Spiritual Journey through India & Nepal

Spiritual Journey through India & Nepal

Package Duration: 15 Nights and 16 Days
Places Covered: Delhi - Agra - Varanasi – Bodh Gaya - Patna - Kushinagar - Lumbini - Chitwan - Kathmandu

Tour Overview

A journey to the amazing countries of India and Nepal which will allow you to walk in the footsteps of Buddha and also let you understand the Hindu religion. A short description about each destinations will inspire you more - The magical, mysterious Taj Mahal; Sarnath, where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after his enlightenment; The Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya, under which Buddha attained enlightenment; Rajgir, the site of the first Buddhist Council after the Buddha’s nirvana; Nalanda, believed to be the oldest university in the world; Kushinagar, where Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana; Vaishali, a place sacred to Buddhism with historical significance; Lumbini: The birth place of Lord Buddha in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal; Chitwan: Also known as ‘Heart of the jungle’ is famous as one of the best wildlife-viewing parks in Asia and a classic example of the ‘Terai’ landscape and Kathmandu; the capital and largest city of Nepal.

Highlights:

  • Food walk in Old Delhi
  • Visit of magnificent Taj Mahal
  • The Mahabodhi temple at Gaya
  • Nalanda the oldest university of the world
  • Lumbini the birth place of The Budhha
  • A safari in Chitwan National Park

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Delhi
Arrive in Delhi today and get transferred in a private vehicle to your hotel where accommodation is held from 1400 hrs. Check-in and spend the rest of the day to explore the bustling national capital. Overnight in the hotel.

Delhi offers a harmonious blend of architecture and history. From remnants of the Mughal empire and British Raj to contemporary India, you can experience it all in the capital. The city is sure to charm you with its eclectic mix of the old and new – from magnificent monuments to bustling Old Delhi markets and stunning high rises.

Day 2: In Delhi
Full day excursion to Old and New Delhi, exploring the medieval and pre-modern faces of the historic capital of India personified by the Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk (closed on Sundays). Take a food walk in the Chandni Chowk market. In Afternoon visit Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar. Overnight in the hotel.

Jama Masjid is a mosque in Old Delhi, constructed in 1650–56 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān, a noted patron of Islamic architecture whose most famous work is the Taj Mahal, in Agra.

This vibrant market came to existence when the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, shifted his capital from Agra to Shahjahanabad, now Old Delhi, in the mid 17th century. While Chandni Chowk or the moonlit square no longer bears the magnificence of the bygone era, its importance in the annals of Delhi will never be lost.

The food walk in Old Delhi is a great experience to and the best way to see and taste Old Delhi. The dishes one can savor in Old Delhi Food Walk are large, thick and juicy jalebis, glistening with ghee; Aloo chaat crisp fried potato cutlets dunked in a melange of chutneys and smattered with onions and spices ; varieties of stuffed paranthas potato, onion, cottage cheese, cauliflower, radish, dry fruits and many more….

Humanyun’s Tomb was built in 1565 A.D. nine years after the death of Humayun, by his senior widow Bega Begam. Inside the walled enclosure the most notable features are the garden squares (chaharbagh) with pathways water channels, centrally located well proportional mausoleum topped by double dome.

Qutab Minar is a soaring, 73 m-high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi's last Hindu kingdom. The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony

Day 3 : Drive to Agra, en-route Sikandra
After breakfast drive to Agra, en – route stop for visiting the Sikandra. A drive of about 4 hours, arrive and check – in at the hotel. In the afternoon proceed to visit the Moonlight Garden. Overnight at the hotel.

Sikandra is a grandiose complex famous for being the home of the tomb of Akbar the Great, the greatest Mughal leader. This glorious monument showcases a harmonious fusion of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jain art and architecture. Marvel at a collection of lavish red sandstone and marble gateways, chambers and minarets. Enjoy a moment of peace and serenity while wandering along the pathways of a tree-shaded garden. Emperor Akbar started work on Sikandra and his own mausoleum in the early 1600s and it was completed by his son, Jehangir. Akbar’s dream was to create a blend of religious themes befitting of his well-known tolerance of spiritual beliefs. The complex takes its name from Sikandra Lodi, the former Sultan of Delhi who established the district in which it stands.

Known to exist since prehistoric times, Agra came into full flower during the 16th and 17th centuries as one of the four capitals of Mughal dynasty. It was in Agra that the artistic excellence of the Mughals reached its zenith at a time that coincided with the political high water mark of their vast and expanding empire.

