This educational tour allows you to learn about the role women play and how it has evolved. You have insightful discussions with local women artists, film directors, a modern maharani-turn-politician, housewives, mothers and entrepreneurs. Stay in beautiful palaces and frescoed mansions and enjoy diverse and exquisite cuisine. You visit the walled city of Jodhpur and the majestic Mehrangarh Fort and the 15th century Jain temples at Ranakpur. After India, you fly to Kathmandu to learn about Nepali culture and the role of its women.
Delhi – Met and transfer to hotel.
Tour this regal city of contrasts, first visit bustling New Delhi with the imposing Qutab Minar, Emperor Humayun’s Tomb, The Houses of Parliament, and The Presidential Palace. Afternoon drive to Old Delhi and visit Raj Ghat (Mahatma Gandhi’s Memorial), Jama Masjid (Universal Mosque), The Red Fort and the fabled Chandni Chowk (Silver Street) with its exotic spice market, alleys filled with Gold and Silversmiths, sweet meat vendors, fabric merchants and more. In the evening enjoy a welcome dinner at your host’s house where you will have the opportunity to meet and interact with local women from different walks of life.
Transfer flight . Morning tour of this beautiful city of Palaces and lakes. Visit Sahelion Ki Bari or Garden of the Maids with its striking Hindu landscape with a lotus pond, marble elephants, myriad rainbow fountains and a pretty pool pavilion. Drive through ancient alleys filled with wooden folk toys, batik wall hangings, hand printed textiles, picchwais-colorfully painted wall hangings, miniature paintings and chunky silver jewelry until you arrive at the grandiose City Palace and Museum, with its breathtaking array of white filigreed balconies, ornate arches and cupolas. Enjoy the sweeping panoramic views of the city and Lake Pichola from here before proceeding to Jagdish Temple, built in the Indo-Aryan style and on to Shilpgram the best rural arts and crafts center in India. It was set up to preserve the traditional architecture, music and crafts of the tribal people of western India, and holds rare displays of the diverse traditional lifestyles and customs of these people. View exquisitely carved Gujerati wooden houses, circular painted huts from Kutch, thick-walled low roofed Rajasthani desert houses and Goan potters’ huts. Be entertained by the musicians, dancers and hijras (eunuchs) and interact with the local women artisans to learn about their lifestyle, their role in society, the difficulties they face and what if any changes have occurred to help them. See them weaving, making pottery and puppets and fine embroidery in their original localities.
Visit the ancient Mewar capital of Chittorgarh, known for its Rajput valour and chivalry, its saffron robed warriors and the brave women who defied the law that banned “sati” and walked into the funeral pyres. This once powerful hilltop fort, situated on a 180m high precipice, is shrouded in romantic mystery and is another deserted ghost town, a silent, lonely expanse of arches, gates, memorials and cenotaphs which stand testament to a proud, heroic people to whom honor meant more than life itself! Overnight at Hotel
Drive through rural Rajasthan past colorfully dressed men and women in their bullock carts to Ranakpur, home of the fabulous Jain temples which are beautifully preserved. This massive marble structure was built in 1439 and consists of 29 halls supported by 1444 elaborated carved pillars, no two are alike. The sun is setting over the desert landscape by the time we arrive in Rohetgarh, (230 km from Ranakpur about 7 hours drive) unknown in guide books and highlighted by a fortress frescoed with elephants, camels and warriors. On arrival we will be met by members of the royal family and enjoy “an authentic Indian experience.” We will eat the fancy dinner with our hands, watch women dressed in colorful saris perform the sensual, twirling dance called the ghoomer. We will have the opportunity of sitting and discussing many women related issues with the Maharani, her daughters and daughters-in-law to gain an insight into the lifestyles of the women of the royal household. Overnight at Hotel Rohetgarh, an old fortified mansion and no ordinary hotel.
Go on a jeep safari into the desert where we will meet the Bishnoi tribe, “Born Environmentalists” they cut no trees and kill no animals, which is why India’s endangered black buck has been saved. In the distance we see these antelopes with spiral horns. Deeper into the desert we will stop at a walled Bishnoi compound of round cocoa-colored adobe huts and meet the head of the family who shows us around his pristine home, here we will be able to observe the local artisans working in their natural surroundings. Late afternoon drive 2 hours (50 kms) to Jodhpur situated close to the edge of the great Thar Desert. This wealthy city lies on the rich camel caravan routes and has stately palaces, fortresses and gracious temples.
