21260
India

India’s Holy Ganges River: Rituals, History and the Sacred City of Varanasi

Set sail on a voyage of discovery as you enjoy expert-led excursions to sacred sites, vibrant cities, traditional villages and architectural wonders along the holy Ganges River.
Rating (5)
Program No. 21260RJ
Length
17 days
Starts at
4,299
Flights start at
950
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17 days
16 nights
41 meals
14 B 14 L 13 D
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrival Kolkata, Check-In
Kolkata
Taj Bengal, Kolkata

Activity note: 2:00 p.m. hotel check-in available. Arrivals throughout the day. There is no official programming on this day. Orientation and Welcome Dinner the following day.

Afternoon: Flight arrivals to Kolkata are usually in the late afternoon or early evening. Once you have gone through immigration and customs, enter the main arrivals hall. A Road Scholar representative will meet you and coordinate the transfer from the airport to the program hotel in Kolkata.

Dinner: On our own. Due to arrivals throughout the day and evening, dinner is not provided today. The hotel has a selection off restaurants, bar and room service. The Group Leader will also be happy to provide suggestions.

Evening: At leisure, relax after a very long day of travel.

DAY
3
Orientation, Jain Temple, Kumortuli, Tagore's Home
Kolkata
B,L,D
Taj Bengal, Kolkata

Activity note: We will be meeting up with Road Scholar Group #21644, "A Spiritual and Cultural Journey: India’s Golden Triangle and Holy Ganges River." The group will have just completed the Golden Triangle in Jaipur and will now be joining our group in Kolkata and for the duration of our trip up the Ganges River. Today’s visit is by metro, coach and rickshaw rides. Up to 2 miles walking today. When visiting the Jain Temple, shoes will need to be removed, you may want to bring an extra pair of socks.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet with bottled water, coffee/tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Morning: Immediately after breakfast convene at the hotel with other participants for our Program Orientation. We will meet up with Road Scholar Group #21644, "A Spiritual and Cultural Journey: India’s Golden Triangle and Holy Ganges River." The group will have just completed the Golden Triangle in Jaipur and will now be joining our group as we cruise on the Ganges River. We will gather in our private meeting room where the Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances or weather. River conditions and water levels could affect the progress of the ship, making it run late and sometimes miss ports because it is not safe to dock. Because of this, the cruise itinerary should always be regarded as provisional. The operators reserve the right to change the content of field trips and excursions without prior notice. We board our private motorcoach and depart for Bengali Kolkata with a visit to the Jain Temple, one of the most revered and holy shrines of the Jains in Kolkata. The temple is known not only for its beauty but also for its spiritual atmosphere that attracts a lot of faithful devotees. Next we will board a tram and continue to explore Kumortuli, a Potters colony where large Hindu Gods are created by the community there. Then explore the Shobhabazar (also spelled Sovabazar) grounds, one of the oldest royal houses of Kolkata aristocracy. Afterwards, board our motorcoach and depart for lunch at nearby restaurant.

Lunch: At a local restaurant with bottled water, coffee/tea; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch board our motorcoach for a field trip to explore Jurasanko Thakurbari (Rabindranath Tagore's ancestral house), now a museum dedicated to the life and works of India’s greatest modern poet and Nobel Laureate. After touring the home, we will return to the hotel for dinner.

Dinner: 'Welcome Dinner' with bottled water, coffee/tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Mother Teresa's Orphanage, Embark Ship, Colonial Kolkata
Kalna
B,L,D
Heritage Cruise Lines’ R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Walking .5 miles, mainly on even surfaces with a few steps up. Embark ship for lunch. Afternoon sightseeing provided by the ship. Return to ship and sail throughout the night towards Kalna.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Check out of the hotel and board our motorcoach for a field trip to Mother Teresa’s House. Spend the morning learning about Mother Teresa and her mission in India. Visit the Mission of Charity Foundation and gain a deeper understanding of this unique woman and her cause. Return to the motorcoach and we depart for the Jetty in Kolkata to embark the ship.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: After lunch board our motorcoach for an excursion to drive past British Colonial Kolkata. We explore Dalhousie Square that houses several Colonial/Heritage monuments like Writer’s Building, General Post Office, High Court, Raj Bhawan (Governor’s Palace), Town Hall, Council House, Treasury Building and the Reserve Bank of India. We then visit St. John’s Church and the Victoria Memorial for a photo stop and walk in the gardens. St. John’s Church, originally a cathedral, which was among the first public buildings erected by the East India Company after Kolkata became the effective capital of British India. It was modeled according to the St Martin-in-the-Fields of London. The Victoria Memorial is a grand marble building built during 1906-1921 in the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901). The Memorial lies on the Maidan (grounds) by the bank of the Hooghly River. Return to the rivership to caste off for Kalna. Once aboard and checked in to our cabins, we will meet in the saloon for safety briefing.

