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India: Kumbh Mela with Karl Grobl –


Mark Twain visited Kumbh Mela of 1895 and wrote “It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people”

It is been more than a hundred years since the above lines were written and yet they are as true today as they have ever been.

Ardh Kumbh Mela is held only once in six years in Allahabad and we have timed our departure to be there during the main bathing dates.

(NOTE: As vehicles of any sort are not allowed in the fairgrounds, clients should be prepared to walk for up to 10 to 16 km during the main event of Kumbh Mela)


Day 1: (Jan 26)  On arrival in Kolkata, you will be welcomed by our representative at International Airport and transferred to the hotel in Kolkata. (Rooms will be available from 1400 Hrs.) Overnight in Kolkata.

Days 2 & 3: (Jan 27 & 28)  Kolkata is a city of glaring contrasts, a curious blend of the old and the new, partly feudal, partly born out of growing urbanization. It represents a mix of East and West; a graft of a European city imposed on an Asian landscape that gives Calcutta its bewildering charm, confusion, and excitement. Founded 300 years ago by the East India Company, this was the British capital until 1911. It is still the creative capital of India, promoting art, music, and drama and drawing the best from performers and their fans.

We have two full days to explore the city. An early morning pre-breakfast trip takes us to “Flower market” of Kolkata. Situated on the banks of Hoogly River near the famous Howrah Bridge, the place is alive with vibrant colors as pilgrims and traders come here to buy their supply of temple flowers.

Afterwards, cross the iconic Howrah Bridge and visit Howrah Station, one of the country’s largest stations and a busy hub of activity.

From here, embark on a boat ride on the River Hoogly to Kumartuli. See the potters’ colony at Kumartuli, where life-size religious idols are created out of river clay for the city’s numerous festivals.

Kumartulli is known for its internationally renowned artisans who craft the most beautiful idols from straw and clay. How these images are crafted, the conditions in which the artisans live and work, where their material is sourced from, and which industries depend on these creations for their very survival will be observed in life-affirming action as we tour this community.

Afterwards, take a local tram ride to College Street Book Market, the world’s largest second-hand book market. Stop at the famous nearby Coffee House, a regular spot for intellectuals and an important cultural spot in Kolkata’s history.

Also, you visit an important British institution, Victoria Memorial, which also houses a permanent collection of art.

Visit the Bagh Bazar area to view the impressive conch shell work before continuing on to the wholesale vegetable and jewelry markets.

Next, visit the beautiful Jain temple complex before continuing to the Mother House, the final resting place of Mother Teresa. Overnight in Kolkata.

Day 4: (Jan 29) After breakfast transfer to airport to board the flight for Varanasi. Once we’re settled into our hotel, we will explore the ghats photographing this amazing spectacle with our knowledgeable guide who will explain the various activities.

Later, we will take a boat ride see the ghats from the river including a visit to the cremation ghat. We’ll also, witness the evening ceremony of river Ganges. Overnight in Varanasi.

Days 5 & 6: (Jan 30 & 31) We have two full days to photo shoot daily life in Varanasi. Early morning you experience the life of this ancient city. See the beauty of the rising sun on the Ganges Boat Ride. The boat ride passes along some of the 100 ghats, with numerous palaces built by Hindu kings. Experience the early morning rituals of the Hindus being performed, thousands of people taking a bath in the holy river believing they will be free from the circle of rebirth. It is interesting to see the pilgrims offering sweets, flowers and holy water to the Sun God.
We will also wander around the narrow streets and alleys of Varanasi. Before sunset, take a boat to photograph the ghats from the river.

Evening Ghats and temples lit with oil lamps or candles can be seen during Aarti ceremony (prayer group) while viewing floating Diyas (lamps) on the River Ganges. Overnight in Varanasi.

Day 7: (Feb 1)  Morning you will have one more chance to visit the Ghats and photograph the unending flow of pilgrims who come from far and wide in India by boat and by walking.

After breakfast drive to Allahabad (about 3.5 hours). On arrival, check in at our camp.

Later, an orientation walk with your guide to all the important places that you may want to visit during your time. Overnight in Allahabad.

Days 8-11: (Feb 2-5)  The main highlight for most pilgrims during a Prayag Kumbha Mela is the observance of a sacred bath at the Sangam. It is said that a bath in either of the sacred rivers has purifying effects, but where the three rivers meet, the bather’s purification is increased one hundred times. Furthermore, it is said that when one takes a bath at the Sangam during the Kumbha Mela, the influence is one thousand times increased.

