Jewels Of East And West

Jewels Of East And West

 Jewels of East and North India.

(Kolkata, Odisha, Darjeeling, Sikkim, Delhi, Agra & Jaipur)

 

Day 1: Arrival in Kolkata (Calcutta) evening.

Met on arrival and transfer to your Hotel.

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Day 2: Kolkata (Calcutta).

The name Calcutta is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat. Kolkatta was then subsequently anglicized into Calcutta. Today the city has reverted to its original name.

Morning visit Flower Market and onward to Dakhineshwar Temple, Kumartuli (potters village) south of the temple & Sishu Bhavan, one of Mother Theresa’s many homes for the underprivileged.

Dakhineshwar Temple was built in 1855 by Rani Rashmoni (1793-1861). This temple is associated with one of India’s greatest religious philosophers, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa (Gadadhar Chattopadhyay – 1836-1886). The main temple is located 25 km outside the town and is dedicated to the Goddess Kali.  It has 12 smaller temples in the courtyard dedicated to Shiva, Radha and Krishna.

The village Kumartuli is the home of the kumars or potters who make the life size deities that are worshipped throughout the year at festivals and pujas. Kali, the patron goddess of Calcutta, is usually seen in her bloodthirsty form, garlanded with skulls.

Afternoon visit Victoria Memorial another landmark in the city that marks the British reign in India. A combination of Italian renaissance and Mughal architecture, the white marble architecture was the British attempt to replicate the Taj Mahal and is a monument to Queen Victoria and a museum dedicated to the Raj.

Afterwards we go to Kalighat temple, the main Kali temple (Durga) in Calcutta, for evening ceremony. Kali temple is located on the banks of the river Hooghly (Bhagirathi). The temple in its present form is only about 200 years old, built in 1809 on the site of a much older temple, although it has been referred in Mansar Bhasan in the 15th century, and in Kavi Kankan Chandi of the 17th century.

Kali is regarded as one of the principal deities of Bengal. There are other temples to Kali  -Sahasrabhuja Kali, Sarvamangala, Tarasundari and Simhavaahini. Kali is alternately regarded as the destroyer or liberator and is depicted in a fearful form. Despite the terrifying visage, she is considered to deliver bliss to worshippers. The Kalighat temple is considered one of the 52 Shakti Peethams of India, where the various parts of Sati’s body are said to have fallen, in the course of Shiva’s Rudra Tandava. Kalighat represents the site where the toes of the right foot of Shakti or Sati fell.  The temple attracts thousands of devotees throughout the year.

Legend has it that a devotee discovered a luminescent ray of light coming from the Bhagirathi riverbed, and upon investigating its source came upon a piece of stone carved in the form of a human toe. He also found a Syayambhu Lingam of Nakuleshwar Bhairav nearby, and started worshipping Kali in the midst of a thick jungle. This shrine grew to its present form over a period of time, thanks in particular to the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family of Bengal. This family is also said to have built the Chitreswari Kali temple at Chitpur. It is believed that there was a pathway through the jungle between Chitpur and Kalighat, and this pathway is said to have become the Chitpur road of Calcutta.

Kalighat is also associated with the worship offered to Kali by a Dasanami Monk named Chowranga Giri, and the Chowringee area of Calcutta is said to have been named after him.

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Day 3: Kolkata – Bhubaneswar.

Transfer to airport for flight 9W2864 dep. 1250 / 1405 to Bhubneswar, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Orissa, and is famous as the Temple City of India. Traveling through the state of Orissa is a blend of art, architecture and ancient cultures.  Bhubaneswar has some stunning temples clustered around the Bindusagar Tank.  Of the original 7000 only 500 remain dating from the 7th century to the 11th century.  Of these the most outstanding is the 11th century Lingaraja Temple which represents the peak of Orissa art and the late 10th century beautifully decorated Muktesvara temple which belongs to the end of the phase of temple building.
Close to the Mukteswara Temple is the Parsurameswara Temple, a small but richly decorated shrine of Shiva that was built in the 7th century. It is one of the best preserved. It has sculptures featuring amorous couples, animals and floral motifs.

Today visit to famous city temples including Parsurameswar, Mukteswar, Brahmeswar, Lingaraj & Rajarani. Overnight at Bhubaneswar.

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Day 4: Bhubaneshwar.

Full day tour to Nuapatna & Sadeibarini & silver filigree work.

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Day 5: Bhubaneswar – Puri (70 km) / Mayfair Beach Resort

Drive to Puri enroute visit Dhauli the peace pagoda & Pipli the applique village. Dhauli village where the Kalinga warlord Ashok renounced bloody warfare and embraced the teachings of Buddha.  We visit the Peace Pagoda known as the Shanti Stupa built in early 1970 by Japanese Buddhas.  We also stop at two ancient rock edicts, today eclipsed by the presence of the Pagoda. Dating from 260 BC they outline Ashoka’s detailed instructions to his administrators to rule with gentleness and fairness. The sculpted elephant atop the edict signifies the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism after his Kalinga victory.