Visit one of India’s most interesting cities with its bustling streets and bazaars, its blue washed houses in the old city, its quaint clock tower, and Meherangarh Fort which Kipling called “one of the grandest sights in India.” True to its name the 15th century Mehrangarh (majestic) Fort towers 400 ft high and was never captured. From the courtyard we can see the fantastic jali (lattice) work that almost entirely covers the sandstone walls and balconies. Inside we will see the beautifully decorated dancing hall, the royal bedroom, jewel studded robes, ornate baby cradles, solid silver elephant seats and palanquins.
Marvel at the sandalwood ceilings, mirrored walls and decorated archways. Next visit the royal cenotaphs at Jaswant Thada, the pillared marble memorial to the popular ruler Jaswant Singh II. Afternoon free to explore the markets filled with delicate hand painted wooden furniture, wood carvings and woven and mirror-work textiles. or simply relax with a cocktail on the colonnaded verandah of the Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel with its 26 acres of lawns and gardens. This Art Deco aberration of Hindu architecture is truly the poshest pink sandstone structure on earth. Also available is an optional tour to the villages and the Fort Chanwa at Luni (40 kms ) where we may be able to meet the Maharaja.
Depart Jodhpur at 5:30 AM on the Intercity Express train (with air-conditioned chair car) and arrive Jaipur at 10:15 AM. Afternoon tour this bustling city, all built in exquisite pink sandstone. We will visit the City Palace, an imposing blend of traditional Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, then on to view the amazingly accurate Jantar Mantar stone observatory, and on to the honey-comb designed Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) from where the royal ladies, who lived in seclusion, observed life on the outside, yet remained hidden inside. Visit a traditional Indian joint family home where generations live together. We will be able to meet and discuss the family dynamics that has enabled these families to live together in harmony for centuries.
Visit the fairy tale like Amer Fort set atop a hill by elephant. The interior is a glittering array of marble, mosaic and mirrors. Proceed to the Maharani Gayetri Devi School which was especially opened to educate girls, at a time when educating women was considered unimportant. Late afternoon drive through the countryside past pretty mustard fields to Sanganer Village (45 kms) made famous by the crisp cotton Sanganeri saris in cool summer shades. Here you will observe the art of block printing and tie and dye cloth printing.
Early morning drive to Bharatpur home to one of the world’s most important wetland sanctuaries. These marshes are filled with butterflies, dotted with deer, snakes, hyenas and the blue buck. Enjoy a relaxing cycle rickshaw ride through the Keoladeo Ghana National Park photographing storks, spoonbills, egrets, cranes, pelicans etc. About a third of this park’s 29 sq km is flooded during the monsoon and is host to tens of thousands of resident breeding birds. Large groups of migratory waterfowl, waders and birds of prey arrive from Siberia, Central Asia, Tibet and the Russian Steppes.
Drive through the vast farmlands of Uttar Pradesh (about 1 hour, 40 kms) to Agra. En route visit the deserted Capital of the Mughal Emperor Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri. This stunning monument has been declared a world heritage site and is built entirely of red sandstone. In sharp contrast stands the pristine white marble monument to Salim Chisti, Akbar’s teacher, who granted him is wish for a son. It is here that wishes come true, if you tie a string on the marble lattice, but if your wish is granted you have to return and untie the knot! We will spend some time visiting the children’s orphanage run by the sisters of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Travel by camel cart to view the legendary Taj Mahal, a poem in marble and a symbol of eternal love. Proceed to Agra Fort reminiscent of the glorious and sorrowful Mogul reign.
Morning transfer for flightAgra/Khajuraho
PM. Visit the world renowned temples of Khajuraho, built in a burst of creativity in just 100 years! These Hindu temples with erotic carvings built 1000 years ago merged art and architecture to perfection and were inspired by the book “Kamasutra”.
Transfer for flight Khajuraho/Varanasi
PM. Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world – it was the contemporary of Thebes and Babylon. It is also one of the holiest Hindu cities and exudes a vibrant religious fervor. Visit the abandoned widows in their Ashram, here we will be able to truly see and understand the plight of women and how little it has changed even in modern day India. Evening free to explore this city on your own. It is interesting to walk through the ancient streets full of colorful bazaars and temples. It is home to the famous Benaras Hindu University, known for its Sanskrit scholars and the exquisite Banarasi saris of rich silk woven with pure gold threads.
Enjoy the peace and serenity of the sacred Ganges River at sunrise on a boat that takes you past pilgrims at prayer, funeral pyres, and devout Hindus bathing. Proceed on a tour of this bustling city before flying Varanasi/Kathmandu.