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
18 days
Starts at
3,995
Flights start at
950
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18 days
17 nights
43 meals
15 B 14 L 14 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrival Delhi, Check-In
Delhi
The Suryaa Hotel New Delhi

Activity note: Group flight arrival is usually in the late afternoon or early evening. By the time you go through immigration and transfer to your program hotel, it could be between 6-7pm at the earliest.

Afternoon: Late afternoon or evening arrivals in Delhi. Upon arrival at the hotel, check in to hotel and rest after a long trip.

Dinner: Dinner on your own.

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

DAY
3
Flight to Varanasi, Orientation
Varanasi
B,D
Gateway Hotel Ganges Varanasi

Activity note: Flight from Delhi to Varanasi is 1.5 hours. 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.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Morning at leisure then board transfer from the program hotel to the airport. Today we will be meeting up with Road Scholar Group #21644, "A Spiritual and Cultural Journey: India’s Golden Triangle and Holy Ganges River."

Lunch: On your own in the Delhi airport. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Our flight arrives late afternoon in Varanasi. We will collect our luggage and board the motorcoach for our drive to the program hotel. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions. All transfers and transportation throughout the program will be conducted via motorcoach and most field trips will be led by our Group Leader unless specified otherwise. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, engaging in available activities on your own, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may be changed due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert everyone as quickly as possible.

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

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
University of Varanasi, Free Time, Aarti Ceremony on Ganges
Varanasi
B,L,D
Gateway Hotel Ganges Varanasi

Activity note: 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. You will be taking a Rickshaw ride part of the way. It will be about a 30 minute ride total.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Our group will be connecting with another Road Scholar Group #21260, "India’s Holy Ganges River: Rituals, History and the Sacred City of Varanasi." Our group leader will present a quick orientation for the group and lead introductions. Next, we depart for Banaras Hindu University, the largest Hindu University in India. Engage with the university students there and learn about their goals and aspirations. Field Trip: Explore Lok Kala Museum housing sculptures and paintings.. Learn about Varanasi with an on-site presentation, spirituality in India, led by a local expert.

Lunch: Hotel buffet.

Afternoon: Early afternoon is free time to do what you like and the group leader is happy to offer suggestions. 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) You 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 and Welcome Dinner for the #21260 group joining our group today. Bottled water, coffee/tea is included in the meal; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Boat Ride, Sarnath, Akhada & Sitar Performance
Varanasi
B,L,D
Gateway Hotel Ganges Varanasi

Activity note: Today you will be 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 boat ride and to the Akhada performance.

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 we set out to 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.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Later in the afternoon we depart by motorcoach to visit an "Akhada." We will have a short walk along narrow lanes to visit the "Akhada" to learn about traditional mud wrestling, followed by a Classic Sitar Recital.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: Reminder: Pack for tomorrow's trip.

DAY
6
Drive to Bodhgaya, Free Time
Bodh Gaya
B,L,D
The Royal Residency Bodhgaya

Activity note: The drive from Varanasi to Bodh Gaya is 158 miles (233km); approximately 6.5 hours with rest stops along the way.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Check out and begin our journey to another holy site in India: Bodh Gaya. Bodh Gaya is where Siddhartha Gautama obtained enlightenment. En-route, the Group Leader will give a presentation on the Life of the Buddha.

Lunch: At a local restaurant on the way to Bodhgaya.

Afternoon: In the late afternoon arrive in Bodh Gaya and check into our hotel. Rest and relax after a long journey and enjoy free time to be in Bodhgaya.

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

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Bodhgaya City Discovery, Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhi Tree
Bodh Gaya
B,L,D
The Royal Residency Bodhgaya

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 will 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: We 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.” In the afternoon we will Visit the various monasteries including Thai, Japanese and Chinese monastery.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Drive to Munger, Embark Ship
Munger
B,L,D
R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: The drive from Bodh Gaya to Munger is 125 miles; approximately 5 hours with rest stops along the way. Embark ship in the afternoon.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We check out and depart by motoroach to the town of Munger, located on the Ganges River. Enjoy viewing the region of Bihar State along the way to the Ganges.

Lunch: En route at a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We will arrive in Munger in the late afternoon and board the ship between 4-5pm. We meet in the saloon for our welcome drink and safety briefing.

Dinner: On board the ship.

Evening: Post dinner tea/coffee served in the saloon.

DAY
9
Bihar School of Yoga, Sultangan, Lecture
Bhagalpur
B,L,D
R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: While sailing on the Ganges River we will have on-shore excursions throughout the cruise. Today, disembark boat and take a 10 minute cycle ricksaw ride to the Bihar School of Yoga. Walking around the Ashram, mainly on flat level surfaces. Reboard ship and sail past Sultanganj, mooring in Bhagalpur for the night.

Breakfast: On board the ship.

Morning: This morning we visit the Bihar School of Yoga, 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 and sail towards Bhagalpur.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will sail on the Ganges towards Bhagalpur, 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. On deck, engage in a presentation on the opium trade, led by your Group Leader.

Dinner: On board the ship.

Evening: Enjoy a documentary presentation at the Saloon Bar.

