Day 1: Delhi-Park.
Arrive Delhi. Meet on arrival by company representatives. Proceed to hotel and relax. Delhi, the capital of kingdoms and empires is now a sprawling metropolis with a fascinating blend of the past and the present. It is a perfect introduction to the composite culture of an ancient land. A window to the kaleidoscope - that is India. Overnight at Delhi.
Day 2: Agra-Howard Park Plaza.
Early morning proceed to Agra by Shatabdi Express Train. Breakfast to be served in the train. Upon arrival transfer to Hotel. Afternoon sightseeing of the Taj and Fort. Badal Singh established the city of Taj in 1475. Agra finds mention in the Mahabharat as Agraban. This city in those days was considered to be the sister-city of Mathura, which was more prominent than Agraban. Agra came into its own when the Lodhi Kings chose this place beside the River Yamuna to be their capital city. Sikander Lodhi made Agra his capital but Babar defeated the Lodhis to capture not only Agra but also laid the foundation of the Mughal empire.
Taj Mahal, Agra Travel Vacations. In the Mid 16th century and earlier 17th century Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time when the symbol of love Taj Mahal was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality. The same is still reflected in whatever monuments remain in Agra. The narrow lanes of Agra filled with aroma of Mughlai cuisine, the craftsman who are busy in crating master pieces with their skill all remind of the Mughal royalty which this city had once experienced. Today whatever remains, has become a major tourist attraction which has taken Agra again to the heights of glory but this time as a major tourist destination of India.
Visit the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World was built by Shah Jahan in 1631 AD and was completed in 1651AD. Taj Mahal is the symbol of Love and was built in the memory of Mumtaz Mahal (Shah Jahan' s second Wife). Agra Fort, 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. After Agra Fort we will visit Baby Taj, the interiors of which are considered better than the Taj.
Day 3: Agra-Varanasi (by airplane).
After breakfast drive to Fatehpur Sikri and visit the Bulund Darwaza. The deserted, red Sandstone City, Emperor Akbar built that as his capital and palace in the late 16th century is an exhilarating experience. It a veritable fairytale city and its "ruins" are in pristine condition, it's not hard to imagine what the court life must have been like in the days of its grandeur. Also visit the Bulund Darwaza, the largest gateway in the world. Transfer to airport for flight to Varanasi. Arrive Varanasi and visit Sarnath.
Varanasi is the world's most ancient living city. Sunrise on the riverfront, as seen from a boat, can be spiritually uplifting sight. Crowded with temples, and its labyrinth of streets, the city attracts the maximum number of tourists. The religious capital of Hinduism, Varanasi is the carpet manufacturing place of India. It was previously known as Kashi, the city that illuminates. The present name is derived from the fact that the city is at the confluence of the rivers Varuna and Asi.
Reach and proceed to Sarnath. Sarnath StupaSarnath, 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. 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. Overnight at Varanasi. VNS - Hotel Hindustan International.
Day 4: Varanasi-Bodhgaya.
Morning boat ride on the Sacred River Ganges to rituals performed by priests and devotees. Half day guided tour of Varanasi including the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Gyanvapi Mosque and Benaras Hindu University. After lunch proceed for Bodhgaya. Bodhgaya is one of the sacred places for the Buddhists as well as for the Hindus. Here under the Bodhi Tree, Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Budhha, the "Enlighted One". Lord Buddha the gentle colossus who founded the first universal religion of the world, worked and lived much of his life in Bihar though he was born in Kapilavastu, now in Nepal. Most of the major events of his life, like enlightenment and last sermon happened in Bihar. Significantly. the state's name originated from 'Vihara' meaning Buddhist and Jain monasteries, which abounded in Bihar.
Though the Buddha was born as a Sakya prince in the Terai foothills of the Himalayas, Buddhism as a religion was really born in Bihar and evolved here through his preaching and the example of his lifestyle of great simplicity, renunciation and empathy for everything living. Perhaps the present day life of trauma and tension reminds us of the other alternative that was always available to us, the Buddha's way of life, gentle and simple.
