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Jewish Heritage Trail Of India
Unique in Jewish history as one land where Jews have never been persecuted in their over 2,000 years of residence, India is a place of special meaning and mystery. A continent of a country, with a culture uniquely its own, India’s history of Jewish settlement dates back to the 1st century with the arrival of those fleeing persecution after the destruction of the Second Temple. Today’s 5,000 Jews are as diverse as that of India itself.
A visit to India is a revealing and intriguing immersion into the more exotic aspects of Jewish life and culture as well as experiencing the beauty and mystique India itself has to offer.
It is a truly illuminating journey
Arrive at Delhi Airport. Welcome to India! Our company representative will meet you at the airport and assist you with transfers to your hotel.
Greet the morning on your first day in what is the world largest and most vibrant democracy. As you embark on your journey through this land you will experience the sights and sounds of what is India.
Delhi stands as the capital of Modern India. Here you can see the mingling of the Old and New India, the ancient and the modern. Delhi is made up of seven ancient cities, spanning the period from the 11th to 20th centuries. Delhi has seen the rise and fall of many emperors, which has left behind a plethora of monuments that commemorate the grandeur and glory of bygone ages. Very few cities in the world can express such a profusion of architectural styles.
Old Delhi was an ancient walled city. Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan in 1650 switched the Mughal capital from Agra to Delhi. Shah Jehan possessing an exquisite talent, especially in architecture, created the seventh city and in the process brought about Delhi's glorious renaissance. Start the day with a cycle rickshaw ride through Old Delhi. Here you will see Red Fort the most opulent Fort and Palace of the Mughal Empire. The fort is Shah Jehan's symbol of power and elegance, built behind red sandstone walls. Its main gate (Lahore Gate) faces Chandni Chowk, the perpetually congested avenue heading west from the Red Fort is filled with twisting lanes, small streets and crowded bazaars. If you peer through a portico you may see a man getting shaved, silver being weighed, or any other conceivable form of intense commerce. Also visit Raj Ghat, the memorial site of the Mahatma Gandhi; Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India; and Chandni Chowk, the bustling and colourful market of the old city. Chandni Chowk was the commercial centre of Delhi in the old time and you will see it come alive in the morning as the trading day starts.
New Delhi was designed and built by the British in the 1920's - it's a city of wide boulevards impressive Government buildings, green parks and gardens. In 1911 King George V announced the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. The King's architects, Lutyens and Baker, set in motion the design and construction of Delhi's eight city - New Delhi. Lutyens designed an "Imperial City" having palatial-sized buildings set amid broad tree-lined avenues punctuated by Mughal style gardens, complete with fountains and shallow pools. It took 20 years to complete this immense undertaking only to have the British pack up and relinquish the subcontinent in 1947. You will visit two monuments from Delhi's past - Humayun's Tomb and Qutub Minar. Your drive takes you along the ceremonial avenue, Rajpath, past the imposing India Gate and Parliament House. Also visit a local temple.
Return to hotel on time to get prepared for Shabbat services. Transfer to the Synagogue.
The Judah Hyan Jewish Synagogue is the only synagogue in Delhi, which caters to about 200 Jews residing in Delhi. The synagogue is situated behind the land mark cementry near Khan Market. Rosh-hashana. which is the Jewish new year is the major festival of this Jewish Synagogue in Delhi and is celebrated on September 23. The prayers on this day is followed by sanctification over wine, where traditional foods such as dates, apple dipped in honey, leek, beetroot and sheep or fish head is served. There are routine "Torah" reading on Friday evening and Saturday morning. There is also ancient and modern Hebrew classes on Sundays and inter faith studies to make a comparative studies of all the religions.
Day 03: Delhi
The Swaminarayan Akshardham Delhi complex is a Monument to World Peace, and is nicknamed “India’s Spiritual Theme Park”. The temple complex was opened to the public on Nov 6th, 2005, and is claimed as one of the greatest Indian monuments ever constructed. It is one of the newest things to do in Delhi.
The complex took about five years to complete, which is astonishing given its size and splendour… not to mention how long it usually takes to get things done in India.
Afternoon free for independent activities. Overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast drive to Agra (4 hours). Upon arrival check in at the hotel.
After breakfast proceed for your sightseeing tour of the exquisite Taj Mahal & Fort (Taj Mahal remain closed on Friday).
The area around the Taj Mahal is a protected area and the bus parking is approximately one kilometre away from the monument. Here we disembark and board battery buses to the Taj.
