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For thousands of years pilgrims have known that reverently visiting places made holy by saints, and feeling the sacred presence that still permeates those sites, opens one’s heart and mind as nothing else can. The Ananda travels' pilgrimage will change and deepen you in ways you would never have thought possible. The memories of these experiences will last a lifetime, making God’s presence an ever-deeper reality for you.
All hotels have been personally inspected by Ananda. You will stay in a clean, Western-style, comfortable but not luxurious two or three-star hotel rooms with attached bath. If you book a shared room and you or your roommate decides to change to private accommodations, both of you will need to pay the single occupancy rate, provided another room is available, of course. Also, if you request a shared accommodation but there is no one to share with you, you’ll need to pay the single occupancy rate.
The Expanding Light Retreat many connections in India insure that you will have a variety of unique and deeply moving spiritual and social experiences. You will experience both the exotic quality of India and the loving warmth and joy of its native people.
This Pilgrimage is based upon the tradition and lineage of Kriya Yoga as brought to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi).
This trip is extremely well thought out, based on years of experience, to give you countless opportunities for inner inspiration. Great saints and holy people have sanctified each place with their vibrations. The spiritual energy of the group with everyone meditating, practicing yoga, and sharing together, tends to give each person a deeper experience of their own soul nature and of God’s presence within.
Traveling as a group often draws adventures and experiences that one might not have if traveling alone. Deep bonds of friendship form during the great journey together. The last pilgrimage included a wedding ceremony on the banks of the Ganges River for a young couple in the group. It was a memorable, joy-filled event for both pilgrims and local Indians.
The benefits of traveling with this Ananda Travels leaders are many. You can know that all your needs for high standards of comfort, cleanliness, harmony, and meaningful travel will be taken care of. The tour leader team from America and India are committed to help you feel cared for and safe at all times. The Expanding Light Retreat has long-term relationships with wonderful hotels, tour guides, and restaurants.
On Sunday, October 1, or that night, most pilgrims will land in New Delhi, the capital of India, and transfer to the hotel. A bus and guide will meet you upon arrival and take you to your lodging, a small hotel in a neighborhood which offers to walk, shops, and a large park.
The first day will be one of rest and orientation. A short walk from the hotel Ananda has a meditation center where you’ll have lunch and an opening gathering, and you can change dollars for rupees. You will be joined by Keshava and Daya Taylor, who direct the Ananda center, have been organizing the Indian logistics of the trip, and will travel with you, helping Krishnadas and Mantradevi lead the pilgrimage.
In the afternoon, you can visit a fascinating Jain temple. You will have dinner together at a restaurant close to the hotel. Delhi will serve as a home base for the pilgrimage. You will return two more times during the trip, to rest and re-group. To reach the destinations within India you will take several one to two-hour flights, some trains (first-class when available), and chartered buses.
Leaving some of the belongings in Delhi will allow you to travel around India with smaller bags. The Ananda center in Delhi will also serve as a peaceful place for meditation, rest, and home-cooked meals.
The highlight of this trip is the beautiful quiet hillside, in the foothills of the Himalayas at an elevation of 6600 feet, where Lahiri Mahasaya is said to have first met Mahavatar Babaji in 1861, and which contains the cave where Lahiri spent a previous incarnation. Babaji gave Lahiri Kriya Yoga initiation on this spot, thus launching its spread around the world. You will spend most of a day together on this hillside, taking turns meditating in the cave itself.
This quiet area of the Kumaon region has a strong spiritual vibration and also offers saints, ashrams, and stunning Himalayan views.
After meditation and breakfast, you will board buses for a ride through the hills. Along the way, you will stop to meditate at the spiritually powerful ashram of Neem Karoli Baba, a renowned Kumaon Hills’ saint, at Kainchi.
You will arrive late afternoon at Woodsvilla Resort, the hotel near Ranikhet, where spectacular views of the Himalayas await you (clouds permitting!).
After an early breakfast, you will take the bus about two hours through the hills to Babaji’s cave, hike up to meditate in the cave and on the surrounding hillside, then walk down later in the day, returning to Ranikhet in time for dinner.
You will drive through the hills, take an afternoon train, and arrive in Delhi late evening. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) was the Indian politician and spiritual leader who created the non-violent movement which led to India's freedom from Britain. ‘Gandhi Smritti’ is where he spent the last months of his life and where he was killed. There is an inspiring museum and shrine dedicated to him.