Dinner: Ship introduction and evening briefing at the Saloon Bar for briefing on next days program. 'Welcome Dinner' on board the ship with bottled water, coffee/tea; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Post dinner tea/coffee served in the saloon. Our upstream journey towards Kalna sails through the areas where the different European settlers had established their respective East Indian Companies leaving back reminiscence of their settlements during the period of 17th to 19th century.

DAY
5
Kalna, Sail to Matiari
Matiari
B,L,D
Heritage Cruise Lines’ R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: While sailing on the Ganges River we will have on-shore excursions throughout the cruise. Depending on the water levels, some locations will have a jetty to disembark while others may require small boats to go ashore. Today sail Kalna to Matiari. In Kalna, take a 10 minute cycle rickshaw ride to and from the temple complex. Walking in approximately 1 hour inside temple complex with mainly even surfaces and a few steps to climb up. Moor overnight near Matiari.

Breakfast: Early morning tea/coffee served on sundeck. Breakfast on board in the dining room.

Morning: After breakfast we ride cycle rickshaws to visit the enchanting Rajbari Temple complex in Kalna. The temples of Kalna take elements from mosques and temple architecture to create a new congregational space of worship. On one side of the road lies the Nabakailas Temples. Built in 1809 by the Bardhaman Maharaja, it contains 108 'aat-chala' or “eight slope-roofed” Shiva temples arranged in two concentric circles. The outer circle consists of 74 temples of alternate black and white lingams; while the 34 temples of the inner circle have only white lingams. On the other side of the road lies a walled complex, containing the most diversified form of Bengal’s temple architecture: Pratapeshwar Temple, contains terra cotta plaques depicting themes of Hindu epics and mythical life of saints, gods & goddesses and various aspects of day-to-day life. The other notable temples here are the Lalji temple, Krishnachandra temple and the flat roofed temple of Giri Govardhan. Return to the ship and cruise towards Matiari.

Lunch: On board.

Afternoon: Rest and relax on the rooftop sundeck and observe life along the Ganges river. Enjoy a talk about India on board the ship with an onboard guide.

Dinner: Evening briefing at the Saloon Bar for briefing on next days program. Dinner on board the ship.

Evening: Tea/coffee served. Rest and relax or enjoy a documentary film presentation at the Saloon Bar. Arrive nearby Matiari and moor for the night.

DAY
6
Matiari Pottery Village, Plassey, Sail to Murshidabad
Murshidabad
B,L,D
Heritage Cruise Lines’ R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Shore excursion in Matiari, limited walking around the village. Sail from Matiari to Murshidabad. Arrive Murshidabad and moor for the night.

Breakfast: Early morning Tea/Coffee served. Breakfast on board in the dining room.

Morning: Early in the morning we will visit the village of Matiari, which is famous for its work in brass and copper. Here copper is still processed manually. The unique character of the area is that as we start walking towards the village, we can hear loud noises of beating metal coming from all the houses. Stroll in the village and visit some homes to see and experience the different process of the brass making with a chance of buying artifacts and souvenirs. Return to the ship for breakfast. We will cast off towards Murshidabad, sailing past Plassey, which is well known for the battle that took place in 1757 that turned the history of India. The battlefield of Plassey is where Robert Clive of British East India Company defeated the Mogul Nawab, the then ruler of Bengal and his French Allies; establishing the company rule in India which expanded over much of South Asia for the next 190 years.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: Relax on the sundeck and enjoy India at its most idyllic as we cruise towards Murshidabad. Enjoy a talk about India on board the ship with an onboard guide.

Dinner: Evening briefing at the Saloon Bar for briefing on next days program. Dinner on board the ship.

Evening: Arrive at Murshidabad and moor for the night. Tea/coffee served. Enjoy a cultural dance program, combining traditional/classical dances from students of a nearby dance school of the region. The performance will be held on board the ship.

DAY
7
Murshidabad, Sail to Jangipur
Jangipur
B,L,D
Heritage Cruise Lines’ R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Shore excursion to Murshidabad. Total walking today 1.5 miles, around Katra Mosque and to and from museum and around temple grounds. Sail Murshidabad to Jangipur and moor nearby for the night.