Another of the important task for a pilgrim is to associate himself with holy men by listening to their sermons and to watch their processions. To watch the Kumbh Mela processions is to witness the march of the ages. As the holy saints pass by on their various and sundry conveyances — elephants, horses, palanquins, chariots, cars, and camels — they are continually transmitting waves of powerful shakti (energy) to all the people who witness this awe-inspiring and most auspicious event. Devotees are overwhelmed by the palpable spiritual vibrations that pervade the entire atmosphere.

We will spend these days witnessing this amazing centuries-old gathering.

During the main bathing days, it will be a grand spectacle to photograph this humanity as well as to photograph the holy men as they walk to take the royal bath here.

We will also have the opportunity to participate in religious discourses, Yoga as well as other rituals associated with the mela. Overnight in Allahabad.

Day 12: (Feb 6) After breakfast, transfer to Delhi international airport to board the flight for back home.

(NOTE: As vehicles of any sort are not allowed in the fairgrounds, clients should be prepared to walk for up to 10 to 16 km during the main event of Kumbh Mela)

Or…… Optional 6 night/5 day Extension: Tigers and other Wildlife of Madhya Pradesh – Khajuraho and Bandhavgarh

Day 1 Ext: (Feb 6)  After breakfast drive to Khajuraho. On arrival, check-in to the lodge (close to Panna National Park).

Later enjoy sunset boat ride on the River Ken from the banks of the Sarai at Toria. This is a delightful paddle down the river in a country-made boat, very peaceful, very beautiful. We only occasionally see crocodiles but the birdlife is wonderful and it includes not only expected river species but also the magnificent Indian eagle owl that nests on the rocky midstream islands and sometimes views of Sarus crane. Overnight in Khajuraho.

Day 2 Ext: (Feb 7) Early morning enjoy Jeep safari in Panna National Park for wildlife viewing, located in Panna and Chhatarpur districts of Madhya Pradesh in India. It has an area of 542.67 km (209.53 sq mi). It was declared in 1994 as the twenty-second Tiger reserve of India and the fifth in Madhya Pradesh. The forests of Panna National Park along with Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary and adjoining territorial divisions form a significant part of the catchment area of the 406 km (252 mi) Ken River which runs northeast for about 72 km (45 mi) through the park.

Afternoon drive to visit The Eastern & Western Group of Temples consists of a group of artistic temples built in sandstone. The sculptures of Hindu deities, dancers and musicians appear to be so natural as if they would come alive any time. We will visit the Varaha Temple dedicated to Vishnu, and also the Lakshmana Temple also dedicated to Vishnu. It is one of the earliest of the western enclosure temples dating from 930 to 950 AD. The Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is not only the largest of the temples, it is also artistically and architecturally the most perfect. Built between 1025 and 1050 it represents Chandella art at its most finely developed phase.
Overnight in Khajuraho.

Day 3 Ext: (Feb 8)  After early breakfast, drive to Bandhavgarh. On arrival, check-in at the hotel.

In the afternoon, enjoy the Jeep safari in the park for wildlife viewing. Overnight in Bandhavgarh.

Day 4 Ext: (Feb 9) Set amidst the Vindhyan ranges and the eastern flank of the Satpura hills, Bandhavgarh National Park is one of the best places to see and enjoy wildlife in India. In fact, it has the highest relative density of tigers of any of India’s reserves. This park was the former hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Rewa and at present is a famous natural hub for white tigers. The first sightings anywhere of these famous tigers were recorded in this area.

Bandhavgarh was declared a national park in 1968. Since then many steps have been taken to retain Bandhavgarh National Park as an unspoiled national habitat for a variety of wildlife peculiar to the area. These include gaur (Indian bison), sloth bear, leopard, porcupine, wild boar, sambhar, and spotted deer, among others and of course the tigers.

Morning and afternoon Jeep safaris in the park for wildlife viewing. Overnight In Bandhavgarh.

Day 5 Ext: (Feb 10) Morning, enjoy another Jeep safari in the park for wildlife viewing.

Afternoon, drive to Jabalpur airport to board the evening flight to Delhi. On arrival, transfer to the hotel close to the airport. Overnight in Delhi.

Day 6 Ext: (Feb 11) After breakfast, transfer to Delhi international airport to board the flight for back home.