Experience the spiritual importance of the Ganges on our Yoga Tour!
On this Yoga tour you will have many encounters with the great River Ganges which comes from an ice cave in the Himalayas’ Southern slopes and streams to the east through the northern plains of India. This extends some 2506 km before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. At this point the waters mix with that of the Brahmaputra River, creating the world’s largest channel. No doubt a vital source of irrigation, the Ganges River plays an immense role in developing India’s agricultural economy. As you will see for yourself on this tour it is equally important in terms of the religious belief system of this subcontinent. A look at the ancient Hindu scriptures of the Rig-Veda will show you the significance of this river to Hindus who see it as the goddess Ganga. To them a bath in the Ganges will wash away the sins of the people; life is not fulfilled if you have not washed yourself at least once while you were alive in the River Ganges.
Our representative will greet you at Delhi International airport and transport you in comfort to your hotel, located centrally in Delhi.
With a 3000 year history, Delhi, the capital of India, has seen the rise and fall of many Empires. Captors have come and gone, cities built and destroyed, several rulers have reigned and been defeated and capital cities have been shifted. Over the years, seven main cities have been established by various leaders in and about Delhi. The British moved the capital of India from Kolkata to Delhi in 1911. Since then New Delhi has been modernized with more colonial-style architecture. It was the capital of seven different cultures and they have all created a tremendous fusion over the years. Reflective of this is the amazing architecture of the city with its ancient designs and many-sided heritage. A demonstration of Delhi’s cultural diversity and richness can be found in one space housing a Mughal tomb, an Islamic minaret and mosque, a Bahia temple and Hindu fortress and all a stone’s throw away from each other. Overnight in New Delhi.
When you are finished eating your breakfast we will take a guided tour of old Delhi, beginning with the exploration of the Indo-Islamic culture and everyday life in Old Delhi. We amble through the narrow streets of Chandni Chowk, also known as Silver Street, into the many shops and exciting bazaars. We drive pass the Red Fort on our way to visit Jama Masjid the largest mosque in Old Delhi, with its elongated towers and beautiful domes made of marble. The mosque was built to house some 20,000 people. Here you can also ride a rickshaw.
Our next stop is the 12th century UNESCO World Heritage Site the Qutub Minar Complex, the most ancient and one of the premium Islamic structures to be constructed in India. It is a distinct and towering landmark in Delhi along with several other memorials in the surrounding complex.Next door to this is the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, with its amazing blend of Hindu panels and Islamic domes that signal a merging of the two cultures.
Our sight-seeing of New Delhi begins after lunch. We drive through the streets lined with trees and see several distinguished colonial buildings that were erected when the British ruled. This city was planned by Edwin Lutyens, with the building project starting in 1911 and the city being instated on February 3, 1931 by Lord Irwin the Governor-General of British India. Travel along Rajpath, an avenue about two miles in length and formerly the central point of British India. It is now used for parades, is edged with decorated canals and provides a spectacular view from either direction. A must-see is India Gate, a memorial to the British and Indian soldiers who died in World War 1
Then there is Rashtrapati Bhavan and Parliament House. Rashtrapati Bhavan, built on the top of Raisina Hill, was also designed by Edwin Lutyens and is considered to be one of his premium works. It was originally constructed during the period of British rule for the Viceroy and is now the home of the President. Our tour continues as we travel to the resting place of the Mughal Empire’s 2nd Emperor – Humayun’s Tomb. This Mughal garden tomb was the first of its kind, built-in 1565, and illustrates the excellence of Mughal architecture.
Overnight in Delhi.
Tip: If time permits, we recommend you visit the National Museum of India in New Delhi and get acquainted with the 5000 years old history and culture of the Indian subcontinent including the civilizations of Harappa and Mohenjodaro.
The sacred towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh in the state of Uttaranchal are highly regarded by Hindus as tirthas, the holy river crossings that enable the evolution from the ordinary to the divine. They are also considered to be two of the most prosperous places in the Ganges to bathe.