Several centuries after Buddha's passing away, the Maurya emperor Ashoka (234-198 BC) contributed tremendously towards the revival, consolidation and spread of the original religion. It is the monasteries Ashoka built for the Buddhist monks and the pillars erected to commemorate innumerable historical sites associated with the Buddha's life, mostly intact to this day, that helped scholars and pilgrims alike to trace the life events and preachings of a truly extraordinary man. The Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya, under the Bodhi tree, 10 km from Gaya. the ancient Hindu pilgrimage center. The tree from the original sapling still stands in the temple premises. It is the most important Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour center as Buddhisrn was born here.
The magnificent Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya is an architectural amalgamation of many centuries cultures and many heritages that came to pay their homage here. The temple definitely has architecture of the Gupta and later ages, inscriptions describing visits of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China between 7th and 10th century AD. It is perhaps still the same temple Hiuen Tsang visited in 7th century. Overnight at Bodhgaya. B'Gaya, Lotus Nikko B'Gaya/Sujata. Morning after an early breakfast proceed to Bodhgaya. Packed lunch to be served.
Day 5: Bodhgaya.
Sightseeing of Maha Bodhi Temple and Tree. Visit the Chinese Temple. In the afternoon visit Niranjana Temple and River. Visit the school of the destitute. Lunch and dinner at Bodhgaya. Overnight at Bodhgaya. B'Gaya, Lotus Nikko B'Gaya/Sujata.
Day 6: Bodhgaya-Nalanda-Rajgir-Patna.
Early morning proceed to visit the historical towns of Nalanda and Rajgir. Have lunch at Rajgir. Proceed to Patna after lunch. Overnight at Patna. Patna Ashoka. Nalanda, where ruins of the great ancient university have been excavated, is situated at a distance of 90 km. south east of Patna by road. It falls on way to Rajgir. It is also linked by rail with Patna, Rajgir and Bakhtiyarpur (on Delhi-Howrah main track).
Hieun Tsang, the renowned Chinese traveler of the seventh century, says that according to tradition the place owed its name to a Naga of the same name which resided in a local tank. But he thinks it more probable that Lord Buddha, in one of his previous births as Bodhisatwa, became a king with his capital at this place and that his liberality won for him and his capital the name Nalanda or "Charity without intermission". The third theory about the name of the place is that it derived from Nalam plus da. Nalam means lotus which is a symbol for knowledge and Da means given the place had many lotuses.
Nalanda has a very ancient history. It was frequently visited by Lord Vardhamana Mahavir and Lord Buddha in the 6th century BC. during his sajourns, the Lord Buddha found this place prosperous, swelling, teeming with population and containing mango-groves. It is also supposed to be the birth place of Sariputra, one of the Chief disciple of the Lord Buddha. Rajgir, the Buddha lived in the sixth century BC. Mahavir was born in 567 BC and the traveler in Bihar will encounter them both constantly. Rajgir is 10 km south of Nalanda and sacred to the memory of the founder of both Buddhism and Jainism. Lord Buddha spent many months of retreat during the rainy season here, and used to meditate and preach on Griddhkuta, the "Hill of the Vultures". Lord Mahavir spent fourteen years of his life at Rajgir and Nalanda. It was in Rajgriha that Lord Buddha delivered some of his famous sermons and converted king Bimbisara of the Magasha Kingdom and countless others to his creed.
Once a great city, Rajgir is just a village today, but vestiges of a legendary and historical past remain, like the cyclopean wall that encircles the town and the marks engraved in rock that local folklore ascribes to Lord Krishna's chariot. This legend, like many others associates Rajgir to that distant time when the stirring events recorded in the epic Mahabharata were being enacted. Rajgir is located in a verdant valley surrounded by rocky hills. An aerial rope way provides the link with a hill-top stupa "Peace Pagoda" built by the Japanese. On one of the hills in the cave of Saptparni, was held the first Buddhist Council. The Saptparni cave is also the source of the Rajgir Hot Water Springs that have curative properties and are sacred to the Hindus.
Buddha Footprints, Bodhgaya VacationsPatna, the capital city of Bihar, is a historical city, which has like Delhi, experienced the trauma and pain of being conquered. The heritage of Patna or Pataliputra as it was known, goes back to two millennium. This city was the seat of administration for many rulers and each of them ascended with a new name for their capital. Kusumpura became Pushpapura, Patliputra, Azeemabad and now Patna. Pataliputra was the capital of Magadha, a kingdom, which dominated and influenced the politics of India for a long time. Located on the banks where rivers Sone and Ganga merge, this city has witnessed the rules of Chanakya, Chandragupta, Ashoka and the Nanda rulers.