That magnificent monument of love – The Taj Mahal, was built by an emperor in memory of his beloved queen. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1631, and is believed to have taken 22 years to complete, with over 20,000 craftsmen working round the clock. The design and construction is said to be that of the legendary architect, Ustad Ahamad Lahori. Legend has it that once construction was completed, Shah Jehan had Lahori's hands cut off, and blinded, so he would never be able to duplicate the structure. What makes the Taj Mahal unique is its perfect proportions, distinct femininity, medium of construction and ornamentation. Its marble exterior reflects rose and golden tints at sunrise and sunset, while it is dazzling white during the day. It is impossible to visualize the Taj Mahal in any surrounding others than its paradoxical garden. Paradise, in Islam, is visualized as a lush garden where running streams flow. When the Mughals brought this concept to India they elevated it to heights of incomparable artistry.
Continue to visit the impressive Agra Fort, where you are taken through the chambers of this royal residence. As you drive through the city, witness the local life and bazaars (markets) and the hustle bustle of everyday India.
Evening free for independent activities.
Overnight at the hotel.
Optional at extra cost:
Mohhabbat-The Taj (A live show in Agra)
Pick up from your hotel around 1800 hrs. & proceed for live show on The Monument of Love “Taj Mahal.”
Love without lust can be a spiritual experience, one that distinguishes man from beasts. It is a passion and the idea of being romantically engaged at a higher level that define the intensity of pure love.
It was this kind of intense and obsessive love that found expression through a work of art the Taj Mahal which today figures as a crown in the list of wonders. Minus love and the romantic saga associated with it, the Taj Mahal would be just a well-arranged heap of white stones.
What really makes Taj Mahal stand out in the list of wonders is the passionate and romantic relationship that inspired its creation, the emotional halo that actually gets transformed into an architectural marvel. Indeed the Taj Mahal is synonymous with pure Love.
Mohabbat the Taj, the-80 minute presentation that perfectly complements a pilgrimage to the Monument of Love. "Indeed to fully appreciate and soak into the beauty of the monument, one is advised to see the musical presentation at the Kalakriti auditorium.
Met upon arrival at Mumbai airport & transfer to hotel for check in.
Proceed for sightseeing of Mumbai city includes a visit to the Prince of Wales Museum (remains closed on Mondays), built to commemorate King George's V visit to India was opened in 1923. It is modelled on the Indo - Saracenic design, and has sections for art and paintings, archaeology, and natural history. Also visit the Gateway of India, the principal landmark of Mumbai, was the principal port when the visitors came to India by ship. The gateway was conceived, following the visit of King George V to India in 1911, and was officially opened in 1924. Its architecture is akin to the conventional Arch of Triumph, with elements derived from Muslim styles of 16th century Gujarat. A major landmark of this vibrant city is the VT or Victoria Terminus, which was designed in Italian Gothic style by F. W. Stevens. The first train to steam out of Mumbai was from here to Thane in 1853.
Drive up to Malabar Hill to the lovely Hanging Gardens and the Kamla Nehru Park from where you will get a wonderful view of Mumbai and the Arabian Sea spread out before you. Stop at Mani Bhawan, a small museum dedicated to the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi and the bustling Crawford Market, before returning your hotel.
During city tour visit oldest synagogue of Mumbai “Gate of Mercy”.
With the expansion of the city of Bombay, the Jewish business community was established in the Fort area. In answer to the growing need for a synagogue here, David Sassoon's grandson, Jacob Sassoon, built the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in the Fort in 1884, in memory of his father Eliyahoo Sassoon (founder of E. D. Sassoon and Company). Here land was at a high premium and the synagogue is set in a busy built-up area. Again the structure is outstanding, stone below and brick above. The interior is beautiful, with decorated pillars, the "tebah" and a fine "hekhal" flanked by carved marble and surmounted by a magnificent stained glass arch rising to the high ceiling. This is particularly beautiful in the light of the afternoon sun shining through the stained glass, as the "hekhal" faces west, Bombay being east of Jerusalem. The many sifrei torah, as in the other synagogues, made a grand display on Kol Nidre and Simhath Torah, with the Sassoon family sefarim cased in silver. Very few remain, as many were sent to Israel's new settlements with the establishment of the state. As in the other synagogues, Keneseth Eliyahoo has a spacious wonen's gallery. It also has a mikvah and rooms provided on the ground floor for an elementary school and other community activities.
Dinner at The Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue.Overnight at hotel.
Morning walk again The Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. Lunch at The Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue.
Morning enjoy a motor launch (boat) ride to the island of Elephanta (remains closed on Mondays), the glorious abode of Lord Shiva. The island is famous for its great cave shrine, excavated in the sixth century, dating back to the period, when the island was known as Gharapuri, the Fortress City. With the arrival of the Portuguese, the island was renamed Elephanta, after the huge carved elephant, they found at the place where they landed. The cave temple, which is the pride of Elephanta, sprawled over an area of approximately 5000 square meters, is reached by climbing a flight of more than 100 steps, to the top of a hill. One's attention is immediately drawn to the series of marvelous sculptured panels, nine in all, which are set like tableaux on the walls. Little is known about the architects and sculptors, who worked on this gem of ancient architecture. What is almost tangible is their intense faith, which seems to create an energy field in the cave premises. Each of the panel captures the volatility of Shiva's essentially paradoxical nature, and the magical interplay of light and shade, only intensifies the overall effect.