It’s early in the morning and after breakfast, we transfer to the New Delhi Railway Station and get on board the superfast air-conditioned train to Haridwar. Haridwar’s name is very significant to its purpose, meaning “Gateway to God.” This town is at the point where the Ganges leaves the Himalayas and flows into the Indo-Gangetic Plain and thence for a long-distance across Northern India to the Bay of Bengal. According to Hindu beliefs, visiting Haridwar will give release from the endless cycle of birth and death and pilgrims reach “moksha” or deliverance. For this reason, Haridwar is frequented by Hindus who travel from all over the world to bathe in the holy water of the River Ganges, wash away their sins and visit temples. One of the most prominent attractions here is the Mansa Devi temple, located high on the hill in Haridwar. Thousands of pilgrims converge here because the Goddess is thought to be able to give persons who visit her their wishes. Millions of people attend the Kumbh Mela celebration in Haridwar, held every 12 years.
Check-in the hotel on arrival.
Spend the afternoon at your leisure. The Heritage Hotel Haveli Hari Ganga in Haridwar, where you will be staying, is located on the fringe of Ganges. The atmosphere of this hotel is more like an upper-class home. It has 11 rooms, some of them overlooking the Ganges, the others in front of a temple the size of a chapel that is beautifully decorated. The rooms are fantastic with an exquisite Himalayan touch, red-gold furnishings and shutters, magnificent balconies and tiled floors. They are exceptionally clean and air-conditioned with a television.
If you wish you can have treatments to make you feel good from the massage room on the top floor, with spectacular views.
In the late afternoon, we will take a guided walk so that you can experience the spectacle around the ghats (special steps for accessing the river) of the Ganges and also explore some of Haridwar‘s well-known temples.
Ramble through Haridwar’s back alley, bypassing the cows, stalls packed high with flowers, powdered dye and other offerings to the gods. The most holy ghat of Haridwar is the Har Ki Pauri Ghat: it is here that you will find a spiritual atmosphere filled with religious ceremonies and a hive of activities that will stir up your senses. The Ghats in the Ganges are lively and vibrant: pilgrims bargain with the Brahmin priests, dressed in white cotton, over the cost of the rites; beggars receive food hand-outs from pilgrims; plastic containers used to carry water from the Ganges are sold by girls; orange-robed bearded sadhus; and Rajasthani pilgrims in turbans. You will also see men, women and children, Hindu pilgrims dipping into the holy river. The ideal times to see this activity are in the morning and late afternoon. And to stop people from being washed away by the fast-flowing water there are a small amount of rescue crews on standby.
The ghat with all its activities and peculiar atmosphere is also popular for it variety of holy men, with the Naga Babas being the most well-known. These naked men who are covered in ash have given up everything that they ever owned in this life for their beliefs and they visit Haridwar to be initiated, to have laws made and to respect their ancestries that go back for centuries. With such an abundance of religious activity, it would be difficult not to think that the main purpose of this town is to carry out religious ceremonies and rituals. For centuries, one of the main rites performed by Hindus is the submersion of the cremated ashes of the dead in the holy river Ganges at Haridwar. After this, another religious observance is conducted by the Brahmin Priest on the bank of the Ganges. Even to this day at Haridwar, several of the priests carry piles of bound books or papers with the history of every single member of the deceased family who would have visited Haridwar. The names of every person whose ashes were brought to the river were recorded in these books in Sanskrit and all the members of the family who brought the ashes would also enter their name on the pages. Unbelievably this heap of records contains information from as far back as 500 years, even 2000 years as a matter of fact, extending up to some 12 generations in some instances. On signing their name at the bottom of the most recent script, the family members of the deceased cement their names as part of history which existed long before the British and Romans arrived.