The Mehtab Bagh or the moonlight garden, was the last of the eleven Mughal-built gardens along the Yamuna river opposite to the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. Built during the period 1631- 1635 A.D., Mehtab Bagh literally means “a moonlit pleasure garden”.

Day 4 : Agra – Varanasi (on board train)
After breakfast proceed to visit the Taj Mahal (closed on Fridays) , Agra Fort and Itmad Ud Daulah. In The evening drive to Tundla Railway Station for train Poorva Express leaving at 2020 hrs for Mughal Sarai (Varanasi). Onboard the train.

The Taj Mahal is an enormous mausoleum complex commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his beloved wife. Constructed over a 20-year period on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, the famed complex is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture, which combined Indian, Persian and Islamic influences.

Agra Fort was begun by Akbar between 1565 and 1573. It is situated on the west bank of the Yamuna River, about 2km upstream from the Taj Mahal.  Akbar built the fort of sandstone; his grandson Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, constructed palaces of white marble within the fort itself.

Do you know that the Taj Mahal was not the first or only monument in marble in Agra? Baby Taj or Itimad-ud-Daulah is a tomb that was built by mother of Shah Jahan. It has a very delicate architectural beauty. The marble lattice structures in this monument are the highlight. You can find exotic Persian styled gardens around the tomb.

Day 5 : Arrive in Varanasi
Arrive in Mughal Sarai Railway Station, transfer to Varanasi city. After wash and change leave for a day-trip to Sarnath (Sarnath museum is closed on all Fridays), a religious Buddhist site. In the afternoon city tour of Varanasi covering - Alamgir Mosque or Beni Madhav Ka Darera, Dasaswamedh Ghat and The Bharat Mata Temple. Evening we will visit the banks of Ganges for Ganga Aarti. Overnight stay in the Hotel

Buddha came to Sarnath to preach his message of the middle way to nirvana after he achieved enlightenment at Bodhgaya, and gave his famous first sermon here. In the 3rd century BC, Emperor Ashoka had magnificent stupas and monasteries erected here, as well as an engraved pillar. When Chinese traveller Xuan Zang dropped by in AD 640, Sarnath boasted a 100m-high stupa and 1500 monks living in large monasteries. However, soon after, Buddhism went into decline and, when Muslim invaders sacked the city in the late 12th century, Sarnath disappeared altogether. It was ‘rediscovered’ by British archaeologists in 1835.

Assi Ghat is where pilgrims pay homage to Lord Shiva by worshipping a huge lingam situated under a peepal tree. This ghat is a lively space, rippling in chaos and commotion and one that vividly captures the ancientness of Kashi.

Ganga Aarti is a ceremony to thank and praise the river". A group of young saints dressed up with silky saffron and white robes conduct this ceremony.

Each pandit or saint takes up a specific spot in the Ghat and start the ritual by offering flowers to the river. The ritual includes many oil lamps like snake hood lamp which are waved in a synced motion. Conch shells are blown during the ceremony too. Yak tail fans and peacock feather fans are also waved during the ceremony. The priests end the ceremony by pouring a bowl of water into the river.

Day 6 : Drive to Bodhgaya
In the early morning, enjoy boat ride across the river Ganges. Visit the numerous temples alongside river Ganga and get a closer view of Hinduism being in Varanasi. Observe the daily life of the natives. Take a walk in the narrow street of Varanasi (Old Varanasi). After visits eave for Bodhgaya by surface, a journey of about 8hrs. Arrive and check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Sunrise boat ride on Ganga in Varanasi is a memorable experience and not to be missed. It gives a glimpse of morning life along the ghats in Varanasi. If you are lucky you can see stunning views of sun rising in the eastern horizon.

These boats are slow moving ones with oars. Each boat has a boat man and his assistant. They move very slowly and help you to see stunning sun rise over the horizon with Ganga in the foreground, the panoramic views of ghats and the morning life on ghats closely.

The crucible of Buddhism, Bodhgaya was where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment beneath a bodhi tree 2600 years ago and became Buddha (the 'Awakened One'). In terms of blessedness, this tiny temple town is to Buddhists what Mecca is to Muslims. Unsurprisingly, it attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world every year, who come for prayer, study and meditation.

Day 7 : In Bodhgaya
After breakfast proceed for visit of Mahabodhi Temple and Bodhi tree. Rest of the day to explore the town on your own. Overnight at the hotel.

