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A fascinating tour of Northwestern India for Fresno and Central Valley Residents
The Northwestern India Tour with Tiger Safari and Pushkar Camel Fair from November 1 to 16, 2008 is a unique, informative and enjoyable experience of some of the most interesting regions of India. A bus ride from Fresno to Los Angeles International Airport is included in the price. The Tour starts in the capital of India, New Delhi where we will visit the Qutub Minar archaeological area that was until the 10th century the capital of a mighty Hindu Chauhan clan dynasty. The Islamic invaders from northwest conquered this region and a former slave named Qutub Uddin Aibak who rose in the invading ranks to become its commander established the foreign dynasty in Delhi region. You will also visit the 17th century Mughal capital called Shahjahanabad. It is popularly called old Delhi now. A bicycle rickshaw ride in the narrow lanes of old Delhi will show you the daily life of people. Among the other sites that you will be viewing are the Raj Ghat or the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, the Bahai Temple that is designed in the shape of lotus flower and the majestic red sand stone and white marble mosque built by Emperor Shahjahan. The next stop is in the city of Agra that is famous for the Taj Mahal mausoleum that you will be seeing at sunset. About one hour drive from Agra is the deserted capital of Fatehpur Sikri that Emperor Akbar constructed to emphasize his belief of harmony between different religions. The Emperor lived there only 14 years and soon after the Emperor moved away from this capital, it was overgrown with forest. At the turn of the 20th century the archeologists started restoring this magnificent city and this work is still ongoing. At Ranthambhore you will be staying in a forest resort just outside the Ranthambhore Tiger Sanctuary. It is one of the best places in the world to view an Indian tiger in its wild habitat. Jaipur is also known as the pink city because this city was entirely painted to honor the visit of the British Prince of Whales, Edward the VII in 1876. Since then this ancient walled city is painted with a local mineral, rose pink color. In the north of this city is its ancient capital called Amber. The fort of Amber is perched on a hilltop and you would be enjoying a pleasant 20 minute ride uphill to the beautifully decorated palaces of this medieval fort.
In the Hindu calendar month of Kartik each year (corresponding to October/November generally), thousands of camels cross the golden sands of Rajasthan with their tribal breeders, some accompanied by the breeders' extended families to converge in undulating plains around Pushkar lake. Apart from the camels, horses, ponies, cattle, sheep and goat herds are also brought to Pushkar, one of India's biggest trading/pilgrimage fair. Tribal men in their festive bright colored turbans, their ladies in dressed in a riot of eye-catching colors; their children and all the variety of animals provide a sharp contrast to the dull sandy desert landscape around Pushkar Lake. The small, ancient pilgrimage center is famous for its Brahma (the Hindu God of creation and preservation) temple and has in all about five hundred Hindu temples lining the shores of the lake. The town is quiet and peaceful throughout the year when only the occasional pilgrims and a few foreign tourists come to pay homage at or visit the various temples.
The week before Purnima full moon this sleepy pilgrimage town is transformed completely. During this week about a quarter million people and thousands of animals make Pushkar their temporary, festival home. To cater to the tribal ladies there are stalls selling their favorite dresses and jewelry. The most common dress for the tribal ladies is the “Ghagara”, an ankle-length heavily pleated skirt; the Choli, a tight fitting blouse that is mostly open in the back except for a string and “Dupatta”, a large scarf that covers the head and flows gracefully down to the thigh-level covering the back and partially the front also. The design and patterns on the Ghagara and Dupatta vary in different regions. The patterns, design and style of men's turbans also vary in different parts of Rajasthan. Bright colored patchwork and “tie & dye” textile materials are common all over Rajasthan and Gujarat but their designs signify the region of their origin.
In the initial days of the festival the owners and breeders of camels, horses, cows, goats, and sheep do their annual trading. The negotiations could be drawn long but sometimes if a customer perceives an offer to be a bargain the whole transaction could end in a deal within moments. The venders list all the virtues of their animals and the buyers look for the best deals. Rarely the women would be interested in the animal trading. They are focused on the glittering wares under tented stalls. Silver ornaments are a favorite and include intricately designed hairpins, a vast variety of chains and necklaces, nose rings, heavy waistbands, anklets that vary from very delicate to rather heavy ones with tiny bells that would tinkle with every step. Ivory/Bone bangles that sometimes cover the entire arms are also a favorite.
The festival culminates with Kartik Purnima or the full moon night. The day begins with a ritual bath and “Surya Namaskar”, the sun prayers at dawn. Thereafter hundreds of thousands of folk head to the bathing “Ghats”, the steps leading into the lake. The devotees believe that a life-time of sins are washed away on this mystical dawn by bathing in the holy waters of Pushkar Lake, the Lourdes of India. The worshipers head to the Brahma temple after the holy dip. In the evening there is the Aartee ritual with oil lamps in the temples along the lake shore. After the visit to the temples the pilgrims bring tiny lamps with small strings of flowers on a little boat created out of green leaves to the lake and float them on its serene waters in the full moon Kartik Purnima night. Many people head home during the night while others follow them at dawn. Soon the pilgrimage town is quite once again for the rest of the year.
You would stay in deluxe tents with attached bathrooms in the vast fair grounds and would have ample time to explore the camel and cattle trading or to visit the row of Hindu temple along the lake shore. This stay is especially very interesting for photographers and film makers.
From Pushkar you would drive to the city of lakes and medieval palaces called Udaipur where our first stop will be for a delicious lunch in the 264 years old Jagniwas Lake Palace Hotel. This marble palace is located on an island in the middle of Pichola Lake and you would be enjoying a pleasant boat ride from the banks to this palace. You will be visiting the other island palace called Jag Mandir as well as the massive City Palace of the Maharanas of Udaipur. Just outside the palace gates is the white marble Jagdish Temple with beautiful carvings.
On the way to Mount Abu that is located at the highest elevation (about 3600 feet above sea level) in Rajasthan, you will be visiting the Ranakpur Jain Temple that was built in 15th century in a lush green valley surrounded by the Aravali range of mountains. In Mount Abu you will be relaxing the former guest house of the Maharajas of Bikaner before visiting two of the most beaufifully carved white marble Jain temples in India. The last stop of this amazing tour is in Ahmedabad, the most important city of the state of Gujarat. This region was settled as early as 3000 BCE. You will be visiting the medieval forts, mausoleums, mosques and temples of Ahmedabad during your stay here. This city is famous for its rich textile manufacturing tradition. You will visit the Calico Textile Museum that is considered one of the best textile museums of the world. From Ahmedabad you would be flying back to New Delhi for your return flight to USA.
The tour price of $ 3,295 includes roundtrip bus connection to Los Angeles International airport, roundtrip international airfare with taxes and fees to New Delhi, 4/5-star and heritage hotel accommodations with breakfasts and dinners as well as some lunches, transport by air-conditioned deluxe coach with daily bottled water, all monument entrance fees and English speaking guide fees and much more.