Eastern India: From Bodh Gaya to Kolkata to Puri

India
India

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    3737
    • TBA
    • 16 Days
    • TBA + air
    • Single supplement: TBA

    Discover the Spiritual Heart of the Subcontinent: An Unforgettable East India Tour Through Sacred Sites and Cultural Wonders

    India’s array of cultures and diverse spiritual paths make it one of the most fascinating and rewarding destinations on the planet. Eastern India, less trodden by regular tourists, is a jewelry box of spiritual heritage and the cradle of Jainism (a profound belief system sprang to life nearly 3,000 years ago in the fertile plains of the Ganges). Buddhism also began here, under the sanctified Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, in the 5th century BC.

    Embark on a historical East India tour with Professor David Eckel and an intimate group of 13 fellow explorers, traversing the sacred and secluded sanctuaries in Eastern India’s heartlands. This East India tour offers an extraordinary journey, commencing in Bodh Gaya, the revered site of Buddha’s enlightenment, winding through Patna, home to relics of the Buddha’s legacy, and progressing to the illustrious city of Kolkata.

    Our odyssey will unveil the architectural splendors of Bishnupur’s Laterite Hindu temples, the serene Buddhist Golden Triangle of the East, and the meticulously sculpted Jain caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri.

    This East India trip is an expedition into the spiritual epicenter of the subcontinent, enriched by visits to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the venerated Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, the ancient Nalanda University, a beacon of Buddhist learning, and the majestic Konârak Temple, a homage to the Hindu Sun God Surya.

    Join us on this unforgettable journey and enjoy the cultural and spiritual wonders of Eastern India.

    (If you’re still undecided about where to travel for your next adventure, be sure to explore our 2024 calendar of Archaeology Tours. From our Petra and Jordan Tour to an Archaeological Tour of Viking Scandinavia, we have a year of amazing journeys ahead of us.)

    Eastern India Tour Led by:

    Dr Malcolm David Eckel

    Professor of Religion,
    Boston University

    Why Take this Eastern India Archaeology Tour?

    • Led by Professor Malcolm David Eckel, a Great Courses lecturer
    • Travel through areas of India rarely visited by tourists
    • See three UNESCO World Heritage Sites:Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, Nalanda Buddhist University, Konârak Sun Temple

    Itinerary of the Eastern India Culture Trip

    (B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner

    Day 1Depart for India

    Depart on your flight for India.

    Day 2Arrive in Delhi

    Evening arrival into Delhi and overnight in the 5-star Pullmann Aerocity Hotel at Delhi’s International Airport.

    Day 3Flight to Gaya, drive to Bodh Gaya

    Fly to Gaya, and drive to neighboring Bodh Gaya, considered one of the world’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Meet this evening for our gala welcome dinner party. Overnight for two nights in the 4-star Mahabodhi Resort. (B/ /D)

    Day 4Mahabodhi Tree and Temple and Buddha

    We will spend the day in the vast Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya. Begin at the Bodhi Tree or “Tree of Awakening”, under which Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher later known as the Buddha, is said to have attained enlightenment in the sixth century BC. This enormous ficus is a direct descendant of the original specimen planted in the third century BC. About 200 years after the time of the Buddha, the Emperor Ashoka constructed the Mahabodhi Temple. Over the centuries, it has been rebuilt repeatedly and is now part of a large monastery complex. This impressive temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest brick structures in eastern India. Also within the complex is a gigantic, 65-foot tall statue of the Buddha built in 1989 for the Dali Lama. (B/L/D).