The magnificent Unesco World Heritage–listed Mahabodhi Temple, marking the hallowed ground where Buddha attained enlightenment and formulated his philosophy of life, forms the spiritual heart of Bodhgaya. Built in the 6th century AD atop the site of a temple erected by Emperor Ashoka almost 800 years earlier, it was razed by foreign invaders in the 11th century, and subsequently underwent several major restorations. Topped by a 50m pyramidal spire, the inner sanctum of the ornate structure houses a 10th-century, 2m-high gilded image of a seated Buddha. Amazingly, four of the original sculpted stone railings surrounding the temple, dating from the Sunga period (184–72 BC), have survived amid the replicas. Others are now housed inside the archaeological museum.

Pilgrims and visitors from all walks of life and religions come to worship or just soak up the atmosphere of this sacred place. An enthralling way to start or finish the day is to stroll around the inside of the perimeter of the temple compound (in an auspicious clockwise pattern) and watch a sea of maroon and yellow dip and rise, while Tibetan monks perform endless prostrations on their prayer boards. There’s a less atmospheric Meditation Park for those seeking extra solitude within the temple grounds.

Undoubtedly, the most sacred fig tree ever to grace the Earth was the Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya, under which Prince Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, achieved enlightenment. Buddha was said to have stared unblinkingly at the tree in an awed gesture of gratitude and wonder after his enlightenment. Today, pilgrims and tourists alike flock here to pray and meditate at the most important of Buddhism’s four holiest sites.

Known as Sri Maha Bodhi, the original tree was paid special attention by Ashoka, a mighty Indian emperor who ruled most of the subcontinent from 269 to 232 BC, a century or two after Buddha’s believed death. His wife, Tissarakkhā, wasn’t such a fan of the tree and in a fit of jealousy and rage, caused the original Bodhi Tree’s death by poisonous thorns shortly after becoming queen. Thankfully, before its death, one of the tree’s saplings was carried off to Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka by Sanghamitta (Ashoka’s daughter), where it continues to flourish. A cutting was later carried back to Bodhgaya and planted where the original once stood. The red sandstone slab between the tree and the adjacent Mahabodhi Temple was placed by Ashoka to mark the spot of Buddha’s enlightenment – it’s referred to as the Vajrasan (Diamond Throne).

Day 8 : Drive to Patna, en-route Rajgir & Nalanda
After breakfast leave for Patna by surface, en-route visit the Rajgir and Nalanda. A journey of about 8hrs. Arrive in Patna, check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Rajgir is the ancient capital of Magadha kings. The Buddha often visited Rajagriha to retreat at the Jivkamaravana monastery, preaching and meditating on the Gridhakuta Hill. The disciples of the Buddha built many structures here. Rajgir is also sacred to Jains as Lord Mahavira studied and meditated here. The first Buddhist Council was held here after the Buddha’s nirvana.

Nalanda is believed to be the oldest university in the world. Founded in the 5th century BC, it became a renowned centre of Buddhist and Jain learning. Hieun Tsang, the Chinese traveller, spent several years here in the 7th century AD. Nalanda Archaeological Museum has a magnificent collection of Pali and Mauryan statues, bronze and manuscripts.

Nalanda Mahavihara an institute for the study of Pali literature houses rare Buddhist manuscripts. Though Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous centre of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th – 12th centuries. The Chinese scholar and traveller Hiuen Tsang stayed here in the 7th century, and has left an elaborate description of the excellence, and purity of monastic life practised here. About 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over the Buddhist world, lived and studied in this international university.

Day 9 : Drive to Kushinagar, en-route Vaishali
After breakfast leave for Kushinagar by surface, en-route visit the Vaishali. A journey of about 8hrs Arrive in Kushinagar, check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Vaishali: After dwelling at Kapilvastu the Buddha left for Vaisali, an ancient site that has been identified with modern Basarh in Bihar. Vaisali is also known as Vaisala. The blessed one was staying at the Great hall in Mahavana (Large Grove). For Buddhists Vaisali is a sacred place.

One of the four main pilgrimage sites marking Buddha’s life – the others being Lumbini (Nepal), Bodhgaya and Sarnath – Kushinagar is where Buddha died. There are several peaceful, modern temples where you can stay, chat with monks or simply contemplate your place in the world, and there are three main historical sights, including the simple but wonderfully serene stupa where Buddha is said to have been cremated.