Breakfast: Early morning Tea/Coffee served. Breakfast on board in the dining room.

Morning: After breakfast, we will disembark ship and ride a local Tonga (horse cart) to the Katra Mosque, a historically important center for Islamic learning in the 1700's. The word ‘Katra’ means a market and the name was given to the mosque owing to the fact that the place had a large market around the mosque during that time. The mosque is also the final resting place of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan who lies buried in a tomb under the 14 flight of steps leading to the courtyard. Next we ride the Tonga (horse cart) to explore the the Hazarduari Palace grounds and museum. Built during the reign of Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah (1824-1838 AD) by an English architect, Duncan McLeod following the Greek “Doric” style. The palace has more than a thousand real and false doors in the vast corridors. Inside the palace museum one can observe a wide collection of antiquities including various kinds of weapons, oil paintings of Dutch, French and Italian artists, marble, porcelain & stucco statues, rare manuscripts and palanquins mostly belonging to the 18th-19th centuries. Opposite to the Palace is the vast Imambara open only during the religious ceremony time. Return to the ship for lunch and sailing onwards to Jangipur.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: Rest and relax and take in the views of life along the Ganges River. Enjoy a talk about the Holy Ganges River and its importance to India, led by our Group Leader.

Dinner: Evening briefing at the Saloon Bar for briefing on next days program. Dinner on board the ship.

Evening: Tea/coffee served. Rest and relax or enjoy a documentary film presentation at the Saloon Bar.

DAY
8
Sail Jangipur, Farakka, Samtaghat
Samtaghat
B,L,D
Heritage Cruise Lines’ R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Early morning we will set sail towards the Farakka Barrage and cross over the lock gate by mid-day. Today is a full day sailing with no shore excursions as we sail towards Samtaghat, where we will moor overnight.

Breakfast: Early morning Tea/Coffee served. Breakfast on board in the dining room.

Morning: Early morning we sail along a feeder canal navigating up the Hoogly (Hugli) River (lower Ganges) towards Farakka. Traveling through the canal will give us a chance to see the different birds of the region. Late morning, we reach the Farakka Lock that was built during the years of 1963-75. The loch regulates the Ganges water into Bangladesh and India.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will sail on the Ganges towards Samtaghat. Enjoy cruising in Bihar State that borders Nepal. It is divided by the River Ganges, which floods its fertile plains. There is an alcohol ban in Bihar State and no liquor will be available on our rivercruise and land portion over the next few days until we reach Varanasi. Enjoy a presentation about Spirituality in India, led by our Group Leader.

Dinner: Evening briefing at the Saloon Bar for briefing on next days program. Dinner on board the ship.

Evening: Tea/Coffee served. Rest and relax or enjoy a documentary film presentation at the Saloon Bar. Moor overnight in Smtaghat.

DAY
9
Vikramshila University, Sail towards Bateshwarstan
Bateshwar Sthan
B,L,D
Heritage Cruise Lines’ R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Sail today from Samtaghat to Bateshwarsthan. En route we will have on-shore excursion to Vikramshila University. Disembark ship and board private vehicles (15 minute ride) to Vikramshila University; walking at ruins 1/4 mile, mainly flat surfaces with a few stairs. Moor for the night outside Bateshwarsthan.

Breakfast: Early morning Tea/Coffee served. Breakfast on board in the dining room.

Morning: On board, engage in a presentation by our riverboat chef on the herbs and spices used in Indian cooking.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: After lunch, we drive by private vehicles to the excavation site of the Vikramshila University and walk around the ruins. Established by King Dharampala in late 8th or early 9th Century A.D. Vikramshila University was one of the two most important centers of Buddhist learning in India during the reign of the Pala dynasty along with Nalanda University. Vikramshila was one of the largest Buddhist universities having more than one hundred teachers and about one thousand students. Subjects like theology, philosophy, grammar, meta-physics and logic were taught here. We return to the ship and sail towards Bateshwarsthan.

Dinner: Evening briefing at the Saloon Bar for briefing on next days program. Dinner on board the ship.

Evening: Tea/Coffee served. Rest and relax or enjoy a film presentation at the Saloon Bar. We moor for the night outside of Bateshwarsthan near Bhagalpur.

DAY
10
Cooking Demonstration, Sultanganj
Sultanganj
B,L,D
Heritage Cruise Lines’ R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Early morning we will set sail Batesharsthan to Sultanganj. Today is a full day sailing with no shore excursions as we sail towards Sultanganj and mooring near there for the night.

