Chapter II : Central and Eastern India
DAY 10- 21st October, 2015, Wednesday- From textiles to temples
Central India is a different story- the dark desert shades of the Kutch and a storm of bright hues that compensated for the stark stretches of arid land are now replaced by the deep and the dark greens. You now follow the tropical line into the ‘heart of India’ – the central province, one of the largest provinces in the country. In this land of the river Narmada there lie lush green forest shelters and hills.
After breakfast at your hotel in Ahmedabad, you would be transferred to the airport in time to catch the first flight to Indore. On your arrival, you will board local vehicles and take an hour’s drive to Ujjain. Post your arrival in Ujjain, you will check into the hotel and later have lunch.
Once you are finished with lunch, we take you on a boat-ride along the river Shipra. The river is considered holy and is a destination for millions of devotees during the Kumbh Mela held once every twelve years.
We then take you to the local observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh-II in the early eighteenth century followed by a visit to the Karkraj temple – so named since the Tropic of Cancer passes through it. We end the first day with a quiet dinner at a local restaurant.
DAY 11- 22nd October, 2015, Thursday – the centre of the country
Bhopal is the capital of the federal state of Madhya Pradesh. After breakfast, we board our vehicles again and drive through the city.
After lunch we proceed to the ‘Museum of Man’- a place that houses and conserves historic and valuable cultural traditions and patterns of biological evolution. It is an open air museum of past and contemporary tribal cultures in India.
In the evening you will have a dinner of delectable chicken and rice called the Biryani.
DAY 12- 23rd October, 2015, Friday – the birth of man and the birth of greed
Time to rejuvenate and revitalize yourself. You start the day with a yoga session, so that you are prepared for all the rest that is to follow. After breakfast, you will have a chance to ride on motor bikes all the way to the Sanchi stupa. And after your visit, you may hold on to the bikes to go exploring the city on your own. Other possible places to include are the Bhimbetka caves. A UNESCO World Heritage Site – the caves exhibit the earliest traces of human life in the continent.
For us you are not just another guest. You are an ambassador – of Indebo and India. As an ambassador, while it would be important for you to enjoy your stay and explore the cultural history of the country, it would also be important for you to understand some wounds inflicted upon the country that still have not healed. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy was such a wound. On the night of 2-3 December 1984, a gas leak at the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited exposed 500,000 people to Methyl Isocyanate. Although there are reports that talk of 8,000 people having died in 2 weeks, the Madhya Pradesh Government confirmed 3,787 deaths. That is more than the number of people killed by Osama Bin Laden. It was termed at the world’s worst disaster. But the disaster was to follow when victims and activists sought legal help. Most of the accused in the tragedy are either in jail for 2 years or have distanced themselves from Union Carbide (which is now owned by Dow Chemicals) while the victims have had to settle for 15% of the original $3 billion claimed in their lawsuit. You can meet members of the NGOs that work with the victims. But please do not do it if you just want to “visit” them. Do it if you are prepared to be an ambassador for them. Please inform us in advance if you would like to meet members of these NGOs.
Coincidentally, this day is also about the celebration of the victory of good over evil–Dussehra. You will celebrate this festival with a local family and conclude the day after having a dinner with them..
DAY 13- 24th October, 2015, Saturday – into the wild
The day promises another adventure. We drive you to the Satpura National Park, away from the hustle and bustle of the city life into the wilderness. You will check into the jungle lodge here and then proceed for lunch. In the afternoon, you have a scheduled jeep safari into the park. So, don’t forget to bring along a good set of binoculars.
DAY 14- 25th October, 2015, Sunday – In the Lap of Nature…
You will have an entire day at the Satpura National Park known for its rich and unique eco-system. A variety of animals and birds are found here. Your day at the park will start with an early morning walk into the jungle. You will then return for breakfast and get ready for another jeep safari into the jungle. Somewhere during the day you will have the quiet leisure of a canoe ride. Lunch and dinner will be arranged at the jungle lodge.
DAY 15- 26th October, 2015, Monday – the middle of nowhere
Jabalpur is the central point of the geographical extent of the country. The activities for the day will include visits to the Bhedaghat and Dhuandhar falls. It will be followed by a boat ride on the river Narmada and later you will proceed to the Chausatyogini temple.