Day 10 : Drive to Lumbini
After an early breakfast visit the Mahaparinirvana Temple and the stupa behind temple . After visits leave for Lumbini, a journey of about 4hrs. Arrive in Lumbini, check-in at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Mahaparinirvana Temple: The highlight of this modest temple, rebuilt in 1927 and set among extensive lawns and ancient excavated ruins with a circumambulatory path, is its serene 5th-century reclining Buddha, unearthed in 1876. Six metres long, it depicts Buddha on his ancient death-bed and is one of the world’s most moving Buddhist icons. At sunset, monks cover the statue to the shoulders with a long saffron-coloured silk sheet, as though putting Buddha to bed for the night.

Behind the temple is an ancient 19m-tall stupa, and in the surrounding park is a large bell erected by the Dalai Lama.

Day 11 : Drive to Chitwan
After breakfast visit the Sacred Garden in Lumbini. After visits leave for Chitwan, a journey of abou 4hrs. Arrive in Chitwan, check-in at the hotel. Afternoon leave for Elephant safari excursion in Chitwan National Park. Overnight at the hotel.

Ashokan Pillar in Lumbini : The Ashokan Pillar-In 1895, a German archaeologist, white wandering about the foothills of the Churia range, discovered a massive stone pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka in 250 B.C. to pay homage to the birth place of Buddha. It is said that the Indian Emperor visited Lumbini Garden in the twentieth year of his coronation. The stone pillar bears the following inscription: King Piyadasi, beloved of the gods, having been anointed twenty years, came himself and worshipped saying: "Here Buddha Sakyamuni was born. He caused a stone pillar to be erected, because the worshipful one was born here. Thevillage of Lumbini has been made free of taxes and a recipient of wealth.

The Temple of Maya Devi: The next visible monument in Lumbini is the temple of Maya Devi containing a stone relief depicting the birth scene of Lord Buddha. The bas-relief shows Maya Devi supporting herself by holding on to a branch of a sal tree, and the newborn infantBuddha standing upright on a lotus pedestal. Two celestial figures are engaged in the act of pouring water and lotuses from the heaven, indicated in the sculpture by a delineation of clouds. The Maya Devi shrine has been worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists since the beginning of the Christian era and is believed to have been built over the foundation of at least one earlier temple or stupa. To the South of the Maya Devi temple is the famous sacred pool of 'Puskarani', believed to be the same sacred pool in which queen Maya Devi bathed just before giving birth to Buddha. It is also belived to be the same sacred pool in which queen Maya Devi bathed just before giving birth to Buddha. It is also believe to be the pool where the infantBuddha was given his first purification bath. The structure consists of three projecting terraces in descending order and is rivetted with fine brick masonry.

Later this afternoon, embark on a thrilling safari excursion by elephant. Encompassing dense forests, water marshes and rippling grassland, Chitwan National Park is one of the last refuges of the highly endangered one-horned Indian rhino. In addition, there are healthy populations of deer, monkeys, leopard and the elusive Royal Bengal tiger. In the company of our expert tracker guide, your first foray into the Park promises to be unforgettable with a good chance of encountering Nepal’s magnificent jungle wildlife! This evening, enjoy an informative briefing from the Lodge’s expert team of naturalists.

Day 12 : In Chitwan
Breakfast at the hotel. Full day to explore the Chitwan National Park by canoe ride and elephant safari. In the evening enjoy Tharu Stick Dance performance by locals. Overnight at the hotel.

Canoe ride: Floating down to Rapti River on a dugout canoe is the best way to discover the habitat of crocodiles in the river. It is also a relaxing and better way to watch the different kind of birds and wildlife species, while they are drinking water in the bank of river Rapti.

Elephant safari : Seated high on the back of an elephant, you will gain a unique viewpoint of the Chitwan jungle as an experienced mahout tracks animals through the dense jungle. As you sit back on a howdah, you can imagine yourself being a Rajah or Rani going on a shooting trip (with cameras of course!) in the days of yore. An elephant safari allows you to go places that would be impossible to get to by foot or Jeep and get up close to the wild animals of the jungle that are normally wary, but at home with a fellow creature of the jungle. Nowadays elephant safari is conducted only in the community forests.

Later in the evening, there will be an entertainment through Tharu Stick Dance. You are more than welcome to join the village girls and boys as they move their hips in a local rhythm OR Slide Presentation

Day 13 : Drive to Kathmandu
After having breakfast at the lodge, drive to Kathmandu, a journey of about 6hrs. Arrive in Kathmandu, check-in at the hotel. Evening explore the local market on your own. Overnight stay in the hotel.

