Home of many religions and spiritual practices such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Yoga, India has been a place of holy pilgrimage for thousands of years.
(From the Skanda Purana, a Hindu holy book)
"Are there not many holy places on this earth?
Yet which of them would equal in the balance to one speck of the Kashi's dust?
Are there not many rivers running to the sea?
Yet which of them is like the River of Heaven in the Kashi?
Are there not many fields of liberation on earth?
Yet not one equals the smallest part of the city never forsaken by Shiva.
The Ganges, Shiva and Kashi: Where the Trinity is watchful,
no wonder here is found the grace that leads one on to perfect bliss."
We will be enchanted by ancient and modern cities of Northern India, ashrams, temples, fire temples, colorful bazaars. We will travel by plane and rickshaw, witness a magnificent light show and take a sunrise boat cruise on the most sacred Ganges River.
Known as “Queen of the Hills", mystical Darjeeling is nestled in the rolling Himalayan foothills. Our journey includes a visit to the Mahakal shrine, sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. Amidst tinkling temple bells and fluttering prayer flags sit a Hindu priest and a Buddhist lama performing rituals of both faiths. We will visit Tiger Hill with its breathtaking sunrise over Kanchenjunga Mountain, and Dhoom Gompa, one of the most famous religious places in Darjeeling.
We will engage with the most sacred Temple of Good Will, a magnificent white palace and the etheric retreat of the Master El Morya (Master of Ray 1) located in the Himalayas above the city of Darjeeling. Radiant currents of light pour from his retreat, which also has a physical focus in the hills surrounding the city. We shall connect with the vibrational energy of the Temple of Good Will, Master El Morya and Archangel Michael (the angel of Ray 1).
Just to the south of the walled city of Agra lies the mausoleum of Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of emperor Shah Jahan, so beloved by him that his grief inspired the construction of one of the wonders of the world: the Taj Mahal. The very words “Taj Mahal” breathe of magic, devotion, and the force of love.
We shall greet this “crown of palaces” as the morning sun illuminates its white marble and inlaid stones, as the magnificent domes of marble reach up to the sky in perfect symmetry. With its Persian and Mughal-influenced architecture, it is literally one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, with black marble and herringbone tile across the floors in delicate yet complex decorations, with calligraphy inscribed passages from the Qur’an throughout the complex.
Shah Jahan himself said of the Taj:
“Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator’s glory.”
Moving into the depths of the mountains of Ranakpur, we visit the breathtaking Jain Temple. Rising out of the side of a hill, the magnificent temple is supported by over 1444 exquisitely carved pillars, each one unique and carved in exquisite detail – each statue faces one or another statue, creating the visual illusion of both endlessness and individuality. Sequential spacing and boundless variety are combined blissfully with the immaculacy of white all over. One statue, carved out of a single marble rock, has 108 heads of snakes and tails, and one cannot find the end of the tails. This temple is Dedicated to Adinatha, whom the Jainists hold is the “Original Lord” and first Tirthankara, responsible for formulating and organizing humans to live in society harmoniously, and the dharma of compassion.
The magnificent temple is designed as chaumukha (with four faces) symbolizing the Tirthankara’s conquest of the four cardinal directions and hence the cosmos. Indeed, our experience here will invite in purification and upliftment by beauty.
Mystic and Spiritual Guide Finbarr Ross will guide you on this stunning journey of awakening and ascension. With a profound connection to the energy centers of the land and its holy temples, Finbarr will lead the group in Golden Flame meditations, rituals and ceremonies designed to open us more fully to our soul’s communion and divine conscious awareness. He has been leading tours to India since 2002.
Welcome to Delhi, India's bustling capital city. After customs, our representative will meet you with a traditional Indian welcome and escort you to your hotel.
Delhi, one of the oldest and most progressive cities in the world, combines a unique ambience fusing the ancient with the modern. Tremendous ancient monuments stand side-by-side with futuristic buildings, rambling homes are dwarfed by towering luxury hotels, technology intermingles with handicrafts – Delhi is India’s show window. A truly cosmopolitan city, it has brought within its fold people of all ethnic groups and their traditions and cultures, reflected in the variety of arts, crafts, cuisines, festivals and lifestyles.
