VARANASI, RISHIKESH, HIMALAYA 2018: Traveling in Beauty and Gnosis


As part of its educational programs, the Indo-Hellenic Society for Culture and Development organizes a cultural journey to the holy city of Benares and to the foothills and peaks of the Himalayas in the North Indian State of Uttarakhand. The main stations of the trip include the Varanasi, or Banares – the capital of Hinduism;  Sarnath – a sacred shrine where the Buddha gave his first sermon; Rishikesh – the world’s capital of yoga, Haridwar – the gate to god; Yamunotri and Gangotri –  the sources of India’s holiest rivers the Ganges and the Yamuna at the peaks of the Himalayas; and many other places of natural beauty and spiritual power that attract thousands of pilgrims.


Dates:

Μiddle of August – early September 2018

Duration of the trip:

The total duration of the trip in India is 20 days (18 days in India plus 2 days international journey). Those who have limited time available can register for the first or last part of the journey. The journey is divided into the following three parts: 1. Varanasi and Sarnath; 2. Risikesh and Haridwar; 3. Yamunotri and Gangotri Yatra.map-varanasi-rishikes-gangotri2


The Program of the Journey has been configured as follows:

The program and the dates are indicative and may change according to the availability of tickets and the weather conditions in our trekking routes. Follow our website for updates. 

Destinations covered:  Delhi – Varanasi – Sarnath –  Haridwar – Rishikesh- Dehradun – Barkot – Yamunotri (3.293 μ) – Uttarkashi –  Gangotri (3.100 μ) – Gaumukh (4.023 μ) – Uttarkashi  – Rishikesh – Delhi.


Day 1 (August 15): Athens – Delhi

Departure from Athens International Airport for New Delhi.

Day 2 (August 16): Delhi – Varanasi

Arrival at IGIA in New Delhi.  Transfer to the domestic airport and boarding to a local flight for Varanasi (1 h 30 min). Arrival in Varanasi airport. On the way to the city we shall stop at the Christian Cemetery and visit the tomb of Dimitrios Galanos. Arrival at hotel and evening boat-trip on the Ganges. Overnight stay at hotel in Varanasi.  (Total nights in Varanasi 4).

Days 3 – 4 (August 17 – 18): Varanasi

Places to visit in Varanasi:

Institutions and Museums:

Banaras Hindu University (Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum, New Vishvanath Temple, Malviya’s house), Sampurnanad Sanskrit University, J. Krishnamurti’s foundation and study center in Raj Ghat, House of Annie Besant in Theosophical Society, Ramnagar Fort (Maharaja’s Palace and Museum)

Temples and Ashrams:

Golden temple, Durga temple, Ramacharita manas temple, Sankat Mochan (Hanuman temple), Bharat Mata temple, International society for Krishna Consciousness and old Krishna’s temple, Nepali temple, Mahanirvan Akhara, Alamgir mosque, Birth places and temples of the Jain Tirthankaras Parshvanath and Suparshvanath, Ananda Mai Ma Ashram and temple, Lahiri Mahasaya’s  Samadhi, Ramakrishna’s room, Kabhir Ashram, House of Tulsidas,  Kinara Ram Ashram, Lolarka kund (ancient sun worship, holy well for fertility), numerous small temples in old city.

Ghats:

Manikarnika Ghat (cremation), Manikarnika Kund, Dashashamedh Ghat, Chet Singh Ghat (historic palace), Harishcandra Ghat (cremation), Tulsi Ghat, Assi Ghat, Kedar Ghat and temple, Narad Ghat, Panch Ganga Ghat, Confluence of the Varuna and the Ganges.

Cultural and educational programs: (under preparation)

Morning yoga class at Assi Ghat, Morning aarti on the Ganges at Assi Ghat, Evening aarti on the Ganges at Dashashamedh Ghat. Lectures on Galanos, Jainism and Hinduism by Dr Dimitrios Vassiliadis. Slide-show PPT lecture on “Kashi & Cosmos: Sacred Geography of Banaras” by Dr Rana P.B. Singh, Εmeritous Professor  in Cultural Geography & Heritage Studies, Banaras Hindu University.

Day 5 (August 19): Sarnath

After breakfast, full day excursion to the sacred Buddhist shrine  of Sarnath (10 kilometres north-east of Varanasi)

Places to visit in Sarnath:

Archaeological site and museum, Dhamekh Stupa, Ashoka pillar, deers’ park, Chaukhandi Stupa

Buddhist monasteries and temples (Mulagandhakuti Vihara, Japanese, Tibetan, Thai, Chinese)

Tibetan Institute of Higher Studies

Birthplace of Shreyansanath, the eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism, and a temple dedicated to him.

Cultural and educational programs: (under preparation)

Lecture on Buddha’s first sermon, “the Four Noble Truths, which he gave after his enlightenment to his disciples at Sarnath.

Return and overnight stay at hotel in Varanasi.

