The Travellers' Club - Holidays for discerning travellers Halnaker Park Cottage, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0QH
Telephone 01243 773597

THE HEART OF CENTRAL INDIA

6-29 February 2012

with Richard Hunt

To book this tour, click here

COST: £4449 including international & internal flights; transport by coach, train & boat; accommodation in first class hotels (in twin rooms with breakfast, full board at Maheshwar); entrance fees, guides.

EXTRAS: Insurance; Visa (currently £30); other meals etc (about £8-10 per day); Tips; single room £1285.


The Travellers' Club sets off a journey to the Heart of Central India

OUR TOUR HAS SEVERAL BROAD AIMS:
We visit some of the great monuments to Indian history and culture, hoping to provide insights to art, architecture and the decorative arts of some of the great civilizations and religions of India.
It caters for those who wish to understand something of the 'REAL INDIA’ - the lives of ordinary people in towns and villages. We hope to look at their domestic lives, their work, (in agriculture, traditional crafts and some more modern industries), their religions, their cultural traditions; together with some advances aimed at improving their lives - the education of adults and children, the technical achievements in water supply, medicine, irrigation and farming. The tour is planned with some time to stop and look!
This is a holiday! There is so much to see, but we cannot see everything! So we have planned an itinerary that is selective, yet offers variety and some time to explore alone or in small groups, go shopping or just relax beside a swimming pool. When we are not in transit you are perfectly free to include or omit any aspect of the programme. We stay in comfortable hotels - often the very best – sometimes chosen for their location or interest rather than every western 5* luxury. We hope this will more than compensate for the occasional inconvenience that we may meet in the east!
We hope to offer very good value for money: these are not the cheapest tours to India as we use the most convenient flights, good ground services, and welcoming, attractive hotels. The tours are rather longer, more varied and, dare we say, better planned than some that are a good deal more expensive.

BOMBAY (now MUMBAI) The tour begins with a non-stop flight to MUMBAI with time to relax & recover from the flight at the Taj Mahal Hotel- one of the great hotels of India. The islands on which the huge city now stands were part of the dowry given by Portugal on the marriage of Catherine da Braganza to Charles II of England, who leased them to the East India Company. The city prospered dramatically from the 18th century and has the greatest concentration of Victorian buildings in the world, including the excellent Prince of Wales Museum. We plan a programme of gentle sightseeing, including a lovely boat ride to Elephanta Island, and the superb rock-cut Shiva temple (5 – 8th C), before returning to the airport and our short flight to Aurangabad.
1 night at the luxurious Taj Mahal Hotel 5* overlooking the waterfront & Gateway of India.

AURANGABAD (AJANTA& ELLORA). An early evening flight [9W3109 1825/1925] takes us to Aurangabad, on the Deccan for visits to the wonderful rock-cut cave temples or monasteries of AJANTA and ELLORA. These must rank as wonders of the world in the complexity of their construction, the beauty of the carving and the amazing quality and preservation of Buddhist paintings. The caves of Ajanta are the earliest, dating from c.200 BC to 650 AD, and contain not only the best preserved paintings – mainly depicting the life of Buddha – but also some very fine sculpture. The earlier (Hinayana) representations are symbols of the Buddha, such as the tree under which he achieved enlightenment, his footprint, or his wheel of law. The later (Mahayana) school depicted images of the Buddha himself. The monks and carvers eventually moved their focus to Ellora, and Ajanta was abandoned and forgotten until a British hunting party, following a wounded tiger to its ‘cave’, rediscovered the site in 1819! At Ellora there are 12 Buddhist caves, but 17 Hindu and 5 Jain temples were added later. We will explore the highlights, which include the famous Kailasa Temple (c.900 AD) carved from the mountain in one huge sculpture – and much larger than the Parthenon!
Close to Aurangabad are the dramatic fort of Daulatabad, built by the Muslim ruler Mohammed Tughlaq in the 14th century, and also the tomb of the Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb (died 1707). Aurangabad is also famous for its brocade work and ‘bidri’ ware – metal inlaid with silver.
3 nights at the TAJ RESIDENCY HOTEL. A comfortable hotel with good swimming pool and food!

