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The Sapta Puri are places of birth of religious and spiritual masters, places where Gods have descended as avatars (incarnations) such as Ayodhya where Rama was born, and places considered as Nitya tirthas, naturally endowed, with spiritual powers since ages such as Varanasi and Haridwar. You will travel to four out of the seven Sapta Puri along with other historical and important spiritual sites. Be prepared to leave behind who you thought you were and step into the heart of who you really are.
Throughout this retreat, you will be accommodated in various accommodations for 15 nights.
Welcome to India! You will arrive today at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL). Following customs, immigration formalities, and baggage collection, your tour guide will meet you after which you would be transferred to your hotel. Unpack and unwind enjoying the night in Delhi.
After your delicious breakfast, you will pack up and take a scenic eight-hour bus ride right to the Himalayas and the holy city of Rishikesh. One of the holiest cities in India, Rishikesh is not just known for its religious connection but also for its beautiful landscape. Surrounded by hills (the Lesser Himalayas) on three sides and holy Ganga River flowing through it, Rishikesh is an ethereal experience.
Rishikesh is the gateway to famous Char Dham which are Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. In fact, Rishikesh is a favorite of those who are coming to meditate and seek salvation. It is believed that meditation on the land of this holy place leads to salvation. Every year, many people come here in the ashrams to meditate and gain peace of mind.
The place is also very popular with foreigners who come to India in search of a spiritual quest. Rishikesh is famous for its ashrams on the banks of Ganga. At many such ashrams, yoga is practiced and taught regularly. Such is the feeling of Rishikesh that even Beatles could not escape from the magical experience.
They had visited India in 1960 to pay a visit to their Guru in Rishikesh. What else works in Rishikesh’s favor is its altitude (1,360 meters). It is higher than other holy cities of Haridwar and Varanasi, the water in Ganga here is cooler and cleaner. The flow of the river is stronger here and the city is less populated than others. It is calmer and peaceful here. It is such a beauty, the water gushing from the Himalayas, the banks dotted with ashrams and temples (both ancient and recent), and a hilly landscape in the background of all this. Rishikesh is truly amazing.
After buffet breakfast at the hotel, you will leave for the sightseeing. Drive to Vashishta Guha or cave which was about 25 kilometers away from Rishikesh. This is a place which is huddled in the middle of high range hills all around with mother Ganga flowing to the right of the cave.
Mythology says the great sage Vashishta did penance here 3,000 years ago. The compound has a temple, small accommodation for the ashram occupants, and the cave. The entrance of the cave does not give any hint of what is there inside. Apparently, sages from the remote and higher parts of the Himalaya come down in their astral bodies to that part of the cave for meditation.
Later, you will have a visit to a waterfall. This is a two-kilometer trek (one side). You will enjoy the waterfall and back to the hotel. After that, you will head back after a full day of exploring to have a wonderful group dinner at the hotel.
Rise and shine for morning yoga overlooking the Ganges followed by yummy breakfast at the hotel. Today, you have a full day to explore, shop, and soak in all that Rishikesh has to offer. You won’t be at a lack of things to do and take in, so enjoy to the fullest.
You will start the day with some refreshing morning yoga overlooking the rushing waters of mother Ganga, followed by breakfast and some free time to get those last little bits in. Around midday, you will make the short trek over to the colorful city of Haridwar and arrive at Havilla on the Ganga.
You will have time to settle in before heading out for evening Aarti on the water and experience one of the favorite spots to offer prayer and gratitude. Dinner will be enjoyed back at the hotel and most likely a deep and restful sleep after a full day of exploring.
Morning yoga and optional bathing in the Ganga with your own private Ghat is how you will start the day. After breakfast, you have the option to get out and explore Haridwar and its crazily filled alleys of treasure. This city has stellar bronze deity statues if that is what you crave with so many to choose from. You will join up again for another magical evening Aarti followed by a rooftop dinner if the weather permitting.
Today is an exciting travel day so it's an early rise with breakfast and then you will head to the train station for a classic voyage through India’s countryside. This scenic nine-hour journey will give you much to see and memories to last a lifetime as you head to your next destination, Lucknow.