    Day 5Venu van, Son Bhandar, Griddhakuta (Vulture Peak), World Peace Pagoda

    Our two-hour drive takes us from Bodh Gaya to Rajgir, famous for its hot water springs, and a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists. Within the environs are many sites to visit. In the 4th century BC, the Buddha’s friend and protector, King Bimbisar, offered the bamboo grove or Venu Van to be used for meditation. Inscriptions found inside one of the cave contends that the nearby Son Bhandar Caves were carved out of a cliff face in the 3rd or 4th century by a Jain wise man as a dwelling for Jain ascetics. The interiors of the dual chambers were polished and ornamented with sculptures. Holes meant to support beams seen above the cave entrance suggest that the cave once had a second story and a wooden verandah. The Vulture Peak, a small mountain just outside the city, is said to be the site where the Buddha revealed the Mahayana. Near the Vulture Peak is the Rajgir Vishwa Shanti Stupa or World Peace Pagoda, completed in 1969. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nalanda was an ancient university and Buddhist monastic center from the 5th to the 12th centuries. At its height, scholars from as far away as Tibet, China, Korea, and Southeast Asia traveled here to study. After our explorations, continue to Patna, an ancient city that sprawls along the south bank of the Ganges River. Overnight in the 5-star Hotel Lemon Tree Premier. (B/L/D)

    Day 6Bihar Museum, Flight to Kolkata

    Patna is the state capital, and home to Bihar Museum, a contemporary landmark exhibiting bronze sculptures and old coins from the region. We will enter to view artifacts from nearby sites, along with textiles, paintings, bronze images and sculptures and terra cotta images by Hindu and Buddhist artists. Also housed here is a collection of rare British-era paintings depicting day-to-day life. After spending the morning within the museum, go to the airport for an afternoon flight to Kolkata and overnight for two nights in the 5-star Oberoi Grand Hotel. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)

    Day 7Kolkata: Dalhousie Square, flower market, Howrah Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, Victoria Memorial

    Today is a Kolkata day! Begin in Dalhousie Square, the location of St. John’s church, High Court, General Post Office (GPO), Town Hall, and other important British colonial buildings. Then stop by the Mallik Ghat. The unique perfumes of vivid marigold, clusters of sacred lotus, vibrant roses, and bright yellow sunflowers await as we walk through the largest flower market, not only in India, but also in Asia. Nearby, see Howrah Bridge, the sixth longest cantilevered bridge in the world, spanning the Hooghly River. Stunning St. Paul’s Cathedral, completed in 1847 and the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Kolkata, is noted for its Gothic architectural style, “Indo-Gothic”, a mixture of Islamic and European features. We will see the impressive, gleaming white marble Victoria Memorial, dedicated to the British queen, and The Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity, the former home of Mother Teresa, one of the most celebrated and revered women in Indian History; her tomb is within the grounds. (B/L/D)

    Day 8Transfer to Tarakeswar, Baba Taraknath Temple, Continue to Bishnupaur

    Drive from Kolkata to Tarakeswar to see Baba Taraknath Temple. The sanctuary is a major pilgrimage spot, and the interior holds the Shayambhu Linga, a non-figurative representation of the Hindu god Shiva. Within the complex are other shrines dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali and Lord Lakshmi-Narayan, a manifestation of Vishnu. Continue to Bishnupur and the Annapurna Hotel, our home for two nights. (B/L/D)

    Day 9Bisnupur Temples: Radhamadhab, Kalachand, Radhagovinda, Nandalal, Rash Mancha, and Jor Bangla

    Bishnupur is an ancient city that was the capital of the Malla dynasty for almost a thousand years. Today it is renowned for clay crafts, Baluchari sarees, and ornately decorated medieval Hindu temples. By walking and cycle rickshaw, we will explore Bishnupur’s glorious past reflected in its splendid architecture. Magnificent Jor Bangla Temple, lavishly bedecked with terracotta tiles revealing contemporary life in the 17th century, portrays the slanted roofs of traditional thatched huts. Built of brick with both exterior and interior walls adorned with terracotta tablets, Madan Mohan is a Bengali ‘chala’ style Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. 17th century Rasmancha, one of the oldest brick temples in India, is unique in design. Standing on a raised platform of laterite blocks, forty pillars support a pyramid-shaped roof that cover the three interior rooms adorned with carved lotus flowers. Funded by a Malla Queen in 1737, Radha Madhab Temple is an example of the Ek Ratna architectural style. This beautiful building has a sloped roof below the single tower with two outside walls decorated with scenes from the Ramayana and other mythological stories. (B/L/D)