Breakfast: Early morning Tea/Coffee served. Breakfast on board in the dining room.

Morning: Enjoy a cooking demonstration by the riverboat chef along with an Indian Attire wearing presentation - Sari & Turban.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will sail on the Ganges towards Munger, sailing past Sultanganj, which is conspicuous for two great rocks of granite, one of which on the river bank is crowned by a mosque. The second and larger one is occupied by the 16th century temple of Ajgaibinath Shiva. The river here impinges on a stone cliff. The folklore of river Ganga being seized here by a curse of the sage Jahnu and later getting released by the penance performed by king Bhagirath makes this place an important pilgrimage. The rocky island is known as Jahngira meaning ‘the hill of Jahnu’ derives the name from this historical event. There is a long causeway that connects the mainland with the island rock on which the cluster of shrines is entwined along with the seemingly floating rock. On deck, engage in a presentation on the Opium Trade, led by our Group Leader.

Dinner: Evening briefing at the Saloon Bar for briefing on next days program. Dinner on board the ship.

Evening: Tea/Coffee served. Rest and relax or enjoy a film presentation at the Saloon Bar. We moor for the night just past Sultanganj.

DAY
11
Sail towards Munger, Bihar School of Yoga
Munger
B,L,D
Heritage Cruise Lines’ R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Today we sail from Sultanganj Up to Munger, arriving mid-morning. Total walking today 1 mile, to and from the school. Moor overnight in Munger.

Breakfast: Early morning Tea/Coffee served. Breakfast on board in the dining room.

Morning: Sail towards Munger, one of the largest city and most industrialized cities in the state of Bihar. It is a hub for railway, gun, tobacco and dairy product manufacturing. Its history can be traced back to the mythological era of Ramayana and Mahabharata. In modern times Munger came into prominence in 1762 when the Nawab of Bengal Mir Qasim made Munger his capital instead of Murshidabad in Bengal. The new ruler established arsenal for the manufacture of firearms. Subsequently Munger came in to the hands of the British Empire after Mir Qasim lost the Battle of Buxar. The tradition of manufacturing of arms is continued till now.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: After lunch, we visit the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger, a modern school of Yoga founded in 1964 by Satyananda Saraswati and his spiritual successor Niranjanananda Saraswati. In addition to providing spiritual instruction to aspirants, the school also guides yoga projects and medical research in association with various corporations, state government and public works. We will then return to the ship for our final night and farewell dinner on board.

Dinner: Evening briefing at the Saloon Bar for briefing on next days program. 'Farewell Dinner' on board the ship. Say farewell to the captain and crew.

Evening: Tea/Coffee served. Moor overnight in Munger. Pack and prepare to disembark the ship tomorrow morning.

DAY
12
Disembark Ship in Munger, Depart for Bodhgaya
Bodh Gaya
B,L,D
The Royal Residency Bodhgaya

Activity note: Today is a long travel day that requires patience and stamina. The drive from Munger to Bodhgaya is 125 miles; approximately 8 hours with rest stops along the way.

Breakfast: Early morning breakfast on board the ship.

Morning: After breakfast, we will disembark ship and board a private motorcoach for our drive to Bodhgaya. Enjoy viewing the region of Bihar State that borders Nepal and its fertile plains south of the Ganges River.

Lunch: En-route at a local restaurant with bottled water, coffee/tea; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Continue our drive to Bodh Gaya. Arrive in the late afternoon and check-in to the hotel to freshen up and relax.

Dinner: Hotel buffet with bottled water, coffee/tea; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
13
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhi Tree, Sujata Village
Bodh Gaya
B,L,D
The Royal Residency Bodhgaya

Activity note: Motorcoach from hotel to Temple Mahabodhi less than 1 mile. Walking mainly on flat. level surfaces around temple grounds. Steps to entrance temples today are short and wide steps. Motorcoach to Sujata Village and Temple, across the Phalgu River, approximately a 20 minute drive.

Breakfast: Wake up early and experience the spiritual nature of Bodhgaya during the silence of the morning. Then return to the hotel to have breakfast.

Morning: We explore the Mahabodhi Temple, constructed with the main intention of making it a monument and not a receptacle for the relics of Buddha. Inside the Temple there is a colossal image of the Buddha in the "touching the ground pose", bhumisparsha mudra. This image is said to be 1700 years old and is facing east exactly at the place where the Buddha in meditation with his back to the Bodhi Tree was enlightened. Continue to the Bodhi Tree, the place where Gautama obtained enlightenment. Since 1953, Bodh Gaya has been developed as an international place of pilgrimage. Buddhists from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan and Japan have established monasteries and temples within easy walking distance of the Mahabodhi compound. The site of the enlightenment now attracts Buddhists and visitors from all over the world.