Morning on time transfer to Mumbai airport to board flight for Kochi.
Meet upon arrival at the Kochi airport & transfer to hotel.
Kerala is a green strip of land, in the South West corner of Indian peninsula. It has only 1.1 8 per cent of the total area of the country but houses 3.43% of the country's population. In 1956, when the states were reorganized, Kerala was formed after tying the princely states of Travancore and Cochin with Malabar, a province under Madras state.
Kerala may be divided into three geographical regions: (1) High lands, (2) Midlands and (3) Lowlands. The Highlands slope down from the Western Ghats which rise to an average height of 900 m, with a number of peaks well over 1,800 m in height. This is the area of major plantations like tea, coffee, rubber, cardamom and other spices.
The Midlands, lying between the mountains and the lowlands, is made up of undulating hills and valleys. This is an area of intensive cultivation. Cashew, coconut, areca nut, cassava (tapioca), banana, rice, ginger, pepper, sugarcane and vegetables of myriad varieties are grown in this area.
It is a purified world in Kerala, the land of trees. A big, spreading tree purifies as much air as a room air-conditioner. And the former is never switched off. The prolific, bustling, vegetation acts like a massive, biological, air-filtration plant working round the clock, round the year. Hence spending days in Kerala countryside is as if spending in an air- purified environ; some times better than it. So is the rejuvenating effect of the lush greenery of the state.
The wanton growth of trees makes Kerala a herbarium. The four month-long, copious monsoon and recurrent flurry make this land a perfect nursery for all living beings. Loitering under the canopy of the foliage, you will feel blossoming the dreams. Thus, on a sojourn in Kerala, away from the rough and tumble of cities, you're breathing freshly purified air all the time.
Afternoon pick up from the hotel & proceed to visit Jewish family in Kochi.
Evening witness the Kathakali dance performance:
Kathakali is the classical dance-drama of Kerala, South India, which dates from the 17th century and is rooted in Hindu mythology.
Kathakali has a unique combination of literature, music, painting, acting and dance.
Overnight at the hotel.
In the morning, we visit the Jewish Community and the beautiful Pardesi Synagogue. This Synagogue was built by Samuel Castiel, David Belila, Ephrahim Sala and stands on the grounds of the Maharaja of Cochin’s residence. It is the first synagogue in India, and one of the oldest in the world. Near the synagogue is an interesting market selling spices, and antiques, bursting with activity and variety. We spend time in the markets and walk to the Mattancherry Palace, which was commissioned by the Portuguese for the raja of Kochi in exchange for trading rights. The palace is two storeys high and is built in the traditional Kerala style known as nalukattu (four buildings). The palace exhibits memorabilia from the raja of Kochi’s collection, but it is best known for its outstanding murals painted on the wooden walls. The royal bedroom has ceilings and walls covered with forty-five 16th century paintings illustrating the Ramayana.
Also visit the ancient Mattancherry (Dutch) Palace built by the Portuguese in 1557. This palace was presented to the ruler of Cochin as a gesture of goodwill. The Palace’s alternative name “Dutch Palace” resulted from substantial renovations by the Dutch after 1663.. The most important feature of the palace is the astonishing murals that adorn some of the palace rooms, depicting scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharta and Puranic legends connected with Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Kumara and Durga.
Another stop is made at the St. Francis Church, the oldest European built church in India. Constructed in 1503 by the Portuguese Franciscan Friars who accompanied the expedition led by Pedro Alvarez Cabral. He famed Vasco de Gama, the first European to reach India by sailing around Africa, died in Cochin in 1524 and was buried here for 14 years before his remains were transferred to Lisbon. His tombstone can be seen inside the church.
Also pay a visit to the amazing Chinese fishing nets operating on principles of physics advanced for their times. Cochin’s Chinese fishing nets found here are the only ones of its kind in India. It is believed that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets here.
After breakfast transfer to Cochin airport to board the flight for onward destination.
End of Tour
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I find much of this tour extremely confusing:
How can one attend Sabbath services in Delhi and in Mumbai only 4 days apart, when those services are held only once a week?
Why is Rosh Hashanah mentioned -- and why is its date given as September 23? The holiday's only fixed date is the first of Tishrei -- and that happens to fall on September 28 in 2011.
Why would the tour include only the Knesseth Eliyahoo synagogue in Mumbai, and none of those affiliated with the B'nai Israel?
Why would the tour fly all the way to Cochin just to see the Parades Synagogue, and not go to the fascinating Jewish museum of Kerala in Chendamangalam, or visit the synagogues of Ernakulam and Parur?