Day 6 (August 20): Varanasi – Haridwar

After breakfast, transfer to Varanasi station and travel by train to Haridwar.  Enjoy the country’s view from the train. Overnight stay on the train at 3tiers A/C cabins.

map-yamunotri-gagotri-1


Day 7 (August 21): Haridwar

Arrival at Haridwar train station and transfer to hotel or ashram.  Sightseeing in Haridwar.

Places to visit in Haridwar (Gate of God):

Holy dip at the Ganges, Ganga aarti at Har ki Pauri, Maya Devi Temple, Mansa Devi Temple, Sapt Rishi Ashram and Sapt Sarovar, Ananda Mai Ma Ashram.

Overnight stay at hotel or ashram in Haridwar.

Day 8 (August 22): Rishikesh (Muni Ki Reti)

After breakfast, transfer by car to Rishikesh / Muni Ki Reti, (25 km north-east of Haridwar, 1 hour drive). Sightseeing in Muni Ki Reti (sands of the sages).  Overnight stay at hotel or ashram at the bank of the Ganges in Rishikesh.

Places to visit in Muni ki Reti: 

Divine Life Society (Shivananda Ashram), Ram Jhula, Lakshman Jhula,  Lakshman Temple, Shivananda’s kutir, Swargashram, Omkarananda Ashram, Parmarth Niketan, Geeta Bhawan and other temples and ashrams of various yogis.

Cultural and educational programs in Rishikesh:

Daily morning yoga classes at the Ashram, Evening Ganga aarti at Triveni Ghat, lectures on yoga philosophy. (More cultural programs to be added)

Overnight stay at hotel or ashram at the bank of the Ganges in Rishikesh.

Day 9 (August 23): Rishikesh (Neelkanth)

After breakfast and yoga class,  optional full day trekking to Neelkanth Mahadev temple (14 km)The Holy Shrine of Lord Shiva is surrounded by thick and dense forest and is located at the hilltop (1,330 m).  According to the legend Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is the holy location where Lord Shiva consumed the poison which is originated during the ocean churning when Gods and Demons tried obtain the nectar of immortality. Due to this poison Lord Shiva’s throat became blue in color. So he is known as Nilkanth (literally, blue throated). Return by trek or car.

In the afternoon an optional car excursion to theVashistha cave, where it is believed that sage Vashistha did his meditation.

Overnight stay at hotel or ashram at the bank of the Ganges in Rishikesh.

Day 10 (August 24): Rishikesh – Barkot

After breakfast, departure for Barkot  (169 km. 6-7 hours approx.) through Dehradun. Reach Barkot and check-in at hotel. Evening walk & overnight stay at hotel.

Plan B (For those who will not go to Yamountotri and Gangotri): Rishikesh – Delhi – Athens

Boarding on the train from Dehradun to Delhi, overnight stay in Delhi or direct transfer to Delhi International Airport and departure for Athens.

Day 11 (August 25): Barkot – Yamunotri – Barkot

Full day excursion to the sources of the Yamuna (Yamunotri). After breakfast, proceed to Janki chatti (45 km drive) and start trekking from Janki chatti to Yamunotri (7 km trek – one side). The path to Yamunotri is over two meters wide and clearly marked. For travelers convenience there are small shelters for the rain every 500 meters. There are three temples along the route and a steel bridge in the midway over one of the tributaries to the Yamuna. The path goes along the Yamuna river all the way to Yamunotri.

After Yamunotri darshan (viewing) drive back to Barkot,

Overnight stay at hotel in Barkot.

Day 12 (August 26): Barkot – Uttarkashi

After breakfast, proceed to Uttarkashi (81 km/ 2,5 hrs approx). On arrival check-in at hotel. Evening walk and visit to  Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Vishwanath Temple, Ekadash Rudra, Bhairav, Gyaneshwar, Goddess Kuteti Devi etc,

Celebrate the Raksha Bandhan festival and the full moon in Himalayas.

Overnight stay at hotel.

Day 13 (August 27): Uttarkashi – Gangotri

After breakfast, proceed to Gangotri  (100 km/3-4 hrs approx ). En-route visit Gangnani, where you can see natural hot water springs, picturesque Harsil village, Bhagirathi River and have magnificent view of the Himalayas.

Evening walk and Ganga aarti by the river at Gangotri, which is followed by evening prayers at the main temple of Goddess Ganges.

Overnight stay at hotel in Gangotri.

Day 14 (August 28): Gangotri – Bhojwasa / Gangotri

After breakfast, optional 14 km trek to Bhojwasa which passes through Bhoj Kharak and Chirbasa (lit. Abode of Pine Trees). The trek goes through harsh terrains along the Bhagirathi River flowing alongside. En-route enjoy awe-inspiring natural beauty of Himalayan peaks, like Meru, Thalay Sagar, Shivling, Bhagirathi III and others. Bhojwasa is a large open land in the valley, situated at an elevation of 3800 mts above the sea level and 4 km before Gaumukh glacier. Overnight stay at  Tourist Guest House or Ashram. Accommodation is basic and  includes arctic tents which are quite warm.