DAY
10
Vikramshila University, Lecture, Sail towards Samtaghat
Samtaghat
B,L,D
R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Sail today from Bhagalpur to Samtaghat. 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.

Breakfast: On board the ship.

Morning: After breakfast, 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.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: We continue to sail towards Samtaghat and along the way enjoy a presentation by our Group Leader about the Holy Ganges and its importance to India.

Dinner: On board the ship.

Evening: Enjoy a film presentation at the Saloon Bar.

DAY
11
Cross the Farakka Lock, Cooking Demonstration, Lecture
Jangipur
B,L,D
R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Early morning we will set sail towards the Farakka Barrage and will cross over the lock gate by mid-day. Today is a day on board the ship cruising towards Jangipur.

Breakfast: On board the ship.

Morning: Early morning we sail towards Farakka. The Farakka Barrage, which regulates the Ganges water into Bangladesh and India can be seen at a distance. Around midday we cross over the historic Farakka Lock, which was built during the years 1963-75. After crossing the lock we cruise through the connecting feeder canal (24 miles) to the Bhagirathi-Hooghly River (the Lower Ganges). The travel through the Feeder Canal will give us a chance to see the different birds of the region.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: On board, engage in a presentation by our riverboat chef on the herbs and spices used in Indian cooking. Late afternoon enjoy a presentation on Islam's Influence on India, led by your Group Leader.

Dinner: On board the ship.

Evening: Film presentation at the Saloon Bar.

DAY
12
Hazarduari Palace and Museum, Lecture, Dance Performance
Murshidabad
B,L,D
R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Today we sail from Jangipur to Murshidabad, arriving mid-day to visit the Hazarduari Palace and museum. Total walking today 1.5 miles, to and from museum.

Breakfast: On board the ship.

Morning: This morning sail to the historic town of Murshidabad, arriving mid-morning. The town.....

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will disembark and walk to 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. Later we will walk back to the ship and enjoy an on-board presentation on the Thug Sect by our Group Leader.

Dinner: On board the ship.

Evening: Enjoy a cultural dance program on board.

DAY
13
Katra Mosque, Battlefield of Plassey
Matiari
B,L,D
R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Sail from Murshidabad to Matiari. Shore excursion to Katra Mosque by local Tonga (horse cart); approximately 20 minute ride.

Breakfast: On board the ship.

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. Later we will reboard the ship and continue to cruise towards Matiari.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: We continue our cruise towards Matiari, 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. Arriving in the late afternoon, feel free to stretch our legs on a short walk along the Hooghly River with our group leader.

Dinner: On board the ship.

Evening: At leisure or view a film presentation at the Saloon Bar.

DAY
14
Matiari, Kalna, Cooking and Indian Attire Demonstrations
Bandel
B,L,D
R.V. Bengal Ganga

Activity note: Sail Matiari to Kalna today. Shore excursion in Matiari and Kalna. In Kalna, we will take a 10 minute cycle rickshaw ride to and from the temple complex.

Breakfast: On board the ship.

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 and we will cast off towards Kalna. Relax on the sundeck and enjoy India at its most idyllic.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: After lunch 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 enjoy a cooking demonstration by the riverboat chef along with an Indian Attire wearing presentation - Sari & Turban.

Dinner: On board the ship.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
Colonial Kolkata, St. John's Church, Victoria Memorial
Kolkata
B,L,D
R.V. Bengal Ganga

Breakfast: On board the ship.

Morning: Today we cruise through the vast countryside of golden Bengal towards Kolkata. Our cruise will take us through the areas where the different European settlers had established their respective trading posts during the period of 17th to 19th century.

Lunch: On board the ship.

Afternoon: Next we depart by motorcoach for a tour of Kolkata, which will take us to the Dalhousie Square that houses several Colonial 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. Next we 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, 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.

Dinner: Farewell buffet on board the ship.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
16
Disembark Ship, Jain Temple, Kumortuli, Colonial Kolkata
Kolkata
B,L,D
The Lalit Great Eastern

Activity note: Today’s visit are by motorcoach with walking up to 2 miles today. When visiting the Jain Temple, shoes will need to be removed, you may want to bring an extra pair of socks.

Breakfast: On board the ship.

Morning: Disembark ship and depart for Bengali Kolkata by motorcoach to visit 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 explore the Shobhabazar (also spelled Sovabazar) and then board a coach and continue to explore Kumortuli, a Potters colony where large Hindu Gods are created by the community there. Later depart for the hotel for lunch and check-in.

Lunch: Hotel buffet 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 the Nobel Laureate.

Dinner: Farewell buffet dinner at the hotel with bottled water, coffee/tea; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure, pack for your departure tomorrow.

DAY
17
Mother Teresa's Orphanage, Program Concludes
In Flight
B,L

Activity note: Program ends after lunch. Coordinate airport transfers with your Group Leader.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Depart by coach for 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 hotel to check out.

Lunch: Hotel buffet.

Afternoon: This afternoon is free until your departure flight from Kolkata which is usually in the afternoon. Program concludes. 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 that 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 and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

DAY
18
In transit
In Flight





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