Day 7: Patna-Vaishali-Kushinagar.
Explore the side where Buddha was cremated and visit Mahaparinirvana Temple. Overnight at Kushinagar. Kushinagar, Lotus Nikko. Vaishali has a past that pre-dates recorded history. It is held that the town derives its name from King Vishal, whose heroic deeds are narrated in the Hindu epic Ramayana. However, history records that around the time Pataliputra was the center of political activity in the Gangetic plains, Vaishali came into existence as center of the Ganga, it was the seat of the Republic of Vajji. Vaishali is credited with being the World's First Republic to have a duly elected assembly of representatives and efficient administration.
The Lord Buddha visited Vaishali more than once during his lifetime and announced his approaching Mahaparinirvana to the great followers he had here. Hundred years after he attained Mahaparinirvana, it was the venue of the second Buddhist Council. According to one belief, the Jain Tirthankar, Lord Mahavir was born at Vaishali. The Chinese travelers Fa-Hien and Hieun Tsang also visited this place in early 5th and 7th centuries respectively and wrote about Vaishali.
While talking of the famous men and women associated with Vaishali, Amrapali was the cynosure not only of Vaishali but of the neighbouring kingdoms as well. Therefore, to avert bloodshed, the parliament of Vaishali declared her to be a Court dancer besides consigning her to lifelong spinsterhood. Later she became a devout Buddhist and served the Lord Buddha. Kushinagar, the Buddha is believed to have breathed his last in this land with pastoral surrounding, the small hamlet of Kushinagar, 53 km west of Gorakhpur. The land is venerated as the site of the Buddha's Mahaparinirvana, his death and cremation, that marked his final liberation from the cycles of death and rebirth.
This small town in the former kingdom of the Mallas was surrounded by dense forest. It remained oblivous to the outside world until it was rediscovered by the archaeologists in the nineteenth century. The modern Indo-Japan, Srilanka Buddhist center, Kushinagar is rediscovering its roots, and is home to many viharas, including a Tibetan gompa devoted to Sakyamuni, a Burmese vihara, and temples from China and Japan.
Day 8: Kushinagar-Lumbini (by road).
Proceed after breakfast. Reach and sightseeing. The birthplace of the Gautama Buddha, Lumbini, is the Mecca of every Buddhist, being one of the four holy places of Buddhism. Buddha himself identified four places of future pilgrimage: the sites of his birth, enlightenment, first discourse, and death. Hence the birth of Gautam Buddha makes it one of the most sacred places in the world. The Sal tree where Siddhartha was born is difficult to locate now. But Ashoka, in the 21st year of his reign visited the forest and raised a pillar on the spot where Siddhartha was born.
The Mayadevi Temple: This Mayadevi temple dedicated to the mother of the Buddha has been digded out and restored. The temple has a stone artifact depicting the nativity of the Buddha. Maya Devi, his mother, gave birth to the child on her way to her parent's home in Devadaha while taking rest in Lumbini under a Sal tree in the month of May in the year 642 BC. The beauty of Lumbini is described in Pali and Sanskrit literature. Maya Devi, it is said was spellbound to see the natural splendor of Lumbini. While she was standing, she felt labor pains and catching hold of a drooping branch of a Sal tree, the baby, the future Buddha, was born. Overnight at Lumbini, Nirvana/Pawan.
Day 9: Lumbini-Balrampur.
By road, sight seeing of Shravasti, visit: Saheth and Maheth Balarampur Lotus Nikko. During the time of Sakyamuni, a rich and pious merchant named Sudatta lived in Sravasti. While on a visit to Rajgir, he heard the Buddha's sermon and decided to become the Lord's disciple. But he was caught in a dilemma and asked the Lord whether he could become a follower without forsaking worldly life. To his query, the Buddha replied that it was enough that he followed his vocation in a righteous manner.
Buddha Tree, BodhgayaSudatta invited the Buddha to Sravasti and began to look for a suitable place to build a vihara. A beautiful park at the southern edge of Sravasti attracted his attention. The park belonged to Jeta, son of King Prasenjit of Sravasti. Jeta demanded that Sudatta cover the entire park with gold coins. Sudatta painstakingly paved every inch of the land with gold. Then Jeta said that since the trees were left uncovered they belonged to him. But finally, he had a change of heart and donated valuable wood to build the vihara. The park came to be known as Jetavana Vihara in recognition of Prince Jeta's donation to the sangh.