Next we stop at the colorful village of Pipili where we can see  Orissan Handicrafts, the specialty is applique work. Dinner followed with Gotipua dance. B,L,D.

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Day 6: Puri Sightseing

Morning at leisure. Afternoon we visit the famous Jagannath temple in Puri. Puri is one of the four holy abodes in India. Pre-Dravidian and pre-Aryan history relates that a tooth of Buddha was temporarily enshrined in Puri before being moved to Sri Lanka. Supporting the theory that Buddhism prevailed in this area, the Jaganath Temple, to the Lord of the Universe, and the main attraction in Puri, was believed to have originally been a stupa. The extraordinary form Jagannath takes in this temple is said to be the unfinished work of the craftsman god, Vishvakarna. Angry with Vishnu, he left his portrayal of the god incomplete. This 12th century temple is known for its annual Rath Yatra or Car Festival. The Jagannath Temple contributed the word ‘Juggernaut’ to the English language.

 

Drive to Konark, visit to the Temple – Chariot of The Sun God, built by King Langula Narasimha Deva in the thirteenth century A.D. in the golden era of Orissan art. This crowning piece of Orissan architecture and sculpture is sheer poetry in stone. Everyday the Sun God rises from the lap of the blue ocean close by and casts his first gentle rays on the sanctum sanctorum and then circles the temple during the course of the day, illuminating the three magnificent images of the morning Sun, the mid-day sun and the setting sun. As you approach the water, you will see rising from the golden sandy beach, one of the country’s most vivid archeological treasures — The Sun Temple. For a millennium, this temple has been a beacon to sailors at sea. European soldiers referred to this edifice as the Black Pagoda to distinguish Konark’s temple from the whitewashed Jagannath Temple in Puri.  Despite the fact that the building now lies in ruins, the structure retains much of its former magnificence.

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Day 7: Puri – Bagdogra – Darjeeling.

Transfer to airport for flight 9W2061 dep. 0945 / 1045 to Kolkata, connecting flight 9W2452 dep. 1125 / arr. 1225 to Bagdogra.  On arrival, met and drive to Darjeeling ( 94 Kms/3hrs). Overnight at Hotel. B,D.

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Day 8: Darjeeling Sightseeing

Sunrise visit to Tiger Hill. Return hotel for breakfast. Afterwards ride the Toy Train one way (2 hrs) to Ghoom. It is a treat to arrive at the train station sometime before the departure and watch them prepare the vintage steam engine for the journey. Only about four bogies and a vintage 1st class chair car are attached to this engine which still needs to stop mid way to fill up its tank with water and wait till it heats up enough to make steam. One can climb up the engine for a close inspection, take photos with it and with the driver and the train supervisor.
The car will meet us at Ghoom train station and drive approximately 3 kms/20 min to the Monastery at Ghoom. Known as Aloobari Monastery, it is the oldest monastery in the region and quite interesting. We return to Darjeeling by car (45 min).
Afternoon visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (established in 1954 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary who first climbed the Mt Everest in 1953). The Everest Museum here has photographic and archival record of all attempts ever made to scale the world’s highest peak. We’ll also visit the Tibetan refugee self help center, the Bhutia Busty Monastery which houses the original text of the Buddhist Book of the Dead and the Rail Museum to learn about the toy train which UNESCO recognises as the World Heritage Railway.

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Day 9: Darjeeling – Pemayangtse (135 km / 5 hrs)

Morning transfer to Pemayangtse, this is the nearest motorable point from Mt. Kanchenjunga, world’s third highest peak. One can also enjoy the spectacular Eastern Himalayan range from this place. Evening tour to Pemayangtse monastery, the second oldest in Sikkim.

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Day 10: Pemayangtse – Gangtok (140 km / 5hrs)

After breakfast drive to the capital city of Sikkim (Sikkim is the 23rd.state of India) which also known as most peaceful & beautiful state in India. En route visit Namchi (79 km) to see the Great statue of Guru Padmasambavha (135 ft.) ,the biggest statue in the world for the Lord .On the way we will make stop our journey time to time to catch the exclusive views of Himalayan village. Evening free for shopping. Overnight at Hotel.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche and students at the large statue of Padmasambhava in Sikkim
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Day 11: Gangtok Sightseeing

Morning starts with the half day sightseeing in and around this capital city of Sikkim, covering Chortan, Stupa, Institute of Tibetology and Institute of Handicrafts and Handlooms & Roomtek Monastery, the seat of the Kagyupa sect of Buddhism.  Afternoon a half day trip to Tshongu Lake (12400ft), which is only 32kms from Gangtok City.

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Day 12: Gangtok – Kalimpong (80 km / 4hrs)

Drive to Kalimpong. Afternoon visit Thongsa Gompa and next visit the Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Gompa, which is on the Durpin hill & is famous for the Tibetan wall paintings. It also has a religious debating society along with a school of Tibetan medicine.