    Day 10Panchumura Craft Village, Flight to Bhubaneswar

    Depart Bishnupur and drive to Panchmura craft village where, for 300 years, families have created hand-made clay collectibles. The villagers offer a wide range of terracotta products from animal to human figurines but they are renowned for their huge clay horses. Continue to Kolkata to board an afternoon flight to Bhubaneswar, called the ‘temple city’ with its multitude of sanctuaries in the old city and the nearby countryside. Our home for three nights is the 5-star Mayfair Lagoon Hotel in Bhubaneswar, a luxury resort overlooking a lush lagoon. Be sure and make reservations for a sumptuous experience in the spa! Dinner is on our own. (B/L)

    Day 11Odisha’s Buddhist Triangle of Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagir

    Today’s all day excursion takes us into the nearby Assia Hills to discover Odisha’s Buddhist Triangle of Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri, hidden well off the beaten tourist trail. Dating back to the 1st century CE, Lalitgiri is the oldest Buddhist site in Odisha. Excavations have unearthed remnants of a stupa complex, and two stone caskets were found containing bone relics, believed by some to be of the Buddha or one of his important followers. Ratnagiri was home to a 5th century Buddha monastery, or mahavihara. Elaborately decorated with doorways and pillars of contrasting colors of green and purple shades, each of the three brick structures enclose a central paved courtyard with monastic cells. During archaeological research, two dozen colossal Buddha heads were unearthed, and one of the shrines is still home to a 12-foot-tall sculpture of the Buddha. The sanctuary of Udayagiri spreads across two hills and is the largest Buddhist complex in Odisha. The walls of one of the many stupas is adorned with niches containing multiple representations of the Buddha. (B/L/D)

    Day 12Rani Gumpha, Khandagiri Cave, Lingaraj Temple, Mukteswar Temple

    This morning’s drive takes us to see ancient rock-cut caves that, as early as in the 1st century BC, were shelters for Jain monks. The largest at Udayagiri, Rani Gumpha, is two stories, elaborately embellished with intricately carved images. The friezes on the upper floor depict the victory march of a king. Nearby Khandagiri Cave is also abundantly bedecked with reliefs of deities and charming scenes from everyday life. We then return to the old city of Bhubaneswar to visit two holy places. Several times a day, the lingam at Lingaraj Temple is washed and decorated with flowers and sandal paste and, with luck we will see one of the ceremonies. With lattice designs and refined carvings, Mukteswar Temple is certainly an architectural gem. A highlight here is the wonderful decorative gateway with twin columns supporting a semi-circular arch that blends Hindu and Buddhist characteristics. We will stop at the Museum of Tribal Arts & Artefacts to view displays of traditional dress, silver and bead jewelry, elaborate headdresses, weaponry, and other artifacts representing the more than 60 tribal groups in the region. Our final stop will be at the Dance Academy School to enjoy a presentation of Odissi Dance, one of the classical dance forms of India. (B/L/D)

    Day 13Transfer to Puri, Konârak Sun Temple

    Depart this morning for Puri where we will visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Konârak. Dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya, the creator of the universe and the source of all life, the fabulous 13th-century Hindu temple has twelve pairs of gigantic stone wheels on the sides of the structure transforming the entire temple into the chariot of Surya. The figures of horses on the front and on each side of the staircase further enhance this allusion. The elegant structure is exquisitely bejeweled with stone carvings. Overnight for two nights in the 4-star Mayfair Heritage Hotel in Puri, with gorgeous ocean views. (B/L/D)