Lunch: Hotel buffet.

Afternoon: Board our motorcoach and we depart for Sujata Village, located across the Phalgu River. Explore the Sujata Temple, dedicated to Sujata, a young woman, who fed rice milk to the emaciated Siddhartha Gautama, thus ending his years of harsh asceticism and beginning his return to a “middle path.” As we return to the hotel, we will drive past some the Thai, Japanese and Tibetan monasteries.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: At leisure. Pack and prepare for our drive to Varanasi tomorrow morning.

DAY
14
Depart for Varanasi, Aarti Ceremony on the Ganges
Varanasi
B,L,D
Rivatas

Activity note: The drive from Bodh Gaya to Varanasi is 158 miles (233km); approximately 6.5 hours with rest stops along the way. Varanasi is a very intense place. Please be prepared for lots of crowds, smokes from cremations along the Ganges River and narrow winding streets in the old part of town. Aarti Ceremony, requires getting in and out of small boats, walking along cobblestones on narrow streets, and walking about .5 miles (one way) to get to the ghats for the Aarti Ceremony in busy crowded streets.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Check out of the hotel and board our private motorcoach as we drive northwest towards Varanasi. We will pass over the Sone River, India's second largest of the Ganges' southern tributaries.

Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant en route with bottled water, coffee/tea; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We arrive mid-afternoon in Varanasi and check-in to the hotel. Late afternoon we will take a rickshaw ride to the Ganges then board a boat to cruise and witness an Aarti Ceremony along the ghats (steps down to the water) of the Ganges River.(subject to weather conditions) We will be able to witness sacred Hindu religious of "puja" and "aarti". Puja refers to a variety of rites, one of which is aarti (also arti, arati), a ceremony in which light from little lamps with wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Aarti also refers to the songs sung in praise of the deity when lamps are being offered.

Dinner: Hotel buffet with bottled water, coffee/tea; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
Morning Boat Ride, Lecture, Sitar Performance
Varanasi
B,L,D
Rivatas

Activity note: Morning boat ride requires walking down the ghats (steps) to get to the Ganges River to board small boats to go out on the river. Must climb down and up ghats, approximately 20-40 steps, depending on the water level and get in/out of small boats. To get to the ghats also requires walking .5 miles in narrow cobblestone streets then taking a 30 minute rickshaw ride in busy crowded streets.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Before breakfast, begin the day very early with a morning boat ride on the Ganges River to observe people performing daily rituals, then see temples and ghats (steps leading down to the water), for which the city is well known. Return to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast enjoy a presentation at the hotel about the Current Social issues in India, led by a local expert. The rest of the morning is free time to do what interests you.

Lunch: Hotel buffet.

Afternoon: After lunch we depart by motorcoach to visit the home of professional musician and watch a classical Sitar performance. Later, we board the motorcoach and return to the hotel.

Dinner: 'Farewell Dinner' with one glass of wine, bottled water, coffee/tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure, pack for your departure home tomorrow.

DAY
16
Sarnath, Fly to Delhi, Program Concludes, Departures Home
In Flight
B,L

Activity note: Morning field-trip requires walking up to ½ mile on mainly flat surfaces. Mid-afternoon flight to Delhi (approximately 1.5 hours). Flight from Varanasi to Delhi is included on program. Arrive Delhi early evening around 5:00 p.m. International flights home should depart Delhi Airport no earlier than 10:00 p.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We depart by coach for Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first Sermon after he obtained enlightenment. Discover the Sarnath Museum and Deer Park, the location where he gave his sermon. After our field-trip we board the motorcoach and depart for the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Check out of the hotel and later depart for the Varanasi Airport for afternoon departures home. Participants will board flights leaving mid-afternoon from Varanasi to Delhi. These flights are provided on program and booked by our local vendor in India. Once arrived in Delhi, program concludes. NOTE: Your flight leaving Delhi must not leave any earlier than 10:00 p.m., in order to have enough time coming from Varanasi. Once arrived in Delhi International Airport, participants will connect to their international flights home. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for this program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page to share photos of your program or visit our Instagram page! Best wishes for all your journeys!

DAY
17
In transit
In Flight





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