5:30 pm - Getting to know everyone, followed by dinner. (D)
Overnight at the Lemon Tree Hotel.
This morning we board our flight to Bagdogra, followed by a magical drive through the beautiful, mystical Himalaya mountains, for about three hours, to reach Darjeeling, a city in the State of West Bengal, located in the Himalayas at an elevation of 6700 feet.
Here, we will experience the amazing energy of The Temple of Good Will, a magnificent white palace and the etheric retreat of the Master El Morya (Master of Ray 1). Located in the Himalayas above the city of Darjeeling, the temple flows with radiant currents of light, which also has a physical focus in the hills surrounding the city. We will connect with the vibrational energy of the Temple of Good Will, Master El Moyra and Archangel Michael (who is the angel of Ray 1).
We will begin our day by visiting Tiger Hill, located 11 km in the hills from Darjeeling. What an amazing location to experience the breathtaking sunrise over the Kanchenjunga Mountain, a most heavenly and peaceful place.
Next we will visit Dhoom Gompa, Located in the Darjeeling hills, 8 km from town. One of the most famous religious monasteries in Darjeeling, Dhoom Gompa houses several ancestral handwritten documents about Buddhism. We will engage with a beautiful and exquisitely carved statue of Maitryei Buddha.
Observatory Hill & Mahakal Temple: A short walk takes us up the Observatory Hill, home to the famous Mahakal shrine sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. Amidst tinkling temple bells and fluttering prayer flags sit a Hindu priest and a Buddhist lama, performing rituals of both faiths. (Time permitting, we will take a steam engine train ride which through the hills for about two hours.)
We will overnight at our hotel, the Cedar Inn Darjeeling, for 2 nights. (B, L, D)
This morning, we drive back to Bagdogra and board our flight for Delhi.
Upon arrival, we will check into our hotel and have some free time to journal and integrate all that we have experienced thus far.
We will overnight at our hotel the Lemon Tree Delhi. (B, L, D)
This morning, we depart Delhi for Agra, stopping in Mathura, a sacred city and home of the Krishna Temple Complex. A place of beauty and love, these temples are built where major Hindu deity Krishna is said to have been born.
Next, we visit Agra, situated in the ancient region Braj, forming part of India’s heartland Uttar Pradesh. Braj is associated with the birth and early life of Lord Krishna. The city of Agra is situated on the west, or right, bank of the river Yamuna, south east of Delhi. The origin of Agra is shrouded in mystery, and its early history is to some extent uncertain; it was only in the time of Akbar that Agra city attained world-wide fame, becoming one of the greatest and grandest cities of that time.
Upon arrival, we will check-in our hotel and after a little rest we will have an opportunity to visit a Colonial style Indian home built in 1870. Here, we will see how craftsmen are working with gold and silver wires doing embroidery. On display they have a 150-year-old elephant made of ivory and inlaid with ten thousand semi-precious and precious stones. Later, we will have a traditional home cooked Indian dinner with the family members.
We will overnight at our hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton Agra. (B, L, D)
This morning, we rise early and visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise. The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art" in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage. This wonderful mausoleum was erected by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, the empress Arjumand Bano, later called Mumtaj Mahal.
Described as the lustrous pearl, the Taj Mahal’s beauty stems from several factors: the charming site of the vital river bend on which it stands, the reflection of the building in the water mirroring its magnificence, and the white marble façade of the mausoleum in contrast with the natural background of the skyline when viewed from the garden in front, its color, moods and texture changing quite often.
Within the Taj Mahal, we will experience a powerful vortex which connects us to the Divine Mother.
After our sunrise experience, we'll go back to our hotel for breakfast, and later visit the marble factory where one can view the craftsmen working on marble using the same technique that was used 400 years ago.
Today being the Festival of Holi (festival of colors), we will have an opportunity to enjoy and play with the locals at this unique festival.
We will overnight at our hotel Double Tree by Hilton Agra. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we depart for Jaipur, en route stopping for lunch and later driving to a village known as Abhanari to see Chand Baori, the world famous stepwell. This is the deepest and largest stepwell in India, with 3,500 narrow steps and over 13 stories, extending approximately 100 feet into the ground.
Here, we will also see and experience Harshad Mata Temple or the Temple of Joy and Happiness, a wonderful Hindu Temple.