Day 15 (August 29):  Bhojwasa – Gaumukh – Gangotri

Early morning, we continue trek to Gaumukh (4 km),  the terminus or snout of the Gangotri Glacier and the source of the Bhagirathi River, one of the primary head streams of the Ganges River. The place is situated at a height of 4,023 m. The word “Gomukh or Gaumukh” (go/gau=cow, mukh= mouth) literally means “Mouth of a Cow” as the entrance of the cave under the glacier from which comes the Ganges looks like the mouth of a cow.

After seeing the source of the Ganges we return by trekking to Gangotri (18 km). Overnight stay at hotel in Gangotri.

Day 16 (August 30):  Gangotri – Uttarkashi

After breakfast, proceed to Uttarkashi (100 km/3-4 hrs approx).  Arrival and rest in Uttarkashi.  Overnight stay at hotel in Uttarkashi.

Day 17 (August 31):  Uttarkashi – Rishikesh

After breakfast, proceed to Rishikesh (171 km/ 6 hrs approx).  Arrival in Rishikesh, evening walk and overnight stay at the ashram in Rishikesh.

Day 18 (September 1):  Rishikesh – Delhi

Early after breakfast departure for Delhi via Dehradun (242 km / 7 hrs approx). Evening arrival & shopping in Delhi.

Celebrate Krishna Janmasthami festival in Delhi

Overnight stay at Hotel in New Delhi.

Day 19 (September 2):  Delhi

Relaxation and shopping in New Delhi. Optional excursion to the city’s attractions. Overnight stay in a hotel in New Delhi.

Plan B (For those starting work on Monday 3 September): Delhi – Athens

After breakfast, transfer to Delhi International Airport and departure to Athens. Arrival in Athens on Sunday afternoon and end of trip.

Day 20 (September 3):  Delhi – Athens

After breakfast, transfer to Delhi International airport to board the flight for Athens. Arrival in Athens and end of the journey.


Services included in the tour package:

Hotels –  Double rooms in 3-star hotels or ashrams with extra charge for single rooms. Hotels will be selected after extensive research into their category and according to availability without having to break the group into different hotels. The hotel names will be given herewith for reference.

01 night in  the train, New Delhi – Varanasi -3tiers A / C  cabins.
04 nights in Varanasi.
01 night in  the train, Varanasi – Haridwar -3tiers A / C  cabins.
01 night in Haridwar.
03 (02 + 01) nights in  Rishikesh.
02 nights in Barkot.
02 (01 + 01) nights in Uttarkashi.
03  nights in  Gangotri / Gaumukh.
02 nights in Delhi.

Meals – Daily breakfast in hotels. Dinner can be included in hotels at an additional cost for those who want it. There are many good restaurants in the big cities, but the indignation in India always needs special attention. In some cases, especially after a long trip, it is good to have food in the hotel. Varanasi will have a vegetarian and non-vegetarian buffet, but in the Himalayas the diet will be only vegetarian.

Transportation – We are considering the upgrading of the means of transport as we will have many and long trips.

Availability of Horses – For trekking you might take horses on the spot charge is not included.

Communication – wi-fi will be available free or at a reasonable charge  in most of the hotels. In some places no communication available due to the high altitude. Indian sim cards are available with presentation of the required documents, see HERE.

Boating in Varanasi – Boating in the Ganges along the city for an hour.

Lectures and Seminars – Lectures by local teachers and monks in ashrams and monasteries. Introductory seminars on Yoga and Buddhism by Indologist Dr Dimitrios Vassiliadis.

Cultural Programs – To be advised later which folk programs will be available.

Read the articles by Prof. Rana P.B. Singh who will talk to us about the sacred  geography of Benares:

THE GAṄGĀ RIVER: IMAGES, SACRALITY AND SALVIFIC PLACES, Rana P.B. Singh. ΙΝDΙΚΑ 2018

THE PILGRIMAGE CENTERS ALONG THE GAṄGĀ RIVER, Rana P.B. Singh. ΙΝDΙΚΑ 2018


 Requirements:

  1. Sound physical condition.
  2. Medical Tests: Ask your doctor  if you are fit to travel to high altitude (3,300 m. / 4,023 m. optional trekking to the sources of the Ganges). No special vaccines are required.
  3. Proper clothing: Suitable for trekking and living at high altitude, raincoat, avoid ‘non-conservative’ clothes.
  4. Simple living and basic knowledge and understanding of Indian culture.
  5. Non vegetarian food and alcohol is strictly forbidden in holy places and in the cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh.
  6. Shoes are strictly forbidden in any temple. Photography is not allowed inside many temples.
  7. All participants should be members of ELINEPA. If you are not a member yet, please download the Membership Form HERE

Cost: 

The exact cost will be adjusted in accordance with the transportation, hotel and service prices we shall face (including international airfare). Hotel prices will be based on double rooms rates, single occupancy and dinner at hotels (if preferred) will be charged for separately. 


For registration and input of ideas to shape the trip, please call 6977874652 or send an e-mail to indohellenic@gmail.com

Limited number of participants.


Watch the documentary about Varanasi (with English subtitles)


Watch a documentary about the spiritual search in Haridwar and Rishikesh


Watch Wild Films India’s documentary – the source of  the Yamuna river


Watch BBC’s video – the source of the Ganges