Day 1: En Route to India – Bangalore - Arrive at Bangalore Airport and transfer to Hotel. Dinner will be served at 7.00pm in the hotel restaurant, followed by a group orientation and traditional Indian opening ceremony at 9.30pm.
Days 2/3/4: Bangalore - Puttaparti - Depart for Puttaparti and stay at Prasanthi Nilayam, the ashram of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Here receive the unprecedented blessing of spending three days in the simultaneous, physical presence of two Avatars. Partake in some of the daily programs including bhajans, prayers, meditations, and darshan. Our stay also includes opportunities to explore the town of Puttaparti.
Day 5: Puttaparti - Mysore - Depart early morning for Mysore, the sandalwood city.
Day 6: Mysore - Begin the day at Mysore Palace, one of the most impressive palaces in India. Inside, it is a kaleidoscope of stained glass, mirrors, ornately carved wooden doors, and mosaic floors. There is also a section of Hindu temples within the palace grounds. Next, visit the children of the Sri Ranga Putnam orphanage, where amrita—the Nectar of the Gods—manifests from silver medallions. After lunch, take an elephant ride and end the day with time for shopping. Mysore is famous for its carved sandalwood, inlay works, silk saris, and incense.
Day 7: Mysore - Varanasi (Banares) - Early morning flight to Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in India. For the Hindu pilgrim, Varanasi is Kashi, the city of enlightenment where you gain moksha—freedom from the endless cycle of birth and death; it is the supreme tirtha (the greatest pilgrimage). This ancient city is located on the holiest river in India, the River Ganges (Ganga), and has found its place in both Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. Enjoy an evening of leisure to roam the bustling galis (lanes) of shops selling gold jewelry, local delicacies, and world-renowned Banares silk.
Day 8: Varanasi – Sarnath - A short drive north of Varanasi is the peaceful town of Sarnath. Over 2500 years ago, Buddha gave his first sermon here at a site marked by a 34m (112ft) tower, the Dhamekh Stupa. Wander amongst the many temples and shrines in an area known as Deer Garden. Upon our return to Varanasi, visit a silk factory to learn how the famous Banares sari is made. As the day comes to a close, stroll through the galis to the bathing ghats located alongside the sacred River Ganges. People flock in large numbers every day to bathe and worship in the temples built beside the riverbank. Feel the timelessness of Varanasi as the sun sets and the temple priests perform Aarti, the sacred light ceremony, on the banks of Mother Ganga. Dine alongside this magnificent river and enjoy an evening cultural program at the famous Peshwa Haveli.
Day 9: Varanasi - Watch as the city comes to life on an early morning boat ride upon the River Ganges. Witness the offering of prayers and the reverence given unto the river as each day is begun in communion with God. The century-old tradition to offer puja to the rising sun is still maintained. At the sacred temple Sankat Mochan, make a food offering (prasad) to the Monkey God, Hanuman. Enjoy a free afternoon in Varanasi.
Day 10: Agra - Depart for Bulanalla to visit Bada Ganpati, a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha to experience the Aarti ceremony and puja. After lunch, take a short flight to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Tailors will be at the hotel in the evening to take measurements and orders to make custom clothing.
Day 11: Agra - Sightseeing begins with the impressive, early 17th century, Mughal tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah ("Baby Taj"). It is known for its construction of white marble walls with semi-precious stone inlay. Next, visit Agra Fort, the "city within a city," built in 1565 on the bank of the Yamuna River. It's massive walls are over 20 meters high and are surrounded by a 10-meter wide moat. Overshadowing it is one of the most visited and photographed places in the world—the magnificent Taj Mahal. The Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of hisbeloved wife, and took 22,000 people and 22 years to complete. Experience the Taj, this extravagant monument to love, at her most beautiful—when she is bathed in the light of the setting sun. Our day will conclude with a sound and light show at Agra Fort.
Day 12: Agra- Mathura - Vrindaven - Agra - Visit Mathura, birth place of Lord Krishna and popularly known as Brij Bhoomi—the "Land of Eternal Love." This is another major pilgrimage site for Hindus and there are literally thousands of temples here. Amongst the foundations of the Kesava Deo Temple, walk with pilgrims past the stone slab onto which Krishna is said to have been born 3500 years ago. Next, we travel to the sacred Hindu city of Vrindaven, also associated with the life of Lord Krishna. Explore Vrindaven Forest where Lord Krishna played His transcendental flute, calling the beautiful gopis to come and enjoy the rasa-lila, the divine dance of love. Also visit the temple of Govind Dev, one of the most architecturally advanced Hindu temples in Northern India, and the Rangaji temple.
Day 13: Agra - Rishikesh Idyllically nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, Rishikesh has been a spiritual centre to which saints, sages, and seekers have flocked for millennia. Stay at Parmarth Niketan, a beautiful ashram located on the banks of Mother Ganga. Proceed to the riverbank for Aarti where the sun's last rays dance on the waters of the holy river, and where the air is filled with song, devotional prayer, light, flowers, and sacred Vedic chanting.
Day 14: Rishikesh - Go for an early morning yoga walk along the banks of Ganga or in the nearby forests to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of this tranquil ashram. Travel to Deoprayag, an ancient pilgrimage center at the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.Tradition regards the area between the Yamuna and the Ganga as the most fertile region on Earth. Alternatively, a day visit to Haridwar Ashram could also be arranged. Return for sunset Aarti at the ashram before an evening of music and dance.
Day 15: Rishikesh - After breakfast, those partaking in river rafting will depart. After a safety briefing, board your raft to be guided down Ganga's moderate class rapids to the town of Muni Ki Reti. After lunch on the beach, return for the next set of rapids, which pass the suspension bridges, ghats, ashrams, and temples of Rishikesh. There will also be opportunities to try body surfing & cliff jumping. For those not attending the rafting, the day will be at your leisure. Ashram programs will also be offered. Reconvene at Mother Ganga for evening Aarti and a campfire.
Day 16: - Rishikesh - After the morning yoga program, take a beautiful 2-3km walk along the riverbank to a bridge called Lakshman Jhula. The scenery is simply stunning, interspersed with small marketplaces and temples. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure, then gather at sunset to take part in the Ganga Aarti.The evening will include a group dinner and a cultural program performed by the local children.
Day 17: Delhi - Early morning departure for Delhi. The afternoon is open to explore the streets of the city or to simply relax at the hotel before an evening gathering.
Day 18: Delhi - Enjoy some of the famous sights of Delhi by visiting the Hindu Sun Temple, Gandhi Museum, Bahai Lotus Temple, and Humayun's garden and tomb. As this final day of the pilgrimage comes to a close, rejoice in the wonder of our India experience with a farewell dinner and celebration. Transfer to Delhi International airport for your departure flight.
Enjoy some of the famous sights of Delhi by visiting the Hindu Sun Temple, Gandhi Museum, Bahai Lotus Temple, and Humayun's garden and tomb. As this final day of the pilgrimage comes to a close, rejoice in the wonder of our India experience with a farewell dinner and celebration. Transfer to Delhi International airport for your departure flight.
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Asia India Spiritual Odyssey Pilgrimage/Spirituality
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