Later we'll walk around the village to see the rural life of India, then continue on to Jaipur.
Check in to our hotel, followed by free time.
Overnight at our hotel The Trident Jaipur. (B, L, D)
Jaipur is an amazing city with all its beauty and mysticism. After breakfast, we will visit the Galtaji Temple. About 10 kilometers from Jaipur City, this site consists of a series of temples built into a narrow crevice in the ring of hills that surrounds Jaipur. A natural spring emerges high on the hill and flows downward, filling a series of sacred kunds (water tanks) in which pilgrims bathe. Visitor and pilgrims can ascend the crevasse, continuing past the highest water pool to a hilltop Temple. Views of Jaipur and its fortifications spread out across the valley floor, and it is believed a Saint Galav lived here.
Jaipur, the first planned city in India, is also known as the Pink City of India. In addition to its role as the provincial capital, the economy of Jaipur is fueled by tourism, gemstone cutting, luxury textiles and is considered a major hub for arts and crafts. Many shops sell antiques, jewelery, gems, carpets and leather products. This afternoon, we will be visiting the gem cutting and textiles gallery. Later, we will be visiting the Birla Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi.
Overnight at our hotel The Trident Jaipur. (B, L, D)
This morning, we depart for Jodhpur, a city in the Thar Desert of the northwestern state of Rajasthan. Its 15th century Mehrangarh Fort is perhaps the most magnificent fort of all in Rajasthan. Set on a rocky hill, the fort overlooks the walled city where many houses are painted in blue. Jodhpur is also known as the Sun City, as the sun shines almost every day of the year.
On arrival we check-in, then visit the local market where we will have an opportunity to mingle with the locals and witness wonderous variety, especially the women in their vibrant colors and men with their colorful turbans. We shall visit Maharani Textiles, and conclude our day with a visit to Kunj Bihari Temple. Dedicated to Lord Krishna also known as Sri Nath ji, the temple belongs to the Rama Nandi Vaishnava sect of Hindus.
Overnight at our hotel Balsamand Palace Jodpur. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we visit the Mehrangarh Fort Temple. Built in 1459, this imposing structure is enclosed by thick walls where several palaces inside are known for their intricate carvings. Here, you will visit the Temple of Maa Chamunda, a Hindu Temple with a dramatic view of Jodhpur City.
We will have the afternoon free to shop explore, rest, meditate or journal. This evening, we will go on a jeep safari to witness the Bishnoi Village.
The Bishnois are devoted worshippers of Nature. On our Bishnoi safari, we shall experience the amazing cultural life of the community and their diet which constitutes pure vegetarian dishes. We will also experience the finest works of pottery and iron smithing. We will see wildlife species like antelopes, demoiselle crane, gazelle, rabbits, peacocks, blue bulls and perhaps blackbuck.
Overnight at our hotel WelcomHeritage Bal Samand Lake Palace Jodpur. (B, L, D)
This morning, our drive will take us to Ranakpur.
In a remote and peaceful valley of Ranakpur are the most beautifully preserved Jain Temples in India. Built in the 15th century, these temples are known for being the largest and most important temples in the Jain religion. The main temple dates back to 1439 and is called the "four-faced temple.” Covering an area of 48,000 square feet, it has 29 halls, 80 domes and is supported by 1444 marble pillars, each of them intricately carved, yet no two are alike.
Later, we check-in at our hotel. In the evening, we will be entertained with Rajasthani Folk dances.
Overnight at our hotel Maharani Bagh Orchard Ranakpur. (B, L, D)
Today, we have an early morning departure to "the city of lakes", Udaipur, in the Mewar Region. Stopping en route, we will visit the Shri Eklingi Ji Temple. Eklingi is believed to be the ruling deity of Mewar.
From here, we'll drive to Udaipur. Known as the Venice of the East, it has been dubbed the most romantic spot on the continent of India by a British administrator, James Todd. It is known as "the city of lakes" because of its sophisticated lake system, with seven lakes surrounding the city, and the city itself nestled around the Aravalli range of Mountains. Upon arrival we'll check-in, and after some rest and tea, we'll drive around the city and take a boat ride on the famous Lake Pichola. We will learn why this city is also known as the White City.