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Day 13: Kalimpong – Bagdogra – Delhi

Drive to Bagdogra airport for flight AI880 dep. 1405 / arr. 1610 or 9W2412 dep. 1415 / arr. 1625 to Delhi. Transfer to Hotel.

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Day 14: Delhi

Full day a guided tour of Old Delhi, the 17th century walled city of Shah Jahanabad, visiting the great Jama Masjid, the principal mosque of Old Delhi. Built in the year 1656 AD by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, it is the largest & best known mosque in India. Later take a rickshaw ride through Chandi Chowk, the old marketplace of Shah Jahanabad now a picturesque bazaar to reach Red Fort, built in the year 1648 by Shah Jehan.

In New Delhi, visit Raj Ghat, memorial to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. It is a simple black marble platform that marks the spot of his cremation on 31 January 1948. Further we drive past India Gate, memorial built in the year 1931 to commemorate the Indian soldiers who died in the World War I & the Afghan Wars. The names of the soldiers who died in these wars are inscribed on the walls. President’s House, the official residence of the President of India, built in the year 1931. Until 1950 it was known as Viceroy’s House & served as the residence of the Governor-General of British India. We will also Qutub Minar, built in the year 1206 by Qutub-ud-din Aibek. It is the tallest (72m) brick minaret in the world, an important example of Indo-Islamic Architecture. Evening Welcome dinner at The Great Kabab Factory.

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Day 15: Delhi – Agra (220 km / 4hrs)

After early breakfast drive to Agra. Afternoon visit the incredible architectural excellence of Taj Mahal (Friday closed), built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Next we visit Agra Fort, built principally as a military establishment by Akbar in 1565. The red sandstone Agra Fort was partially converted into a palace during Shah Jahan’s time. This massive Fort is 2.5 km long & is considered as predecessor of Delhi Red Fort.

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Day 16: Drive Fatehphur Sikri – Jaipur (260 km / 6 hrs)

After breakfast drive to Jaipur enroute visit Fatephur Sikri, built in 1571, one of the world’s most perfect ghost cities and a marvel of design and construction. It is a synthesis of the flourishing styles of the Persian courts and the prevailing Hindu-Islamic trends. Fatehpur (town of victory) Sikri was built by Akbar, the third and greatest of the Great Moguls. It is over 400 years old and today its pristine red sandstone buildings are as perfect as when they were first chiseled.

The town was erected after a holy man, Sheikh Salim Chisti, decreed the births of three sons to Akbar after all his children had died in infancy. There are three sections to the City: The Royal Palace (notable for the Emperor’s throne), the outside of the Royal Palace and the Jami Masjid (the location of the Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti, a masterpiece in brilliant white marble). The centerpiece of this remarkable monument is the Jewel House of the Diwan I Khas. Architecturally extraordinary, the four doorways lead into a single-story room where a huge central pillar supports a seat reached by mid-air walkways.

Continue drive to Jaipur. On arrival transfer to hotel.

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Day 17: Jaipur

Morning drive to Amber, the name of the ancient kingdom of Jaipur and also the name of its ancient capital, situated 7 miles away. Its history can be traced backed to the 12th century. Amber Fort is superbly located, protected by the wild Arrival Hills on all sides. Originally built in the 11th century, it was expanded by Raja Mannish in the late 16th century. The ascent to the Fort will be on elephant backs.

 

Afternoon city tour including the City Palace, Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), Jantar Mantar Observatory, bazaars.

 

Known as the “Pink City,” Jaipur was founded by Sawai Jai Singh II (1700-1743). It has 7 gates into the city–one for each of the 7 planets (which was the number of planets known at the time of the city’s founding). At the heart of Jaipur is its City Palace which houses an extensive collection of rare manuscripts, Mughal and Rajasthani miniatures, Mughal carpets, costumes and textiles, arms and weapons, royal buggies, chariots and palanquins and a remarkable carriage -the indiraviman – that was drawn by four elephants.

 

At the center is Chandra Mahal, the seven-tiered moon palace where the present Maharaja still resides. The City Palace complex also contains the Govind Devji Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna. Just outside the gateway of the City Palace is Jantar Mantar, the Yantralaya of Sawai Jai Singh II, the last great classical astronomer in India. The modernistic structures known as Yantras are the unique creations of this astronomer-king, designed by him and built by experts to observe the movements of the sun, moon, planets and stars. This is the largest of five observatories founded by the astronomer-king in various parts of the country. Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) is Jaipur’s most-photographed building, a honeycomb palace with 953 latticed windows overlooking the bazaar and busy streets of Jaipur. Built in 1799 by the poet-king Pratap Singh, this extraordinary building was used by purdah-bound women to watch the grand processions that were a regular feature of the city.

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Day 18: Jaipur – Delhi (240 km)

Morning independent, Later drive to Delhi & transfer to Hotel Radisson Blu near airport for wash & change. Farewell dinner. Late night transfer to airport for flight to home.

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