The highlight of our visit to Haridwar is the evening ceremony of Ganga Aarti at Hari-ki-Pauri ghat. This is a daily ceremony to appease and to thank the River Ganga for all the abundance that she has given to the Indian plains. You too can purchase an offering for the river, it could be a candle made from butter, flowers or even a basket of leaves. As the sun sets, we visit the Ghats. You will be intrigued at the thousands of earthen lamps or diyas and the gorgeous flower petals inside the baskets of leaves as they light up the river’s holy waters. Hear the loud ringing songs of the bells. Watch the priest as they offer up a blend of herbs and ghee that has been purified on the fire as the vociferous prayers are repeated. It’s alright for you to mingle with the crowd in order to be a part of the rituals of this age-old religion that retains its power and remains as relevant in these modern times as it did centuries ago.
Train Details (New Delhi – Haridwar): Dehradun Shatabdi Express, departs at 06:45 hours and arrives at 11:22 hours (Updated December 2015)
Info: Light Breakfast served on the Train and included in the train tickets’ price
Drive to Rishikesh (25 Km).
The Ganges River flows through Rishikesh, located in the foothills of the Himalayas some 1160 feet above sea level. Long before the legendary Beatles visited in 1968, this town was the heart of Hinduism and a place of respite for the Hindu pilgrims traveling into the mountains. This town brings with it a plethora of temples, intriguing personalities and is rife with ashrams, spiritual hermitages. No wonder it boasts the title of the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’ with a wealth of meditation and yoga classes. You will find the majority of this activity to the north of the main town, which offers an ideal location for meditation and spiritual growth. To the north, there is the Ganges River, enclosed by the woody hills. The valleys are filled with fresh breezes in the evening time that stir up the sounds of the bells in the temple, as the pilgrims, tourists and sadhus simultaneously get ready for the nightly fire-offering or Ganga Aarti on the Ganges River.
While on your India Yoga tour, lest you get the feeling that Rishikesh is only about spirituality and religious ceremonies and rituals, we have to tell you about the excitement and adventure that you will experience at the backpacker hang-out river rafting and treks in the Himalayas. This town is also the opening to the higher Garhwal region and the beginning point to Char Dham well-known pilgrim centers Yamnotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath.
When we arrive we check-in the hotel, take a short break to rest and relax and then meet the yoga teacher. Afterward there will be directions given about the yoga and meditation sessions which will commence in the evening, starting with the basics of Meditation and Yoga.
When our meeting with the yoga teacher is finished, we will go to Rishikesh for a half-day guided tour.
Rishikesh’s prized attraction is Laxman Jhula, a bridge measuring some 450 ft long crossing the Ganges River. Completed in 1929, it is believed that the brother of Lord Rama whose name was Laxman traversed the Ganga River on a jute rope from the place where the bridge is now located. Being on the bridge is an ideal place to get a view of the Ganges and the mountains. Not far from Laksman Jhula we will make a stop at the famed Hindu temple, 13 storeys high. This temple has idols of Hindu gods and goddesses on every floor. The view from the top of the temple is fascinating once you get up the steps. Afterwards, we will visit Geeta Bhawan, known to be one of the earliest built temple complexes located next to Laxman Jhula. It is used as a museum showcasing what is called puranas or the earliest Hindu texts and mythical consciousness.
Pay a visit to a variety of Ashrams including the most famous Swarg Ashram and Parmarth Niketan Ashram that can be seen along the banks of the Ganges River. The atmosphere within the Ashram gates is quite the contrast to that on the exterior. Inside the courtyards are clean and shaded from the leafy trees. There are no crowds and families stroll around on the inside with no shoes, yogis are doing meditation and the children are playing. You will exhale, as you feel the intensity from the hustle and bustle on the streets of Rishikesh disappear.
Return to the hotel for rest and in the evening meet the yoga teacher and start the yoga and meditation classes.
As the sun sets we go over to the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, make our way down the steps with our shoes off and stand on the banks of the River Ganges to the front of Parmarth Niketan Ashram. There will be hundreds of locals and tourists alike here, sitting side by side waiting for the ashram’s spiritual leader Pujya Swamiji to arrive. This is the time of the evening when the Ganga Aarti ceremony begins. It’s a time to offer Mother Ganga thanks for her providence. The scene is lively with clapping hands,the sounds of pulsating instruments and Sanskrit shlokas music from the Rishi Kumars- orphaned students of the ashram. Offerings of flowers and candles float on the river as the worshipers watch intently. Feel free to be a part of the environment purification ritual called the Havan. The Rishi Kumars turn on the Aarti lamps when the ceremony ends and pass them around to the pilgrims and visitors for each to receive a blessing from the Ganges and the fire. Hands are curved over the flames and then the palms are brought to their faces to receive the blessings.