Breakfast available at hotel, followed by a free day in Delhi and lunch at Ananda center. There is an optional outing to Gandhi Smritti and Dilli Haat, a large crafts market.
You will leave Delhi early morning for Agra, 3.5 hours by bus. There you will explore the Taj Mahal, India’s most famous architectural wonder, known as the most beautiful tomb in the world. You will return by bus, stopping at a luxury hotel for lunch, arriving Delhi mid-afternoon.
You will take a 07:00 flight from Delhi to Puri, a small city halfway down India’s east coast. For The Expanding Light Retreat, the highlight of Puri is Swami Sri Yukteswar’s seaside hermitage and the place of his burial. Sri Yukteswar was the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda. His life is richly chronicled in Yogananda’s life story, Autobiography of a Yogi.
You will meditate each day at the powerful Samadhi Mandir over the spot where Sri Yukteswar's body is buried in the sands. You'll also see the enormous Jagannath temple, and enjoy chanting and meditation on the beach. You will spend three nights at Coco Palms Beach Resort on the Bay of Bengal, with a sea view and within walking distance, along the beach, of Sri Yukteswar's hermitage. The resort offers a sandy beach, a pool, and private terraces.
The Expanding Light Retreat will offer energization exercises and meditation on the beach in the morning, and yoga and kirtan at sunset. Recounting stories from Autobiography of a Yogi, many of which took place in Puri, we’ll feel the blessings of Sri Yukteswar and Yogananda, as present today as decades ago. We’ll visit and meditate in the ashram of Sanyal Mahasaya, a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. Our time in Puri will be fulfilling and inspiring, but not demanding. The relaxed seaside location is a perfect introduction to India and a transition into the rhythm of pilgrimage.
A morning flight brings you north of Kolkata (Calcutta) by lunch. Immeasurable blessings emanate from the places where Paramhansa Yogananda and Sri Yukteswar lived and meditated. That power is as alive today as always. Ananda has been leading pilgrimages to Kolkata, the most popular destination, for 25 years, and The Expanding Light Retreat shares a deep friendship with Yogananda’s family and other custodians of these shrines.
Arriving in the teeming city of Kolkata, you will bus from the airport to the hotel, Monotel. Later in the afternoon you will go to Yogananda’s boyhood home at 4 Garpar Road. It’s now the residence of his brother’s grandson, Somnath Ghosh. Somnath, his wife, and two daughters lovingly maintain the home and share it as a shrine.
They will welcome you as one of the family, sharing stories, family relics, and photos. Many rare and original photos and paintings exist here that will inspire and delight you.
You will visit, chant, and meditate in several rooms of this sacred house: the living room, where Sri Yukteswar would visit Yogananda’s father; the small attic meditation room where Yogananda said, “I found God,” and where he communed with Divine Mother; and Yogananda’s bedroom where Babaji came to give his blessing to Yogananda who was chosen to take the timeless teachings of yoga to the west. You will return to the hotel for dinner.
After breakfast, you will bus to the home of Tulsi Bose, Yogananda’s boyhood friend. Here in this tiny out-of-the-way home filled with high vibrations have gathered spiritual giants, who came for fellowship, chanting and God-communion. Yogananda stayed there during his return visit to India in 1935-36, cared for by Tulsi’s wife, Martan Ma. It’s now the residence of Tulsi’s daughter, Hassi.
You will meditate in this home, a shrine in its own right, with many relics and treasures, including the beds of Sri Yukteswar and Yogananda. Hassi will greet you, be with you, and serve you lunch. Hassi’s late husband, Devi Mukherjee, told many family stories in his book, Shaped by Saints.
After lunch, you will walk to the ashram of Bhaduri Mahasaya, the “levitating saint,” and meditate there.
Then you will drive to the Kali Temple in Dakshineswar, just outside Kolkata on the banks of the Ganges delta. Yogananda visited this temple with his sister Roma and her husband. Here he entered cosmic consciousness and the image of Kali came alive before him, granting his request that Roma’s husband be spiritually awakened. You will chant and meditate at this powerful spot.
Sri Ramakrishna, one of the best-known masters of modern India, lived at this temple many years along with Sarada Devi, his spiritual companion. You will be able to meditate in his room, where he and his disciples spent many hours a day. In the early evening, you will drive back to the hotel.