Buddha spent 25 years living in the monastery of Jetavana. Many Vinaya rules, Jatakas and Sutras were first discussed at this place. The Buddha is supposed to have astonished rival teachers by performing miracles at Sravasti. It is said that it was in Sravasti that the Buddha transformed Angulimal from a dacoit into a Buddhist monk. He also delivered many important sermons here. King Ashoka erected two pillars 21 meters high on either side of the eastern gateway of the Jetavana monastery. Sravasti was a flourishing center of learning during the Gupta period. When the famed Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang visited this site, he found several damaged stupas and ruins of monasteries and a palace.
Sravasti has two villages, Sahet and Mahet. From the Balrampur-Sravasti road one can enter Sahet, which is spread over an area of 400 acres and has a number of ruins. A little north of Sahet, towards the Rapti River, is the ancient fortified city of Mahet. The entrance to the mud fortification of Mahet is constructed in a beautiful crescent shape. Though an ancient structure, its five gates and walls are still visible. Pakki Kuti, Kuchhi Kuti and many other stupas tell the story of the great monasteries that once stood here.
Remnants of Jetavana, a splendid monastery with inscriptions dating back to the 12th century, is thought to be one of the favourite sites of the Buddha. Emperor Ashoka is also said to have visited this site. There is a sacred pipal tree here, which is a sapling from the original Maha Bodhi tree under which the Buddha had attained nirvana. Today, Jetavana has two monasteries, six temples and five stupas. One temple was built by the monk Ananthapindika and called Gandhakuti. This is the most sacred temple in Jetavana since the Buddha is believed to have lived at this spot. Sravasti was also under the influence of Lord Mahavira the last Jain Tirthankar, and the splendid Shwetambara temple here attracts thousands of Jain pilgrims. The Sobhnath Temple is believed to the birthplace of the Jain Tirthankar Sambhavnath.
Day 10: Balrampur-Lucknow.
Reach and sight seeing: explore this royal city of Nawabs. Lucknow is caught in a time warp. It exists in an in-between land of the past and the present looking back constantly to the memories of a colonial Nawabi past. There is at the same time a sense of pride at the thought of being after Delhi, the most important center of power in free India. Politics has indeed been Lucknow's forte but culture has been its historical identification.
Despite the Indo-Persian legacy, Lucknow has a composite Indian culture. The welding of various cultural strains nurtured by centuries of Mughal and later Delhi Sultanate rule, to the folk traditions of the Indo-Gangetic plains has produced a complex, yet rich synthesis. The Urdu language acquired its baffling phonetic nuances and suave perfection here. It was in Nawab Wajed Ali Shah's court that the most advanced of all classical Indian dance forms, the Kathak, took shape. The popular Parsi theater originated from the Urdu theater of this city. The tabla and the sitar were first heard on the streets of Lucknow. Lucknow-Park Plaza.
Day 11: Lucknow-Delhi.
By Shatabdi Express (1545-2145). Arrive Delhi and check in at hotel. Delhi: Full day tour of Old and New Delhi, Visit Raj Ghat, Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb, India Gate, Parliament House, Lotus Temple, Shantivan, Laxmi Narayan Temple. Relax in the evening. Proceed for day tour of Old and New Delhi (09:00). Old Delhi, a sightseeing tour of Old Delhi would entail visiting the Raj Ghat, the memorial site where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated; Jama Masjid. the largest mosque in India and the Red Fort - once the most opulent fort and palace of the Moghul Empire.
Cycle rickshaw ride from Jama Masjid to Chandni Chowk. New Delhi, an extensive sightseeing tour of New Delhi would include a visit to the Humayun's Tomb, the Qutub Minar, a drive along the ceremonial avenue, Rajpath, past the imposing India Gate, Parliament House, the President's Residence and would end with a drive through the Diplomatic Enclave. Overnight at Delhi.
Day 12: Delhi-Park.
Delhi, free to explore city and last minute shopping. Check out in the evening and proceed for The Dances of India Show. Have dinner then transfer to Airport for flight home.
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