After yoga and breakfast at the hotel, you will visit Bara Imambara. It was built by Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Awadh, in 1784. It is also called the Asafi Imambara. Bara means big and an Imambara is a shrine built by Shia Muslims for the purpose of Azadari. The Bara Imambara is among the grandest buildings of Lucknow.
Later, drive to Ayodhya the land of Lord Ram. You will also head over to Hanumangarhi temple and hear great stories of this ideal devotee and his many adventures in service to the great Lord Ram. Surely famished, you top of the evening with dinner at the hotel before a restful night of sleep.
Morning yoga and nourishing breakfast set you up for your next destination of Allahabad. This is another fun travel day and a great way to take in the sites of India.
After another refreshing morning yoga session to ward off any stiffness, you fuel up with breakfast at the hotel. From there, you will head out to visit Triveni Sangam. In Hindu tradition, Triveni Sangam is the confluence of three rivers. Sangama is the Sanskrit word for confluence. The point of confluence is a sacred place for Hindus. A bath here is said to flush away all of one’s sins and free one from the cycle of rebirth. Later, come back to the hotel. Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.
A new day, a new city! After a refreshing morning practice and fulfilling breakfast, you will jump on your bus and head towards Varanasi. On your way, you will stop and visit Sarnath, a major Buddhist center.
Sarnath lies 10 kilometers northeast of Varanasi. It was here that Buddha preached his message of the ’middle way’ to nirvana after achieving enlightenment at Bodhgaya. In around 234 BC, Emperor Ashoka, a great follower of Buddhism, erected a stupa here. Between the third century BC and the 11th century AD, several Buddhist structures were built here in Sarnath.
Most of the Sarnath’s monuments are set in large gardens making it quite pleasant for a visitor to spend some time here. The Buddha Purnima festival is held here in May to celebrate the birth of Lord Buddha. Walk barefoot on the holy land of Sarnath to get the real essence of spiritual life.
Later, board your vehicle to reach Ghats, the vehicle can go until a point and from there you will walk / rickshaw ride through the narrow lanes of the city to see the hustle bustle of daily lives to reach Ghat (Dasashwamedh Ghat) and from there, embark your boat to witness the famous Aarti of Ghats. After Aarti, disembark your boat and proceed to the hotel. Dinner and overnight stay will be at the hotel.
Today in the early morning, you will embark your boats again to visit the Ghats witnessing the Hindu pilgrims perform the rituals and following the centuries-old tradition and belief that by dying in Varanasi or by immersing the mortal remains in the holy Ganges, it clears one from the birth circle and you are incarnated to human life in the next birth.
You will be taking a boat cruise on the river Ganges around all the ghats and stopping at the important ones. The riverfront, as seen from a boat, early in the morning, is a spiritually uplifting sight and incredibly peaceful yet powerful.
Later, come back to the hotel, enjoy leisurely breakfast before having the whole day to explore the wild alley of this famed city, making sure to sip lassi of exotic flavors at Blue Lassi. Saffron Cardamon is an all-time favorite! Later in the evening, enjoy Aarti at Ghats one last time to make sure to light a prayer boat for well wishes for those you love. Top it off with group dinner and story swapping of a day surely filled with wonder.
Travel day! And you are off, saying goodbye to Varanasi and making the journey to the holy land of Vrindavan. It's a full day with a flight and travel, giving you loads more to see the vast lands of India. Welcome to the land of Krishna and its sweet Bhakti Lilas. If you listen closely, you might hear the sound of Krishna’s flute in the wind. Lucky for you, you arrive just before the great spring celebration of Holi and in the heart of it all. Truly a blessing worth being thankful for.
Hold onto your sunglasses! The epic monkeys here will be waiting to snatch them or a sweet treat and this isn’t exaggerating. The sanctuary of the residents will be your home for the next few days, central to the temples, and located in the heart of the festivities. Make sure to be properly equipped for this holiday because once you step outside, expect to be fully covered at any moment in colored powder.
Step out in the glory of Holi Festival with your color and gear and celebrate this welcoming of spring! With 24-hour Kirtans nearby, the Yamuna to visit, and several holy sites within the city, you won’t be at a lack to take in all of the places you’ve heard about in your yoga class. You top off the night with a group dinner and an optional visit to the temple for Kirtan bliss.