Later, we will proceed for dinner at a local restaurant before heading back to the hotel.
Overnight at our hotel Laxmi Palace Udaipur. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we will check out and drive to the Jagdish Temple, a large temple in the middle of the town, in continuing worship since 1651. One must climb 32 marble steps, intercepted by a brass image of Garuda, to reach the main shrine (Mount of Lord Vishnu).
We then depart for the airport to catch our flight to Delhi. On arrival, we'll check in at our hotel with some free time before dinner.
Overnight at our hotel WelcomHotel Dwarka, New Delhi. (B, L, D)
Our day begins with a tour of Old Delhi, with its vibrant market lanes,
old havelis (mansions) and colorful neighborhoods, and a stunning sense
of journeying back in time. Here, we will visit the Gauri Shankar Temple, the 800-year-old Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Located amidst the congested lanes of Old Delhi, this Temple is a
representation of cosmic energy around which the universe revolves,
elucidated by a brown lingam (phallas stone) encased in a marble
representation of a female organ. The idols of Shiva and Goddess Parvati are beautifully decorated with gold jewelry.
Next, we visit another Hindu Temple, where you witness a Havan (fire ritual).
After lunch, we'll drive through New Delhi, past the India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidents Palace) and Parliament House, proceeding to the Akshardham Temple. Also known as Swaminarayan Temple, and built entirely of Rajasthani pink stone and Italian Carrara marble, the complex displays millennia of Hindu and Indian culture and spirituality. The Temple has 234 ornately carved pillars and 20,000 statues.
Overnight at our hotel WelcomHotel Dwarka, New Delhi. (B, L, D)
This morning, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Varanasi.
Upon arrival you drive to Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. We will also visit a Buddhist Temple and a Buddhist Monastery, where we can chat with the Tibetan monks.
Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world, regarded as the spiritual capital of India. The city draws Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the Ganges River’s sacred waters and perform funeral rites. Along the city’s winding streets there are some 2000 temples, dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. A cultural center of North India for several thousand years, Varanasi is famous for silk fabrics, perfumes and sculptures. The city is known worldwide for its many ghats (embankments made in step stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions).
We will also visit a very special man who distills the most amazing essential oils!
Overnight at our hotel Taj Ganges Varanasi. (B, L, D)
Early morning drive to the ghats for a boat cruise, where we will watch the ancient city wake up with the rising sun, observing pilgrims from all over India performing various rituals alongside the banks of the Ganges. After the boat ride, we all will experience a sacred ceremony initiated by Finbarr on the banks of the River Ganges. We will continue our journey of Awakened Consciousness with a perfect balance of equal day and night, and the opening of the 9th Inter-Dimensional Gateway of the 13 Gateways for humanity and our planet. We shall embrace the Shift and absorb the sacred energies that pour forth to us today, opening ourselves up to the Ancient Wisdoms held in this Mystical Land.
Special message Finbarr received at Iona in 2011:
At Winter Solstice 2012, we are entering a time of shift in the Ascension process, and the energy that comes in at Winter Solstice will spark Phase Two of the process at Spring Equinox 2013, taking us through the First Gateway and Step One of 13 Steps that humanity and our planet must go through. All will culminate with the opening of the 13th gateway at Winter Solstice 2023.
After the ceremony, we return to our hotel for breakfast. At noon we will visit the silk factory, observing how the silk weaving is done on foot-powered looms passed on for generations.
After lunch, some free time to rest until 5:00pm. We will then experience a ride on a cycle rickshaw through the busy streets of Varanasi, passing through the traffic and by many Hindu Temples and shrines spread all over the street.
Finally, we reach the banks of the River Ganga to witness the evening aarti of the Ganga (rotating of oil lamps while reciting Sanskrit mantras). The Ganga aarti is an uplifting spiritual ritual infusing us with holy and sacred connection. Afterwards, we will go back to our rickshaws and travel back to our hotel for dinner (Hindus address the River as Ganga or Mother Ganga).
Overnight at our hotel Taj Ganges Varanasi. (B, L, D)
After breakfast we transfer to the airport to board our flight to Delhi, where we will overnight at the Lemon Tree Hotel. (B, L, D)
On the 22nd, we will connect with our international flight home, grateful for the tremendous joy and grace we experienced with this mystical land and its people.