MAHESHWAR & MANDU. The journey to Maheshwar is a long but interesting drive through the Deccan scenery, arriving at our palace hotel at Fort Ahilya, owned by the Holkar family, former Marratta rulers of Indore State, who are our hosts during our stay (we have booked all 12 rooms – a private house party!). The fort, cenotaphs and temples are on the river bank, where pilgrims come to bathe. We plan excursions by boat along the river, a visit to a weaving centre, picnics & swimming. From here we will visit the site at Mandu – a deserted hill top fortress in a most dramatic location. Fortified as early as the 6th century, it was extended by a Hindu ruler from Bhopal in the 10th century before being conquered by Muslims from Delhi in 1304. An Afghan dynasty established its rule until defeated in the 16th century, first by a ruler from Gujerat and finally by the Moghul Emperor Akbar. The ascent through a series of gates, with the countryside dotted with tombs and check posts is thrilling. Inside the fortress are the well-preserved palaces, a huge mosque and tombs.
The area around Mandu and Maheshwar is the home of several tribal peoples and while staying in some comfort at our palace hotel, we hope to explore some of the tribal and other villages of the region.
3 nights at FORT AHILYA, Maheshwar [FULL BOARD here includes all meals (with wine), aperitifs, laundry!!]. An interesting and comfortable palace hotel, on the banks of the Narmada River.

BHOPAL, SANCHI & BHIMBETKA: Our journey takes us to Bhopal, capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. This large city was founded by Raja Bhoj in the 10th century, but ruled by a governor of the Moghuls who established a Muslim kingdom of his own in the 18th century. The palaces and mosques of the 19th century Muslims survive, but modern industrial Bhopal was notorious for the Union Carbide disaster of 1984. Fortunately, our charming hotel (former palace), close to the lakes, is unaffected by the industrial city! Not far from Bhopal is Sanchi, site of Buddhist Stupas (relic-mounds) originally erected by the Emperor Ashoka, who converted to Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. The stupas were enlarged and embellished with magnificent gateways (toranas) in the 3rd century AD, and it is the sculptures adorning these toranas which are the main attraction of the site. They tell episodes in the life of the Buddha in the most wonderfully graphic and delicate scenes, using symbols to depict the Buddha himself. Bhimbetka, about one hour south of Bhopal, is the site of another dramatic art treasure – South Asia’s richest collection of prehistoric paintings. Set among astonishing rocks and caves, were shelters for peoples over a wide time span, some from the 10th century BC! Here we can see a series of paintings in red ochre or white, depicting the life of these ancient people: animals, hunting, dancing and war are among the themes depicted. Returning to Bhopal, we visit the 11th century Hindu temple at Bhojpur, famous for the largest stone lingam in India.
3 nights at the JEHAN NUMA PALACE HOTEL A very pleasant former palace, set in large gardens with swimming pool. Excellent restaurant.

DATIA & ORCHHA. From Bhopal we take an afternoon express train to JHANSI, famous for the warrior queen, Rani Lakshmi Bai, who led her army against the British during the 1837 Mutiny, and drive on to ORCHHA – a small town today, but at one time a capital for the Bundela dynasty of Hindu kings (1531-1783). These Rajput warriors served under the Moghuls (and sometimes feuded with them), but the ruler Bir Singh Deo built the very impressive palaces and temples in the early 17th century. Some of the picturesque forts and palaces have frescos of that period. We also plan to visit the fortress town of DATIA when we leave Orchha.
2 nights at the ORCHHA RESORTS.  A new hotel beautifully located on the river overlooking the palaces.

KHAJURAHO Driving from Orchha, we arrive at KHAJURAHO in the afternoon. This is the site of the wonderful complex of temples, which date from the 10th century. They were built by the devout Chandella dynasty of Hindu rulers, which finally fell to Islam. Fortunately, the isolation of the site may have helped preserve the monuments though only 25 temples survive of over 80 that were built. Apart from a pilgrimage centre, all but one are now historic monuments rather than functioning temples. The architectural forms, sculpture (famously erotic and otherwise) and beautiful location are just wonderful.
2 nights at the TAJ CHANDELA HOTEL. A very comfortable hotel with garden and pool, a short cycle (or cycle rickshaw) ride from the temples, which we can revisit alone at our own pace.

VARANASI From Khajuraho we fly to Varanasi. Of all Indian cities, Varanasi (formerly known as Benares), located on the holy River Ganges, is the most sacred. An afternoon orientation and a dawn boat ride will give us a vivid impression of Hinduism in practice. The sun rises across the river and we see, close at hand, the pilgrims and sadhus performing their pujas and rituals. Children in tiny boats offer us lamps to float on the water. A walk in the crowded old city among flower stalls and sellers of tiny carved deities [recommended: a figure of the elephant headed god, Ganesh for good fortune], temples and many holy cows. A short coach ride takes us to SARNATH for the Stupa and ruined monastery, which mark the place where Buddha preached his first sermon. There is an excellent museum with beautiful objects dating from the time of Emperor Ashoka, who was converted to Buddhism in the 3rd century BC.
2 nights at THE GATEWAY HOTEL. A comfortable Taj Hotel with garden & pool.