Yoga and breakfast to start the day as Holi is celebrated nationwide today. Rest of the day will be at leisure. Dinner and overnight stay will be at the hotel. Later drive back to Vrindavan. Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.
It is sad to say goodbye, but it's been one incredible ride. Today, wish each other well on your journey back home and plan to meet again soon. Thank Mother India for her love and support and know that her red earth stained not only human feet but also hearts forever. Try keeping your eyes dry on the ride back to Delhi to board your international flight back home.
On this retreat, you will visit Delhi, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Lucknow, Ayodhya, Allahabad, Varanasi, and Vrindavan.
New Delhi is all at once chaotic and calm, a complicated city where cows often wander the shanty-lined streets. The 17th century Red Fort is a mass of domes and turrets, while Chandni Chowk is an exercise in friendly haggling. Jantar Mantar features larger-than-life sundials and astronomical instruments that are still used to predict the weather. Travelers and locals flock to the India Gate, the national monument of India that honors the soldiers who died in World War I and the Third Afghan War.
Ever since the Beatles rocked up at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late ’60s, Rishikesh has been a magnet for spiritual seekers. It is known as the ‘Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas‘ and ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, with masses of ashrams and all kinds of yoga and meditation classes.
The exquisite setting on the fast-flowing Ganges, surrounded by forested hills, is conducive to meditation and mind expansion. In the evening, an almost supernatural breeze blows down the valley, setting temple bells ringing as sadhus (‘holy’ men), pilgrims and tourists prepare for the nightly Ganga Aarti (river worship ceremony).
You can learn to play the sitar or tabla; try Hasya yoga (laughter therapy), practice meditation or take a punt on crystal healing. Due to the religious significance of the place, non-vegetarian food and alcohol are strictly prohibited in Rishikesh.
Haridwar is one of the most important Hindu pilgrim places of India. Haridwar has very rich religious and cultural heritage. In the Hindu scriptures, Haridwar is known by the name of Mayapur.
“Haridwar”, also written as “Hardwar”, literally means “gateway to god Vishnu (Hari)” or “gateway to god Shiva (Har)”. It is the holiest city in the state of Uttarakhand. It is strategically located (29.96°N 78.16°E) on the western bank of the river Ganges as it emerges into the plains at the exact location where the Har Ki Pauri ghat has been built to facilitate pilgrims to take a holy bath.
It is thus also called the Gangadwara, the place where the Ganges descends to the plains. Every year, thousands of people flock to Haridwar, also called Hardwar, to bathe at the Har Ki Pauri ghat (ghat is an embankment structure built out of stone slabs leading to the river edge to facilitate bathing) since it is believed that the feet of Vishnu are imprinted on a rock preserved here. Every evening at sunset time at the ghat, thousands of pilgrims offer Aarti, a Hindu ritual of offering lights of earthen lamps on small floating leaf holders with flowers, as the temple bells reverberate amidst chanting of hymns.
Legend from Hindu scriptures state that Haridwar is one among the four sites where drops of Amrita, the elixir of immortality, accidentally spilled over from the pitcher, in which it was being carried away by the celestial bird Garuda, after the Samudra manthan (churning of the ocean); the other three places are said to be Ujjain, Nasik, and Allahabad.
Ayodhya is an ancient city of India, the old capital of Awadh, in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. Owing to the belief as the birthplace of Rama, Ayodhya (Awadh) has been regarded as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites (Saptapuri) for Hindus. It is believed that the birth spot of Rama was marked by a temple, which was demolished by the orders of the Mughal emperor Babur and a mosque erected in its place.
It is on the right bank of the river Sarayu, 555 kilometers east of New Delhi. The word 'ayodhya' is Sanskrit for “not to be warred against”. There is a surfeit of temples in this town, numbering over 100. Some of the important ones are: Temple of Rama and his consort Sita, called the Kanak Bhavan; Hanuman temple called the Hanuman Garhi on top of a hill where, apart from a Hanuman statue in a sitting posture, there is also a six inches (15 centimeters) tall image of Hanuman always bedecked by flowers; the Kshireshwaranath temple of Sita, established by Kausalya, Rama’s mother.