DAY 16- 27th October, 2015, Tuesday – our intellectual pursuits
You will be boarding the flight to Delhi and then a connecting flight to Kolkata. You will be arriving at Kolkata in the evening and after checking into the hotel and provided time permits, you can expect to see a small theatre performance or an exclusive screening of a Bollywood movie.
One cannot travel to this part of the world and not talk about the food. The people of Kolkata love their fish curry- ‘macher jhol’. And if you happen to be a vegetarian, you can always look forward to the beguni and the poshto. Whatever said and done, you can expect a dinner of the highest gastronomical standards.
DAY 17- 28th October, 2015, Wednesday – Its more about the conversation – not about the coffee
Nothing can be more exciting in India than taking a walking tour of British Kolkata. Right from the flower market under the famous Howrah bridge to the Victorial Memorial, to the evanescence of the morning mist on the sleepy ghats of the Hoogly- you are bound to be taken aback by the beauty and the creative energy of this city.
You will have your task cut out at lunch- so prepare yourself for a short culinary session followed by a traditional Bengali lunch. Post lunch, we take a stroll along Kolkata’s famous College Street book market and stop for a cup of coffee at the Indian Coffee House.
Once you have had your chit chat over coffee, we take you to our favourite place- the colony of sculptors at Kumartuli. Since you will be visiting Kolkata during the festive season, you will have the opportunity to see the artists work furiously on their clay idols of the Goddess.
At the end of the day, you will be taking a ride on the local city tram before you return to the hotel for dinner.
DAY 18- 29th October, 2015, Thursday – experiments in education
Your day starts with an early breakfast at the hotel and a subsequent transfer to the train station to board a train to Shantiniketan. The train journey would keep you busy for the next three hours and give you a chance to see the life aboard one of country’s biggest life-line- the Indian train. On arrival you will be checked in at the hotel in Shantiniketan.
Shantiniketan is a university town and is of great historical importance. It was here that the famous Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore gave life to his many classics. You will use bicycles here to take a tour around the Vishwa Bharati University which was also established by the eminent poet.
In the evening you will meet the local Baul singers (similar to wandering friars), to learn about their music. It will be followed by a dance performance by Santhali dancers.
DAY 19- 30th October, 2015, Friday – speaking with hands
You will leave for Kolkata by road and en route have the chance to see the terracotta pot making at the Panchmuda village. Post lunch, you will proceed to Bishnupur to see the famous terracotta temples. On arrival at Kolkata, you will check in at the hotel and then proceed for dinner.
DAY 20- 31st October, 2015, Saturday – le fabuleux destin de vous
If you thought that Bengal was all British, then think again… Not very far from Kolkata (an hour’s drive) is located a small city called Chandannagar- formerly a French colony nestled on the bank of the Hoogly river. The buildings in the town are reminiscent of the elaborate thoroughfares and elegant European architecture that prevailed.
Apart from the local buildings you will also visit the French Governor’s palace, the Nandadulal temple and the Chandannagar museum. You will then take a short sweet ride back on a Kolkata local train.
DAY 21- 01st November, 2015, Sunday – Crossing over to Bangladesh- the Land of Smiles
As you move further, you follow the Northern Tropics across the international border and into the world’s largest delta- Bangladesh.
After completing immigration formalities at the Benapole border, you will embark on a short drive to the city of Kushtia. At Kushtia, you will check into your hotel rooms. In the evening, you will be accompanied by a local guide to the shrine of Lalon Fakir, the Bengali Baul Saint, often known as a mystic, a song writer, social reformer and a thinker. He is considered to be the founder of Baul music.
The visit will be followed by a performance by the local Baul singers and you will then proceed for an organic meal at the nearby local NGO, UBINIG.
DAY 22- 02nd November, 2015, Monday – Getting Familiar with the Art of Weaving
You will leave for Dhaka in the morning. En route, you will be stopping at the ancestral house of Rabindranath Tagore who is also the national bard of Bangladesh. The house is popularly known as the Shilaidah Kuthibari.
You will then stop at a local village near the city of Tangail to meet and interact with the families of the local villagers engaged in the weaving of the famous Tangail sarees and also the colourful gamcha (loincloth). Later, you will be stopping at the local UBINIG centre for a chance to learn about organic farming followed by a short stop at the famous Atia mosque.
After lunch you will be treated to a folk song and dance performance by the local villagers. You will then leave for Dhaka and check in at the hotel. This will shortly be followed by dinner.
This evening would mark the end of the Central and Eastern India chapter.