    Day 14Jaganath Temple, Raghurajpur Heritage Village

    Begin the day at Jaganath Temple, a massive temple complex dedicated to Lord Jagannath, a form of Vishnu, and an important pilgrimage site. Only Hindus are allowed inside but we will be able to view the spectacular architecture from the outside. Then we move on to Raghurajpur, declared a ‘heritage village’ in 2000 by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Although other traditional art forms are created here, the village is known for its Pattachitra artists. Painted on cloth and depicting scenes of myths and folktales, this art form dates back several centuries. The ancient Gotipua tradition has survived in this small village and we will have an opportunity to learn about this dance performed by young boys who dress as female to praise of Lord Krishna. The carved dancers on the bas-reliefs on the Sun Temple in Konârak are evidence that this is a very old tradition. (B/L/D)

    Day 15Puri to Bhubaneswar to Delhi

    Depart Puri this morning to fly to Bhubaneswar airport where we will board a mid-day flight to Delhi. Upon arrival, we will join together for our final lunch and then have time to rest before our flights home. Overnight in the Pullmann Aerocity Hotel at the Delhi Airport. In the late evening, board our planes for the return flights. (B/L)

    Day 16Arrive home

    Arrive home.

    Tour Information

    Tour Cost & Inclusions

    Price is based on double occupancy and includes:

    • Internal flights during the trip (if applicable)
    • The accompaniment of your scholar throughout the entire trip
    • Local English-speaking guide
    • Hotel accommodations (3 or 4 stars; or best available based in the area)
    • Ground transportation
    • Airport transfers for arrivals and departures
    • Most meals as noted in the itinerary
    • Entry fees to all included sites and museums
    • Gratuities to guides, drivers, and restaurant and hotel staff
    • Coordination for any private presentations or tours

    Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.

    Single Supplement

    Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.

    Exclusions

    • International round trip airfare
    • A separate donation check of $150.00 per person to a designated donation project
    • Passport or visa fees
    • Required vaccines or tests
    • Airport or departure taxes
    • Alcoholic drinks, beverages or food not included on set menus
    • Excess baggage charges
    • Personal tips and hotel incidental expenses
    • Laundry or other items of a personal nature

    Donation Checks

    As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.

    Exchange Rate Fluctuations

    Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.

    Registration

    A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.

    Cancellation

    Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.

    Air Ticketing

    International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.

    Private Tours and Talks

    The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.

    Walking and Standing

    Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.

    Travel in This Part of the World

    This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.

    Itinerary Changes

    Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.

    Travel Insurance

    We strongly recommend that you consider purchasing travel insurance. Should illness or an unforeseen event force you to cancel your travel plans after your final payment or during your trip, it would be doubly unfortunate to incur a significant financial loss. Trip cancellation protection will enable you to be reimbursed for the loss of your payment if you are unable to travel for any of the covered reasons in the “Outline of Coverage” section, or should you have an accident or suffer from any medical conditions during the trip.  
    Far Horizons offers customized protection plans through Travel Insured International (a Crum & Forster Company) with the following benefits:
     
    • Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption for covered reasons
    • Trip Delay
    • Baggage Loss and Baggage Delay
    • Emergency Medical Expenses and Emergency Medical Evacuation
    • 24-Hour Accidental Death & Dismemberment
    • 24-Hour Travel Assistance & Concierge Services
    • Option to upgrade to ‘Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR)’
     
    We recommend reviewing the language in detail so you are aware of specific parameters; Depending on the policy, to waive the Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion or to upgrade to CFAR coverage, the plan must be purchased within 14 to 21 days of the initial trip deposit, full trip cost must be insured, and traveler is medically fit at time of plan purchase. Otherwise, coverage may be purchased at any time prior to departure. 
     
    To obtain a personalized quote and/or purchase a plan through Far Horizons/Travel Insured International, simply click HERE. For specific questions regarding the Worldwide Protector Plan, please contact Travel Insured International’s Customer Care Center at 1-800-243-3174 or by email at customercare@travelinsured.com, and refer to Far Horizons’ account number: 54070.

    Travel in Eastern India

    This trip is designed for adventure loving travelers and may involve schedule changes, poor road conditions, and local staff unaccustomed to western tour groups. Although the majority are designated 5-star, the hotels in this off-the-beaten-tourist-trail area may not be up to western standards. India is huge and several days will entail long drives.

    Tour Map