LUCKNOW. An afternoon express train takes us to Lucknow, former capital of the kingdom of the Nawabs (Muslim rulers) of Oudh [or Avadh] and now of the modern state of Uttar Pradesh. The Nawabs were extremely wealthy and were great patrons of the arts and music: dance forms from this region are highly regarded, as are the famous Lucknow dishes, reputedly from the royal kitchens . The annexation of Oudh by the British in 1856 was one of several incidents to spark the Mutiny, and the siege of the Residency at Lucknow was one of the most dramatic and famous events of the period. The crumbling royal palaces of the Nawabs (once very magnificent indeed), the ruins of the British residency, impressive tombs and mosques, fascinating bazaars and the wonderful handicrafts in textiles – especially the fine embroidered cotton - and jewellery make Lucknow a most interesting city, but one which few tourists visit.
3 nights at the TAJ RESIDENCY HOTEL. A luxury hotel in traditional style, with all facilities.

DELHI Our tour ends in Delhi, the fascinating capital of India, with a wealth of monuments. We stay for 3 nights at the wonderful Imperial Hotel, and Delhi also provides the most convenient and comfortable flight to London – all giving us an excellent finalé to our tour. Delhi was not always the capital of India, but has played a vital role in Indian history over the past 5000 years. Successive waves of invaders have conquered and rebuilt the city; others just pillaged!  There are the remains of seven cities in the environs: they were built by Hindu rulers; successive Muslim conquerors who swept in from Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan; and the British, who ruled from Calcutta but declared Delhi capital once more in 1911 and soon began the building of New Delhi. The result is an enormous variety of monuments: the Q'Tub Minar complex (Tower of victory 1193) celebrated an Afghan invasion, but used much older Hindu & Jain temple stone; the Moghul masterpieces include the tomb of emperor Humayun, Shah Jehan's Red Fort and marble palaces and his huge mosque, the Jama Masjid. The British built the modern Imperial city of Sir Edwin Lutyens & Sir Herbert Baker. There is much else to see: a superb crafts museum and village where crafts from India are practised; narrow streets and bazaars of the old city; the National Museum; the shops!!! It may well be that several members of the group have visited Delhi before! We must pick our itinerary with care! For those who would like to visit or revisit Agra & the Taj Mahal, a day trip can be arranged by train or car. We plan a farewell dinner on our last evening. The following morning we can enjoy a last unhurried sumptuous buffet breakfast before departing to the airport at around 10 am for our flight home at 14.00 (arriving Heathrow around 18.00).
3 nights at The Imperial Hotel. Very well located in the centre of New Delhi. It was built in 'the 30s as the fashionable colonial grande-luxe hotel. It has recently been restored to very high standards, winning many awards. The rooms are excellent, decorated with 19th & 20th century prints and drawings which extend throughout the hotel (which has a full-time art curator). There is a charming terrace & garden for breakfast & lunch, a large swimming pool & spa and five restaurants!

 

Date Itinerary
Mon 6 Feb Fly  Heathrow 20.25. Kingfisher Airways (non-stop) NB all flight schedules may change.
7 Arrive Mumbai 11.00 [advance watches 5 1/2 hrs] Orientation drive to Taj Mahal Hotel [1 night]
8 Boat to Elephanta Island, Mumbai sightseeing.Flight to Aurangabad Taj Residency Hotel [3]
9 Visit Ajanta Caves
10 Visit Ellora Caves
11 All day drive to Maheshwar, Ahilya Fort Hotel [3 nights] 
12 At leisure / sightseeing Maheshwar
13 Visit site of Mandu. Afternoon at leisure
14 Drive to Bhopal, Jehan Numa Palace Hotel [3 nights]
15 Visit Sanchi
16 Visit Bhimbetka & Bhojpur.
17 Afternoon train to Jhansi. Drive to Orchha Resorts Hotel [2 nights]
18 Sightseeing in Orchha.
19 Drive via Datia to Khajuraho. Taj Chandella Hotel [2 nights]
20 Khajuraho visits
21 Flight to Varanasi 9W724 13.30/14.10 Sunset boat on Ganges. Gateway Hotel [2 nights]
22 Dawn boat ride on Ganges, breakfast, visit of the old city.
23 Morning visit to Sarnath. Train to Lucknow T4203 16.20/22.05. Taj Residency Hotel [3 nights]
24 Lucknow sightseeing
25 Further visits or at leisure
26 Fly Delhi 9W3320 10.25/11.50. Visit to Qutab Minar complex.  Imperial Hotel [3 nights]
27 Delhi sightseeing / leisure
28 Delhi sightseeing / leisure. Optional day visit by train to Agra & the Taj Mahal.
29 New Delhi – London by Kingfisher (non-stop) at 13.25. Arrive Heathrow 17.25