Spend the night in Rishikesh!
In Rishikesh, you have an option of spending the night at the hotel or one of the well-known Ashrams like the Parmarth Ashram. We can provide you with a variety of the best options to choose from.
We move over to the Yoga Center in Rishikesh fora yoga class; afterwards there is time for body and mind relaxation. Next you will be taught about stretching and breath awareness. In the evening there will be a yoga and traditional meditation class in-house; this will be given by a visiting instructor.
Yoga can be tracked way back to the times of civilization in the Indus Valley, thousands of years ago; it is a result of the lasting wisdom of India.
Meditation is a way to change the mind. The methods used are techniques that inspire and increase the ability to concentrate, promote clarity, positive emotion and seeing things from a calm and right perspective. By meditating the participant learns the habits and patterns of their mind and it helps them produce new and more positive ways of living.
The afternoon is free for you to browse around Rishikesh on your own. The difference between Rishikesh and Haridwar is that the former is more easy-going and less populated, while the latter is a more chaotic and hustle bustle town. In Rishikesh you can relax and enjoy the refreshing feeling of being outdoors and engaging in activities in the open air. You can even find western food in the cafes which are quite nice places to hang-out and interact with western travelers. Ayurvedic and Reiki healing centers, book stores and clothing stores can all be found here. There are a myriad of exciting things to do in this town. Start with some laughter therapy (Hasya yoga). Work on your gong meditation which is a repeated humming sound. Learn how to play sitar or tabla, the famous instruments of India; you may even want to try some crystal healing, an unorthodox medicine technique that uses crystals and stones. Spice up your life with some spiced milk tea or steaming masala chai (spiced milk tea). Crunch on a murri mixture, a delicious mix of rice flakes, nuts, onions, lemon juice, coriander and tomatoes are eaten from the torn pages of school books or newspapers.
Regular Daily Schedule at Ashram or Hotel in Rishikesh (can be changes after consultation with your Yoga & Meditation Teacher)
05.30 A.M. to 06.30 A.M. Meditation class
07.00 A.M. to 08.00 A.M. Yoga class
08.15 A.M. Breakfast
12.00 Noon. Lunch
15.00 A.M. to 15.45 A.M. Lecture
16.00 P.M. Tea
16.30 P.M. to 19.00 P.M. Yoga & Meditation Classes
19.30 P.M. Dinner
In Rishikesh you have the opportunity to get involved in some white-water rafting on the river if the weather permits. You don’t need any experience!
When you rise early in the morning walk to the Yoga center and start your session of asana yoga, relaxation and then Yoga Nidra which is a condition of sleep reached when meditating. After this session, we go back to the hotel, enjoy a hearty breakfast and begin our tour of Rishikesh. We visit the Triveni Ghat, where it is thought that the three rivers of Saraswati, Yamuna and Ganga come together and flow beneath. It is one of the most interesting places you could ever experience early in the morning, when people present milk offerings to the river and feed the fishes. We then go to Rishikund; with a sacred pond and the Shani temple. Many believe that the saint asked the Yamuna River to soak this pond and therefore, it is a one of the places frequented by pilgrims.
Just because you are in India doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy something other than the Ashram food. Go to the German Bakery for some Danish pastries, Banana and Honey Roll, Mango Lassi, ginger tea and filtered coffee. Here you will get a wonderful view of the action taking place on the bridge, as the pilgrims pass over with cows and scooters. For some western delights, visit the Little Buddha café situated near Laksman Jhula and overlooking the Ganges. You can relax in an easy-going Caribbean atmosphere in this restaurant, styled somewhat like a tree-house. It is famous for its delightful cuisine of pizza, guacamole, chips, Oreo shakes, gnocchi, green salads and tacos.