For many, stepping off a plane into Kathmandu is a pupil-dilating experience, a riot of sights, sounds and smells that can quickly lead to sensory overload. Whether you’re barrelling through the traffic-jammed alleyways of the old town in a rickshaw, marvelling at the medieval temples or dodging trekking touts in the backpacker district of Thamel, Kathmandu can be an intoxicating, amazing and exhausting place.

Day 14 : In Kathmandu
After breakfast at hotel, commence the sightseeing tour of Swayambhunath, Kathmandu city and Patan city. Overnight at the hotel.

Swayambhunath : Said to be around 2000 years old, this Buddhist Stupa sits atop a hillock 02 kilometres west of Kathmandu overlooking the valley. The oldest written reference to the stupa dates from the 5th century, but it could have existed much earlier. Moreover, a legend has it that the stupa evolved spontaneously at the time of the Kathmandu valley’s creation. Swayambhunath is famously known as the ‘Monkey Temple’ owing to the presence of a large number of monkeys around the area.

Kathmandu Durbar Square: The durbar square with its arrays of temples, courtyards, monuments and the ancient palaces of the former Nepali Royals is located in Basantapur in the heart of Kathmandu city, the country’s capital. Chief attractions here include Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace, the magnificent Taleju Temple towering more than 40 meters; Kumari Ghar, the residence of the Living Goddess, Kumari; the temple of Ashok Vinayak dedicated to lord Ganesh (elephant headed deity), and Kal Bhairav, the God of Wrath. There is a giant pagoda of ‘Kasthamandap’, a structure which is said to have been built out of a single tree. The name of the capital ‘Kathmandu’ is said to be actually derived from ‘Kasthamandap’.

Patan Durbar Square: Located 5 km southeast of Kathmandu, the Patan city popularly known as ‘the city of artisans’ accommodates a magnificent square housing the palace buildings of the then royals, artistic courtyards and graceful pagoda temples – a display of Newari architecture that had reached its pinnacle during the reign of the Malla kings. It is filled with wood and stone carvings, metal statues, and ornate architecture, including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples, and over 1200 monuments.

Note: The recent earthquake has destroyed few temples in the durbar square premise; several structures have sustained minor damages.

Day 15 : In Kathmandu
After breakfast at hotel, commence the sightseeing tour of Bhaktapur city, Boudhanath & Pashupatinath temple. Overnight stay at the hotel.

Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon) : Also known as city of devotees, Bhaktapur is the home of medieval art and architecture. Lying 14 kilometers/9 miles east of Kathmandu City, this place was founded in the 9th Century and is shaped like a conch shell. The city is at the height of 4,600 ft. above sea level. In Bhadgaon, you will visit the Durbar Square with the Palace of 55 windows built by King Bhupatindra Malla. The famous five-storied Nyatapol temple on the terraces of which stands a pair of figures - two goddesses, two strong men, two elephants, two lions and two griffins is the tallest temple in the valley and was also built by King Bhupatindra Malla. It is one of the best examples of Pagoda styled temples.

Boudhanath : One of the oldest and the biggest Buddhist monuments ever built in Nepal; Boudhanath is a spherical stupa structure imposing at a height of 36 meters with three massive Mandala style platforms. Located 08 kilometres east of Kathmandu, the stupa with four pairs of eyes at the four cardinal directions is believed to be keeping watch for righteous behavior and human prosperity.

Built on an octagonal base inset with 108 prayer wheels, the shrine is ringed by the settlement especially of the Tibetan refugees who entered Nepal in the 1950s. They have developed the place into a ‘Mini-Tibet’ ever since.

Pashupatinath Temple dating back to 400 A.D. is one of the oldest temples dedicated to Lord Shiva- the superior god as per Hindu mythology. Situated 05 kilometres east of Kathmandu amidst a lush green natural setting on the bank of the sacred Bagmati River, the temple is built in a two storey Pagoda design with gilded roof and richly carved silver doors. It houses the sacred linga or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. Pashupatinath is the centre of annual pilgrimage on the day of ‘Maha Shivaratri’ that falls in the month of February/March. It is for the Hindus what Mecca is for the Muslims. You will also be able to see the cremation grounds that lie on the bank of Bagmati behind the temple.

Day 16 : Kathmandu departure
After breakfast transfer to the Kathmandu International Airport for flight back home.

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