Let’s Get Travelling Again! With Splash of Colour!
The COVID and its variances are finally easing off on us and things are about to open up as Canada together with other world countries is getting ready to relax their travel advisories and requirements and I hope that we can not just dream, but actually TRAVEL again! And the best way to do it is with COLOUR and SPLASH!! I’m talking about India’s Holi Festival of Colours & Holla Mohalla Festival of course!
“India is a place where colour is doubly bright. Pinks that scald your eyes, blues you could drown in.” ~Kiran Millwood Hargrave
And we can experience it! In all its intensity and shining colours of unseen diversity of nature, history, religions, cultures, languages and cuisines!! Starting from the eternal white-blue snows of the mighty Himalayas through a bevy of beautiful pine forests, orchards and babbling streams, all the way to golden beaches, palm trees and aquamarine-blues of the Indian Ocean, this vast land is home to every 6th person on Earth, the birthplace of spirituality, yoga and rich religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism, the multitude of languages (with 22 of them being official), land of iconic palaces, temples and monuments, diamonds, lions and tigers, mathematics and love for Bollywood films, inventors of chess and Snakes & Ladders, largest human gatherings and cricket-loving sporting culture! And I have not even started on the multitude of spices, flavours and multifariousness of the most delicious Indian food!! We will be here for a long time if we are to dive into the discussion about the distinctiveness of local cuisines and flavours!.. Let’s just agree that it’s safe to say “there is no place like it on this planet!
All that diversity is reflected in the numerous bright-coloured celebrations and festivals. The most colourful of them all is Holi, an ancient festival also known as the “Festival of Love”, the “Festival of Colours” and the “Festival of Spring”. There is no brighter way to celebrate it! Want to get a taste (or rather colours) of the festival? Check out this BBC Earth video: Holi Festival Of Colour | Planet Earth II
Here is the discovery route I think you will love: Delhi * Agra * Jaipur * Mandawa * Amritsar * Anandpur Sahib * Chandigarh * Delhi
You will need to have 2 weeks in March to cover it all and here is what you can pack into it:
- Starting from Delhi, India’s capital, this epic journey will showcase some of the iconic spots and bring invigorating experiences this majestic country has to offer!
- Enjoy this vibrant city composite culture of an ancient land: Old Delhi (Jama Masjid -> rickshaw ride through the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk -> Raj Ghat to honour the memory of Mahatma Gandhi) and a window into the kaleidoscope that India represents today: New Delhi or Lutyens Delhi (42 metres tall India Gate -> Viceroy’s Palace now Presidential residence and Parliament House -> the Lotus Temple, a symbol of Bahai faith -> Qutub Minar, UNESCO World Heritage site and the tallest brick minaret in the World, which heralded the arrival & rise of Islam in India.
- Spend the evening at Red Fort, UNESCO World Heritage known as Lal Quila for Son et Lumiere Show’s fusion of lights, sounds and storytelling followed by authentic dinner at Chor Bizarre, a “thief’s market”.
- Visit Agra with its most famous symbol of love, the majestic Taj Mahal, the massive Agra Fort and the picture-perfect Pearl Mosque -> continue to Baby Taj with the interiors more intricate than the Taj Mahal.
- Stop at Fatehpur Sikri, a deserted pristine red sandstone city built by Emperor Akbar as his capital in the late 16th century for an exhilarating experience and the culmination of Hindu and Muslim architecture with its finest monuments Diwan-i-Am, Diwan-i-Khas, Panch Mahal, Buland Darwaza and the tomb of Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti & the Jama Masjid (one of the largest mosques In India).
- Jaipur is a “Pink City” and the capital of the state of Rajasthan a romantic realm of resplendent palaces, mighty fortresses and regal Maharajahs that lies in the western deserts -> take a 2-hours walking tour of the non-touristic places, little known lanes of the Walled City, bustling craft bazaar with traditional dresses, turban makers, jewellery, spices, flowers, perfumes and artisans in their workshops -> sample a samosa, kachoris or malPua and rabri for the sweet tooth -> Ride an elephant to the grandiose Amber Fort to feel like a ruler and visit the magnificent hall of mirrors -> City Palace with numerous buildings, courtyards, impressive gateways & temples including seven-storey facade Chandra Mahal (“moon palace”), solid marble Mubarak Mahal, the Diwan-e-Aam & Diwan-e-Khas (the Hall of Private Audience); Chandra Mahal is still the residence of the present royal family -> pass by Hawa Mahal or “Palace of Winds” with finely screened windows & balconies built for royal ladies to watch street processions while in a strict state of purdah -> visit Jantar Mantar the royal astronomical observatory built in 1716 to measure the movement of the stars and planets.
- The fort town Mandawa is a historical trading outpost for the ancient caravan routes that stopped here from China & the Middle East and an open-air art gallery -> tour 18th-century Havelis, huge mansions built by the wealthy merchants settled down in the region -> admire massive Mandawa Fort, now converted into a hotel. The archway of the fort is painted with fascinating paintings, depicting Lord Krishna with exquisite wall paintings & amazing mirror work -> stop by Murmuria Haveli with colourful murals influenced by European events.