Spend the evening in the yoga and traditional meditation sessions with a visiting teacher.
Overnight in Rishikesh.
In the morning we will start our training in PRANAYAM, an age old practice dealing with the control of your breathing and dynamic yoga. We then return to the hotel for breakfast and then travel to Vashist Gufa, on the banks of the River Ganges. It is in this area that all the rafting excursions occur and the sandy beaches across the Vashishta Gufa ashram are excellent for camping. It is an environment that is tranquil, away from the hustle and noise, quite in contrast to other places along the river. It takes about one hour for us to drive along the Ganges and arrive at Vashistha Goofa (cave). This is where the well-known saint Vashistha, meditated; many people find it to be the ideal place for transcendental meditation. We return to the hotel late in the afternoon and wind the evening down with a lecture and a time of meditation.
Overnight in Rishikesh.
It’s the final day in Rishikesh and we will participate in VIPASANA early in the morning. This is one of the oldest forms of meditation, which literally means seeing things as they really are; it was rediscovered and taught by Buddha. Spend the whole day doing advanced techniques of Yoga and Pranayama Yoga.
In the evening we take the train back to New Delhi.
When we arrive in New Delhi we go to the hotel and spend the night in Delhi!
Train Details (Haridwar – New Delhi): Dehradun Shatabdi Express, Departs at 18:15 hours and Arrives at 22:45 hours (updated December 2015)
Dinner is part of the price of the train ticket and is served on board!
This morning we will travel to Agra, an astounding place with a rich heritage and history. Many of its architectural styles and designs were created during the Mughal period with several of these buildings being preserved even up to this time.
Once we get there we will go to the hotel for a short rest and relaxation and afterwards we will visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Red Fort, a significant Mughal monument from the 16th century, which stands quite grandly on the Yamuna River banks. Red Fort is a formidable fortress built with red sandstone surrounded by thick walls which are about 1½ miles long in the Mughal Emperor’s majestic city. First constructed in 1565 by Emperor Akbar, there were several subsequent extensions until Shah Jahan, his grandson later converted part of it to a palace.
We arrive at Mehtab Bagh as the sun begins to set. It is a Charbagh or 22 acre garden designed with a Persian style on the other side of the river and a fantastic and unique location as it lies exactly opposite the Taj Mahal. It is believed that its diametrical position to the Taj Mahal was deliberate as Emperor Shah Jahan intended to construct a mirror image of the glorious white marbled Taj Mahal only this time in black on that spot.
You will also get the opportunity to spend time at the home of an Indian family, where you will be taught how to prepare Indian cuisine like rice and breads. It will be an enjoyable time as you feast on authentic Indian food and get real insight into the lifestyles of the people of India.
Overnight in Agra!.
Early this morning we make that eagerly awaited visit to the famous Taj Mahals, aptly penned by poet Rabindranath Tagore as a “tear on the face of eternity.” It is truly one of earth’s marvels and is widely thought to be the best illustration of Mughal architecture and one of the most amazing structures in the world; leaving visitors awestruck by its magnificence. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan constructed this mausoleum in the middle of the 17th century as a memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, in the mid- 17th century.
Return to the hotel for breakfast, and then drive to Jaipur (245 Km).
On our way to Jaipur we visit Fatehpur Sikri, a mysterious and abandoned Mughal city. This expansive city was built in red sandstone in the 16th century by Akbar one of the greatest leaders of India. Here you will find a fusion of Muslim and Hindu style architecture which is a reflection of Akbar’s vision to integrate these cultures. Fatehpur Sikri was inhabited for 14 years before it was abandoned; some believe because of the scarcity of water. After careful restoration, this city has become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We then commence our trip to Jaipur also called the Pink City. As the nickname suggests, it is indeed a pink city, with the majority of its buildings made from pink sandstone. King, Sawai Jai Singh II established Jaipur in 1727 in accordance with the age-old Hindu discourse on sculpture and architecture- Shilpa Shastras, There are several propositions made as to why it is called the Pink City. Some say that it was a welcome gesture for the visit of Edward VII in 1876. Others intimate that it is because Lord Shiva loved the color pink and Maharaja Jai Singh II was very devoted to him. Yet it is also thought that it is simply that pink was the customary color for hospitality.
