Arrival this evening. You will be met and transferred to the Taj Mahal Tower Hotel (or similar). Namaste and welcome!
Your first morning in India! After a leisurely brunch and orientation at the hotel, travel by chartered boat from the Gateway of India to Elephanta Island where you will learn the origins of Hinduism and Hindu mythology embodied by rock-cut temples at this UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the 5th century. This evening, dinner at the Joint Distribution Committee/Evelyn Peters JCC, where you’ll have the opportunity to meet JDC/JCC staff and volunteers and learn more about Mumbai’s Jewish community.
See Mumbai’s Jewish life, both the historic – at the 19th-century Indian synagogues, Magen David and Tiphaereth Israel – and the heroic – at Mumbai Chabad House, recently reopened after the 2008 tragic events. Our city tour will also include major sights such as Flora Fountain, Rajabai Clock Tower, Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus Station), Malabar Hill, one of the world’s priciest neighborhoods, and the unique Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, the city’s largest open-air laundry. This evening, Shabbat services and dinner nearby at the 19th-century Kenesseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. Shabbat Shalom!
Shabbat services and lunch at Kenesseth Eliyahoo. This afternoon, you’re welcome to join a walking tour and visit the historic David Sassoon Library and fabulous Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales Museum), boasting a world-class art and history collection. Sample the marvelous cuisines of Mumbai on your own for dinner.
Fly to the southwest coastal city of Kochi, one of the happiest chapters of the Jewish Diaspora. Kochi is history! Go back in time to explore Muziris, the name the ancient Romans gave to this area, on a heritage tour of the villages of Paravur and Chendamangalam. There, Jewish life once thrived, replete with synagogues that are among the oldest in the region and recently restored to their former glory. You will also visit the splendid 18th-century Paliam Nalukettu, residence of the Hindu prime ministers where women ruled. Our journey continues with a cruise of area’s scenic backwaters where you’re sure to see fishermen, cargo boats transporting goods as they have for centuries, and traditional village life. Returning to Kochi, we will check in to the Vivanta by Taj-Malabar Hotel (or similar). Dinner at the hotel.
After an early morning yoga class, we will travel by boat to Fort Kochi. There, we’ll visit India’s oldest European church, built 1503 and where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was originally buried, the iconic Chinese fishing nets, open-air market, and Koder House where local Jewish “royalty” lived. From there, we will visit and walk through the 16th-century Mattancherry Palace of the Raja of Kochi, who granted Jews land on which to build their synagogue next to his Hindu temple. The beautiful Paradesi Synagogue, built in 1568, boasts a Hebrew clock tower, a jewel-encrusted gold Torah crown gifted by a maharajah, and the original 11th-century copper plates that established Jewish autonomy – all of which we’ll see. Be sure to mail a postcard from Jew Town – it’ll be imprinted with a Star of David cancellation stamp by the post office! Dinner followed by Kathakali dance, unique to this part of India.
In the morning, we fly to the northeast city of Kolkata, once the capital of British India and filled with charismatic Raj-era architecture, fascinating street life, lovely parks, and rich intellectual and artistic traditions. From the late-18th to the mid-20th century, Kolkata had a thriving Jewish community that played a key role in the city’s development, built synagogues and schools, and thoroughly integrated into the fabric of society. We will see a splendid example of Jewish life when local community leader A.M. Cohen shows us the 19th-century, Italian Renaissance-style Magen David Synagogue, which was recently renovated. We will then check in to the Oberoi Grand Hotel (or similar) where we will enjoy dinner.
After breakfast, we will visit the colorful flower market and stroll through Idol Makers’ Street where craftsmen fashion deities for the city’s many religious festivals. We’ll then make our way to the lovely Badridass Jain Temple to tour the grounds, meet with Calcutta University’s Jainism expert and enjoy a vegetarian lunch. From there, we’ll stop at Mother Teresa’s Mission, which operates soup kitchens, housing, schooling and medical clinics for the city’s neediest population, and will drive by the splendid Victoria Memorial. After a brief rest and freshening up at our hotel, we will learn more about the Jewish community from writer-historian Dr. Jael Silliman, who has invited us to her home for dinner prepared under the exacting direction of her mother, Flower. Following dinner, a recital of classical Indian music.
After an early flight, you will enter the political and administrative center of the world’s largest democracy. Delhi is steeped in history with millennia-old architecture, temples and monuments, while also exuding a ‘New India’ vibe with its modern metro system and mega-malls. You will take a New and Old Delhi city tour that includes visits to the Gandhi memorial, a Tibetan Buddhist temple where Prof. Katz will speak about the Dalai Lama’s “Jewish secret,” and an up-close tour of the old markets by rickshaw, starting from the Mughals’ Red Fort and ending up at the tomb of the Jewish saint Sarmad and largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid. From there, we will visit Delhi’s leading Sikh temple, Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, whose live devotional music wafts 24/7 over the compound and feeds thousands of pilgrims daily. Check-in to the Taj Mahal Hotel (or similar). That evening, sample Delhi’s delightful cuisine on your own.
We will start the day by touring the lavish Swaminarayan Akshardham Hindu Temple – on which more than 11,000 artisans worked! – where we’ll also enjoy a vegetarian lunch. New Delhi was built in the first part of the 20th century as the capital of British India and houses many fine examples of Raj-era architecture. As time allows, we will drive by such superb examples as India Gate, Parliament House, the Secretariat Complex, the Rajpath (also known as King’s Way), and Rastrapathi Bhawan (formerly the Viceroy’s House, now the President’s residence). We’ll then return to our hotel to get ready for Shabbat services and dinner at the nearby Judah Hyam Synagogue. Shabbat shalom!
Guided morning walk through Lodi Gardens, with lush grounds dotted by ancient Mughal mausoleums and mosques that make a walk in the park like no other. Lunch at the vegetarian Gulati restaurant, and then time on our own for rest or recreation. After a group Havdalah, we’ll go to the popular Khan Market for dinner at the vegetarian Café Turtle.
Board your private coach to Agra this morning. Our first stop there will be one of India’s lesser-known “must-sees” that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the 16th-century Fatehpur Sikri, the “ghost city” of palaces boasting magnificent desert architecture. From there, we will catch a sunset view of the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden), do a bit of shopping, and dine at the vegetarian Dasaprakash Restaurant. By then, we will be ready for a good night’s sleep at at the ITC Mughal Hotel (or similar).
After breakfast and check-out, begin your last day in India by touring two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, starting with the magical Taj Mahal, built in the 17th century by Shah Jahan. From there, you’ll visit Agra Fort, a sprawling fortress built of red sandstone in the 16th century by Emperor Akbar. Late-afternoon, return to Delhi for a festive farewell dinner where Prof. Katz will summarize our whirlwind Jewish experience in India. After dinner, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the U.S.
TO SEE TOUR BROCHURE, CLICK HERE.
Please note: This tour has easy to moderate walking/standing that, at times, includes some uneven surfaces and steps to negotiate. The program-and activity-rich itinerary blends longer days with some shorter days and leisure time. In addition, this tour involves stepping in and out of vehicles and motorcoaches.