- From Delhi take Shatabdi Express through the lush green scenery, beautiful lakes and rivers of Haryana state to Amritsar, home to Sikhism’s holiest shrine founded in 1577 the magical Golden Temple, one of India’s most serene and humbling sights -> Join locals for the day in your Holi extravaganza when the whole country goes wild in a celebration with bright coloured powder or squirting coloured water everywhere! -> experience (or participate) in Prabhat Pheri or early morning procession when the Guru Granth Sahib is brought to the temple from Akal Takhat -> view a collection of sacred Sikh weapons -> explore the old and new Amritsar floating between the centuries by cycle-rickshaw, but once you are in the old city, walking is often the quickest way to get around -> take a 3 hour ‘walking’ tour of the city taking you back to the days of the Gurus -> Gurudwara Saragarhi, a monument honoring the Sikh soldiers killed in the 1897 Battle of Saragarhi, and view Qila Ahluwalia fort before exploring Jalebiwala Chowk, a market famous for jalebi (sweet) shops, hawking phulkari textiles (embroidered Punjabi fabrics), turbans & antiques -> walk infamous ‘Crawling Street,’ where in 1919, General Dyer, known as the ‘Butcher of Amritsar’, ordered that people crawl on all fours that, together with the 1919 Amritsar Massacre inspired Punjab’s freedom movement -> visit a turban shop to learn how to tie a turban and women’s paranda hair braids -> visit the Wagah Border to witness the impressive “Changing of the Guard” ceremony that the security forces of India & Pakistan have jointly followed since 1959. As the sun starts to set, Wagah Border comes alive with an incredible zeal & unmistakable nationalist energy on both sides.
- Trip to Anandpur Sahib is a culmination of this journey where the very dramatic Holla Mohalla, an impressive traditional display of bravery and valour, takes place -> this annual Sikh festival is celebrated extensively over 3 days in the foothills of the Shivaliks around the historic Anandpur Sahib & Kiratpur Sahib Gurudwaras where Sikhs from all over the world make an annual pilgrimage to celebrate together -> witness mock battles, exhibitions, display of weapons followed by kirtan, music & poetry competitions. The participants, Nihang Sikhs, the prestigious armed sect of the Sikhs who wear a striking blend of blue and orange, with thick twisted moustaches and overwhelmingly large and embellished turbans display their physical strength through daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters with real weapons), tent pegging, sword-fighting displays, archery, bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses & various other feats of bravery. They also splatter colours on the audience.
- If there is time, brief sightseeing of Chandigarh (“The City Beautiful”) is recommended, the first planned city in India post-independence in 1947 and is known internationally for its unparalleled architecture and quality of life, combining urban design and nature’s preservation. The face of modern India, Chandigarh, is the manifestation of a dream that the first Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru envisaged -> Explore Rock Garden made entirely from industrial and urban waste -> head over to Sukhna Lake, a picturesque manmade lake popular with water sports to relax and unwind.
- From here take the Kalka Shatabdi Express train back to Delhi where this wonderful experience comes to an end! But it’s not a good buy as I will see you on your next adventure!
Don’t have time for both Holi Festival and Holla Mohalla? No problem! How about a shorter trip that may work better for your schedule? 8 days Holi Festival trip might be just what you need! And there is no brighter way to celebrate the end of COVID!
Discover Delhi, Jaipur and Agra and celebrate Holi in the ‘Pink’ City with Elephants
Just like suggested above, this shorter version includes:
- Enjoying a Son et Lumaire Show at the Red Fort in Delhi, replicating the history of India during the Mughal & British rules
- Checking out some of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur including visiting Agra Fort and Taj Mahal at sunset
- Joining Holi celebration in Jaipur: dress in your white kurta-pyjama and get ready to be showered in all the colours of the rainbow as you spray each other with dry & wet rainbow-coloured organic powders. Join the boisterous dancing amidst the colouring on the streets with local families neighbours, friends & strangers. Get those amazing photos!!
- In Jaipur, watching a procession of 50+ caparisoned Elephants
- Participating in ‘Aarti’ at one of the most famous Temple in India
- Enjoying an exciting Dance Drama — Mohabbat The Taj with 80+ performers acting in unison in Agra
- Participating in a Mughal Heritage Walk at Kachhpura Village in Agra
- And no vacation is complete without enjoying free time for some typical ‘Indian’ quirks like getting your palm read to learn your future, trying an ayurvedic massage or joining a yoga session. And, of course, trying on a saree and getting a henna tattoo for ladies. There is so much more to experience, to feel free and to be where you want to be again!
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If you like this post and thinking of joining the festive group, please let me know! We teamed up with The Journeys, a certified tour operator that offers trips across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia and has been in the business for 20+ years to create the special program for this year’s festival and I will be happy to share with you the detailed itinerary!
All you need to do is send me an email to email@example.com with your full name and email address so that I can send you the detailed itinerary and answer any questions you may have. Given a super-short notice for this year’s festival (the departure date for this year’s 13 days trip is March 9th and for 8 days trip on March 14th) and the fact that US and Canadian citizens need visas to travel to India, make your decision today!
Let’s get travelling again!