We go to the hotel after arriving in Jaipur and spend the night there. Overnight in Jaipur.
As we wind down our Yoga India Tour we will explore Jaipur in the morning, with our first stop being the Hawa Mahal also called the Palace of Winds. The exterior of this building is a wonderful sight to behold and probably the most photographed place in Jaipur. It has decoratively carved windows that were specially styled so that the royal ladies could watch the events on the streets below without anyone seeing them.
We then travel to the historic Amber Fort located some 11km from Jaipur and sitting high on a hill. You can choose to get to the top of the hill to the palace by jeep or if you are the adventurous type, opt for a ride on the back of an Elephant. The road is long and winding and you will pass the beautiful Maota Lake before you reach the top of the hill and the Victory Gate’, Jai Pol. It is here that the treasures from the wars were displayed. Amber Fort, the medieval capital of the Kachhawaha Rajputs who ascribed their loyalty to Moghul rulers, is snuggled in the midst of the Aravalli Hill. You will find elaborate royal rooms that are decorated with jali-works (perforated stone or latticed screen) and corners that kept candles which showed the light from small mirrors and murals. Two of the most intriguing parts of the tour of Amber Fort are the compartments for the wives and concubines of the Maharajah and the magnificent hall of mirrors, with minute arched mirrors fixed in the ceilings and walls like a mosaic.
We continue our tour to the City Palace, the King of Jaipur’s residence. This is another amazing palace displaying sculpted doorways and decorative art. It is an impressive place with lovely palaces, courtyards and gardens. You will also see a fantastic collection of miniature paintings, Rajasthani costumes, carpets, rare manuscripts, and, in the armory section, Mughal and Rajput weapons adorned with enamel and jewels. Not far away is the Jantar Mantar a UNESCO World Heritage site and ancient solar observatory constructed in the latter part of the 1720s. Built by Maharaja Jai Singh, a famous astronomer, this marvel is one of five Jantar Mantars in India and still accurately tells the time and predicts eclipses among other things.
When lunch is finished we go over to the local bazaar for a guided walk around or rickshaw ride. Here you will find barbers and local street vendors selling an extensive variety of items and “Lassi wallas.” It’s a hustle and bustle, typical of life on the streets of India with people, cows, vehicular traffic and pushcarts all competing for space.
In the evening, if you wish we can make an excursion to Chokhi Dhani Village Resort (25 Km), which beautifully depicts the traditions, lifestyle and culture of village life in Rajasthan. Stroll through the village resort accompanied by your guide and enjoy the entertaining traditional Rajasthani dance performances. Browse through the art and craft market. If you feel like why not ride on a camel, elephant, or horse. Feast on the delicious and authentic Rajasthani cuisine.
We have come to the end of a fantastic and spiritually awakening Yoga India Tour. As you say goodbye to your yoga tour in India, you take with you a new sense of life and spirituality. This morning, travel back to Delhi International Airport for your onward or homebound flight.
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In 2014 I was working in Delhi and an Indian colleague fixed me up with a day at the Taj Mahal, organised by Vacation India. It all went smoothly from being met at the train station, taken round the Taj Mahal, the Mini Taj and the Red Fort, entertained to tea with Vikas followed by a stroll round the back streets of Agra.
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12-days individual travel to / from New Delhi, 11 nights in hotels of your choiceTravel Route: New Delhi – Haridwar – Rishikesh – Agra – Fatehpur Sikri – Jaipur
|Season||Hotel Category||Per person in double room|
|01/10/2015 – 15/04/2016||Deluxe||Price on Request|
|16/04/2016 – 30/09/2016||Deluxe||Price on Request|
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