On this day, you will return and spend a longer time at 4 Garpar Road, chanting and meditating in the sacred places of Yogananda’s childhood. You will also share a devotional ceremony and enjoy lunch with Yogananda’s family. You will have free time in Kolkata later in the day.
You will travel by bus to Serampore, the town where Sri Yukteswar had his hermitage, and where Yogananda spent ten years in training with his guru. You will meditate in a shrine built on the site of the hermitage. You will then walk down Rai Ghat Lane to sing chants under the banyan tree where Babaji greeted Sri Yukteswar after he completed writing The Holy Science.
You will also visit and have lunch with other members of Yogananda’s family, descended from Meera Ghosh. You will return to the hotel early evening.
After group meditation and breakfast, you will have free time, departing around noon for a flight to Varanasi. Dinner will be on the hotel roof terrace, overlooking the Ganges.
The ancient and holy city of Varanasi (also known as Benares, and in ancient times as Kashi) radiates timeless wisdom. Many of India's greatest saints, like Adi Shankaracharya, Gautama Buddha, and Mahavatar Babaji lived here.
It was in Varanasi that Paramhansa Yogananda first met Swami Sri Yukteswar. And there lived the now famous, but ever humble, Lahiri Mahasaya who, with the blessing of Mahavatar Babaji, resurrected Kriya Yoga and began a quiet revolution that has spread and continues to grow around the world.
You will meditate at Lahiri Mahasaya's grandson's home which has relics and Lahiri's ashes. You will see Dasaswamedh Ghat where Babaji and his sister, Mataji, appeared before Ram Gopal Muzumdar. Another stop will be the temple of Trailanga Swami, Lahiri Mahasaya's 300-year-old friend, with whom he'd sometimes meditate.
The two hotels, a short walk from the Ganga, permits easy travel by boat. The hotels are also a ten-minute walk to the ashram where Ananda Moyi Ma lived, and where you will meditate. You will take a boat ride on the Ganga, chanting, meditating, and watching the sun rise; and at sunset, you will witness the Ganga arati ceremony.
You will visit peaceful Sarnath, just outside Varanasi, the place of Buddha's first discourse after achieving enlightenment.
You will join an energization on the hotel terrace, then walk to Ananda Moyi Ma’s for meditation followed by breakfast. Go by boat to Shibendu Lahiri’s ashram, meditate with relics. Later, walk to Dasaswamedh ghat and market area and enjoy free time. Return to hotel by boat or walking along ghats
There is an evening boat ride, you will chant, make flower offering, watch arati ceremony at sunset and finally, have dinner at hotel
Get a sunrise boat ride, chanting, meditation, and visit Trailanga Swami’s ashram, later you will get breakfast, followed by free time, a late afternoon boat ride with a chant, make flower offering, evening meditation on a boat, and finally dinner at the hotel.
For those ending their pilgrimage on this day (not going on to Pune), the flight will depart from Delhi late evening. This will be a free day with optional outing of some sort or you may just want to pack and rest at Ananda center.
in the morning, you will flight to Pune. Pune is a smaller city, midway down the west coast of India, inland from Mumbai (Bombay). You will drive 1.5 hours to visit Ananda’s rural community, in a beautiful location in the countryside, 30 miles outside of Pune. Lunch, orientation, and tour of the community are included.
The fledgling Ananda community has already built a number of houses, included a guest house. Volunteers from around India and other countries are helping establish the community. It also has a small monastery. Currently under construction are thirty independent apartments, and a Temple of Light is in the plans.
During this retreat, you will visit Calcutta, Dakshineswar, Serampore, Puri, the foothills of Himilayas, Delhi, Varanasi, the Ganges River, Agra including the Taj Mahal, and Ananda Pune. These are carefully selected places of spiritual power in India, especially important to devotees of Kriya yoga.
This retreat includes two meals per day for 11 days, usually breakfast and dinner and three meals for seven days. All restaurants and menus have been personally inspected by Ananda. Meals are vegetarian, are frequently served buffet-style, and include a variety of Indian, Western, and Asian dishes, prepared in personally tested restaurants and hotels.
Please book your flight to arrive at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL).Transfer from and to the airport is included. The organizer will pick you up from the airport.