasi. Visit Bharat Mata Temple, which features a big relief map of Mother India engraved in marble. Also visit the 18th century Durga Temple, commonly known as the Monkey Temple due to the huge population of the monkeys.

Also visit the BHU considered as the biggest residential university in Asia. The University Campus houses an Art Gallery and the Mosque of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. In the evening visit the GHATS for the evening ceremony and the cremations.

Take a boat ride in the evening too and enjoy the AARTI offered to the River.

Overnight will be at Varanasi.
Day 10 Varanasi – Lucknow: By Road 295 km in 5 hr
Breakfast will be at the hotel.

Drive to Lucknow and reach by afternoon.

The upcoming METRO CITY of Lucknow is a hallmark of cultural extravaganza, known all over the world for its many splendors. A city that has a magical charm, a charm that's forever and a charm that's apart. Be it the cultural charm or the monumental one – all is well conserved here to make Lucknow "The city of many splendors". Walking through the lanes and by-lanes of Chowk and Aminabad one finds Lucknow of yore. The 'TEHZIB' or mannerism is still prominent and a topic of great appreciation. This is a city that still speaks the language of “YOU SIR” and the dictum of "YOU FIRST" is still a part of everyday life for a true Lakhnawi – and so natural it is – AADAB or salutation has its own sophistication and style. Dress forms though have changed noticeably in the span of a century, yet the beauty and charisma of CHIKAN - the intricate and delicate hand embroidery, still rules the wardrobe.

Lucknow is in fact among a few cities that duly understands the grace of the 'dupattas' or the covering cloth. Wisdom, women and wine are the three things truly understood and respected by the Nawabs. Not a thing of condemnation but an institution it was the “KOTHAS", where sons of Nawabs were deliberately sent to learn the culture, sophistication and respect for the fairer sex. Love was found in either Paris or Lucknow – a proof of this is the lover’s lane in the posh modern Hazratganj. These lanes were used as a meeting place for the lonely hearts to escape the monitoring eyes of their parents.

Relax at the hotel and enjoy a cultural evening. Overnight will be at Lucknow.

Day 11 Lucknow:
Proceed for sightseeing of the city after a relaxing breakfast.

BARA IMAMBARA: The hall built by Asaf-ud-Daula for famine relief, is one of the largest in the world. There are excellent views of Lucknow from the top of the Imambara. An external stairway leads to an upper floor laid out as an amazing labyrinth known as the bhulbulaiya (puzzle). The dark passages stop abruptly at openings that drop straight to the courtyard below. There's a mosque with two tall minarets in the courtyard complex and to the right of this is a well said to have secret tunnels opening into. The Imambara is open from morning to 6pm.

RUMI DARWAZA (GATE): This huge 60-feet-high door was also built by Asaf-ud-Daula. It is also called the 'Turkish Darwaza,' it is the entrance to the Bara Imambara. It is a massive gate on the western side of the front of Bara Imambara.

CHOTA IMAMBARA: Hussainabad or Chota Imambara, was built by Mohammed Ali Shah in 1837 as his own mausoleum. The appeal of this structure lies in its furnishings comprising exquisite chandeliers of Belgium glass. The glittering brass-domes and ornate architecture of this building made a Russian Prince call it the "Kremlin of India." It contains the tombs of Ali Shah and his mother. A small bazaar, known as the Gelo Khana or "Decorated Place", lies inside the imposing entrance of the Imambara.

CLOCK TOWER: It is located very near to the Rumi Darwaza. Built in 1881 by the British, this 67 m-high clock tower on the river Gomti is sa