In addition, there are several kunds or ponds and ghats (bathing steps to approach river or tank water level) with linkage to mythological characters; such as the Brahma kund built in honour of Brahma’s visit here, Sita kund, Bharat kund, Lakshman ghat where Lakshman, Rama’s brother took bath, Rama ghat (also called Swargadwar meaning gateway to heaven).
Varanasi is the oldest and the most sacred place for the Hindus. Varanasi, also known as the holy city, combines in itself the cultural essence and mysticism of India. Varanasi stands on the banks of river Ganga in the Uttar Pradesh state of North India.
As a major religious hub in India, it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism. According to legend, Varanasi was founded by the god Shiva.
There happened a fight between the two supreme gods, Brahma and Shiva, and the succeeding combat resulted in one of the four heads of Brahma being torn off by Shiva. It was a custom of the time that the victor carried the slain adversary’s head in his hand and let it hang down from his hand as an act of ignominy and a sign of his own bravery.
A bridle was also put into the mouth. Shiva thus dishonored Brahma’s head and kept it with him at all times. When he came to the city of Varanasi in this state, the hanging head of Brahma dropped from Shiva’s hand and disappeared into the ground. The land of Varanasi is therefore considered an extremely holy religious site.
Allahabad is among the largest cities in Uttar Pradesh. Hindu mythology has it that for the Prakrishta Yajna, Lord Brahma, the creator God of the Trinity, chose a land on earth, on which the three rivers would flow into a quiet confluence.
Brahma also referred to it as Tirth Raj or the King of all pilgrimage centers. Recorded evidence also exists in the revered scriptures (the Vedas and the grand epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as also in the Puranas) of this holy place formerly called Prayag.
Allahabad stands at the confluence of two of India’s holiest rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna. Sangam, as the confluence is called, is the venue of many sacred fairs and rituals, and attracts thousands of pilgrims throughout the year. This number swells to millions during the world-famous Kumbh Mela.
An annual Magh Mela is also held in Allahabad around the Sangam areas in the month of January (Magh is the name of a month in Hindu calendar). A third mythical Saraswati river, believed to flow underground towards the Sangam, gives the confluence its other name, Triveni.
Vrindavan, just 15 kilometers from Mathura, is another major place of pilgrimage. It is noted for its numerous temples - both old and modern. The name Vrindavan evokes the playfulness and lovable characteristics of Shri Krishna. This is the wood where he frolicked with the gopis and tenderly wooed Radha.
Vrindavan, the land of Krishna’s ‘raas-leela’ with the gopis, is where Holi celebrations start at least a week before the actual festival. Vrindavan has an ancient past, associated with Hindu history, and is an important Hindu pilgrimage site. One of its oldest surviving temples is the Govinda Deva temple, built in 1590, with the town founded earlier in the same century.
The essence of Vrindavan was lost over time until the 16th century when it was rediscovered by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In the year 1515, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Vrindavana, with the purpose of locating the lost holy places associated with Lord Sri Krishna’s transcendent pastimes.
Chaitanya wandered through the different sacred forests of Vrindavana in a spiritual trance of divine love. It was believed that by His divine spiritual power, He was able to locate all the important places of Krishna’s pastimes in and around Vrindavana.
Vrindavan is considered to be a holy place for Vaisnavism tradition of Hinduism. It is a center of Krishna worship and the area includes places like Govardhana and Gokul that are associated with Krishna.
You can drive to Agra (80 Kilometers / one - two hours) and visit Taj Mahal (closed on Fridays). The Taj Mahal is everything that has been said about it and more. Taking 22 years and 20,000 men to build, the white marble was quarried 200 miles away and was transported to the site by a fleet of 1,000 elephants.
Though the Taj appears to be amazingly perfect from almost any angle, it is the close-up marble inlay work, which is really astounding. You will have ample time to view and be mesmerized by this outstanding piece of architecture.
Meaning crown of the palace, Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna River in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned 1628 - 1658), to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenelated wall. The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”.
Please book your flight to arrive at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL).
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