India - Varanasi 'Maha Shivratri' & Taj Mahal Photo Tour 2018
Highlights: Maha Shivratri Festival Varanasi, Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri
Day 1: Arrival Delhi
Today is an arrival day in Delhi for our India photo tour, and after clearing customs and baggage, you will be met by an ORYX representative and taken to the group’s comfortable hotel for an overnight stay. This evening the group will be met by an ORYX representative, who will discuss plans for this exciting adventure.
Overnight Ashok Country Hotel or Similar
Day 2: Fly Delhi to Varanasi
This morning at a time to be advised, we will head back to Indira Gandhi International Airport for our flight to Varanasi (approximately 1,5 hours). After arriving for our Varanasi photo tour, and baggage collection, an ORYX representative will meet you before transporting you to your hotel.
After check in and lunch we will explore and photograph Varanasi (Benares or Kashi), the oldest living city in the world and the city that has been the ultimate Hindu pilgrimage for ages. Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the holy land of Varanasi will attain salvation from the cycle of birth and re-birth.
Overnight Gateway Ganges
Day 3: Varanasi
During our time on our India photo tour, we will enjoy an early morning boat ride on the river Ganges to witness the sunrise over the river and Ghats (the broad flight of steps leading down to the water) and also to observe the devotees taking a holy dip and offering morning prayers. The city is an experience the likes of which you will find nowhere else in the world!
It is also one of India’s most photographed cities, particularly its Hindu pilgrims, worshipers and bathers on the Ghats situated along the banks of the Ganges (Ganga) River. According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva several thousand years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country.
It is also a general held belief that it stands on the weapon “The Trishool” (Trident) of Lord Shiva. It is one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus, and many Hindu scriptures, including the Rigveda, Skanda Purana, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, mention the city.
A dip at any of the 84 sacred Ghats of the Ganges is believed to wash away the sins of mortals. The city is a centre of learning and civilization and for over 3000 years Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to gods, and Indian arts and crafts have flourished here for centuries, and it is aptly called the “Cultural Capital of India”.
Varanasi was previously an industry centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works and sculpture, while today it is a noted centre for fine silks and brocaded fabrics, exquisite saris, brassware, jewellery, woodcraft, carpets, wall hangings, lamp shades, masks of Hindu and Buddhist deities, Zari work, stone inlay work, glass beads and bangles.
Nights Gateway Ganges or similar
Day 4: Fly Varanasi to Agra
Today we have the opportunity for another early morning boat ride on the Ganges River or simply to relax at the hotel and enjoy the amenities on offer. At a time to be advised we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Agra to continue our India photo tour.
Upon arrival in Agra we will head to Fatehpur Sikri, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Taking 15 years to build, this amazingly well preserved city was constructed by Mughal emperor Akbar and served as the empire’s capital. However it was abandoned in 1585 soon after the city’s completion due to the water supply being unable to sustain the growing population. Today numerous notable imperial buildings and a fabulous mosque still stand, and a visit to Fatehpur Sikri is a truly memorable experience.
After an exciting day, we will be able to relax in comfort at our comfortable hotel in Agra, preparing ourselves for the upcoming 2 days which promises to be memorable!
Overnight Hotel Clarks Shiraz
Days 5 & 6: Full days Agra
Agra is the home of arguably the world’s most famous and spectacular historic building, the Taj Mahal! This morning we will visit this architectural masterpiece, the name of which literally means “Crown of Palaces”. This tour highlight is a World Heritage Site and is famous for the elegance of its design, its extraordinary translucent white marble dome, its mathematical symmetry and the immense numbers of intricately carved and inlaid semi-precious stones that adorn its walls.
Begun in 1632, tens of thousands of architects and labourers, and over a thousand elephants, toiled for more than 20 years to complete this breath-taking edifice, which was commissioned by the grief-stricken Shah Jahan after his third wife died during the birth of their 14th child. This is without a doubt one of India’s most iconic and impressive sites, and we will be visiting it in the soft morning light which is optimal for photography. The “Taj” is truly so spectacular that we will be visiting it in the afternoon again, giving us a second opportunity to photograph this unforgettable landmark! We may also take some time to visit a marble inlay factory, which will give us some insight into the immense skill and craftsmanship involved in the construction of the fabled Taj Mahal.
During the course of our Taj Mahal photo tour we will also visit the fabled Agra Red Fort, located in the centre of the city and serving as a monumental reminder of the fascinating history of the region. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is more accurately a 94 acre walled city and was constructed in the 16th century. Exploring this architecturally spectacular complex is fascinating and from here we will also be able to enjoy views of the shimmering marble Taj Mahal. In fact Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal, spent his final years here at the Agra Fort as a captive of his son Aurangzeb who deposed him. Shah Jahan apparently died here whilst imprisoned in a tower with a view of the Taj Mahal.
Overnight Hotel Clarks Shiraz
Day 7: Drive Agra to Delhi and depart
Today, our wonderful photographic tour sadly comes to an end. After a final morning’s photography and breakfast we will road transfer back to Delhi (approximately 4, 5 hours) as we will make our way back to Indira Gandhi International Airport where our India photo tour ends.