Once in A Lifetime

INDIA

Tuesday, February 18th to Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Introduction

The Jews have been in India since ancient times. Judaism was one of the early foreign religions to arrive in the country. Indian Jews are a religious minority of India, but unlike in many parts of the world, have historically lived in India without any instances of antisemitism from the local majority population. While some Jews state their ancestors arrived in India during the time of the Kingdom of Judah, others identify themselves as descendants of Israel’s Ten Tribes. It is estimated that India's Jewish community reached its peak of around 20,000 in the mid-1940s.  With the advent of the creation of State of Israel, the population rapidly declined with the vast majority of India’s Jewish population making Aliyah in 1948 and beyond.

Our itinerary will include visits to Mumbai, Kolkata, Cochin, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. 

 

We will be staying in some of the country’s finest hotels and enjoying the country’s rich array of cuisine.

 

Magen David Synagogue, Kolkata

 

 

Itinerary

 

Mumbai ● Kolkata ● Cochin ● Jaipur ● Agra ● Delhi

 

Tuesday, February18th – Day 1 – Departure

Depart from JFK International Airport

 

Wednesday, February 19th – Day 2 – Arrive Mumbai       

 

Bombay also known as Mumbai is the economic powerhouse of India. It is young, its lively and a confluence of varied cultural currents and cross currents have given Mumbai a unique position of the most multi-ethnic city of India. Mumbai is also the most populous city in India, and the fourth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of approximately 20.5 million.  Mumbai is country's financial and commercial hub and has a principal port on the Arabian Sea.

                       

Morning:

Arrive at Mumbai International Airport. After clearing customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection, you will meet our representative after which you will be transferred to your hotel.

 

Afternoon:

After the 17-hour direct flight, you deserve down time to grab a light bite, and relax or explore the city on your own.

 

Evening:

The group will gather together for an Introductory Session to meet each other and learn about what’s ahead.  This will be followed by a festive Welcome Dinner at a nearby restaurant.

 

Meals:         Breakfast and Welcome Dinner

 

Overnight:   Hotel Trident, Nariman Point in Mumbai

 

 

Thursday, March 20th – Day 3 – Mumbai      

 

Morning:

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we will take a half-day excursion to the island of Elephanta. An hour away from Mumbai by ferry, the cave temples here were excavated between the 5th and 8th centuries AD and are famous for their magnificently sculpted panels. The best known is the one that depicts the Maheshmurti – a three – headed image of Lord Shiva, which signifies the creator, preserver and destroyer of this universe according to Hindu mythology.  The Portuguese named this island after a large stone elephant that was found near the landing.  The elephant now stands at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the mainland.

 

Afternoon:

After lunch together at a local restaurant, we will embark on a Jewish Heritage Tour to trace the Jewish presence in Mumbai exploring the Sassoon Library, Magen David Synagogue and the Tiphereth Israel Synagogue. We will learn about the pivotal role of the Sassoon family in the development of India’s Jewish population and communal institutions. In the late afternoon, we will visit Mani Bhavan, the residence of Mahatma Gandhi which has been converted into a museum.

 

Evening:

The evening is at leisure. Our guide will have suggestions on where to eat and what to see.

 

Meals:         Breakfast and Lunch

 

Overnight:   Hotel Trident, Nariman Point in Mumbai

 

 

Friday, February 21st – Day 4 – Mumbai to Kolkata

 

Morning:

After breakfast at the hotel, assisted transfer to Mumbai airport to board your onward flight to Kolkata [6E-323 (11:40/ 14:15 hours)].

 

The Jewish presence in Kolkata (then Calcutta) dates back to 1798 with the arrival of Shalom Cohen.  He, like many of the first Jewish settlers in Calcutta, came from a trading family based in Aleppo, Syria. In the early 1800s, Jews from Baghdad began arriving and soon overtook the Jews from Aleppo as the largest portion of the Jewish population. At its zenith, the Jewish Community numbered 6,000After the founding of Israel most Jews left and now the population has dwindled sharply to 30 families.

 

Afternoon:

Upon arrival at Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, the group will have an assisted transfer to hotel. In the late afternoon, take a guided walk through British Kolkata to explore the colonial buildings which are now used for official purposes.

 

We will then return to the hotel to prepare for Shabbat.

 

Evening:

We will enjoy an Erev Shabbat Dinner with members of the Kolkata Jewish community.

 

Meals:         Breakfast and Erev Shabbat Dinner

 

Overnight:   LaLit Great Eastern Hotel Kolkata

 

Saturday, February 22nd – Day 5 – Shabbat in Kolkata

 

Morning:

After breakfast, we will attend services at Magen David Synagogue which dates back to 1884. We will then visit the Flower Market and experience the hustle and bustle amidst the colorful displays and sensory delights and truly feel the essence of the City of Joy.

 

The Mullick Ghat Flower Market is a must see especially for first time visitors of Kolkata. From here we will get picture-perfect of the famous Howrah Bridge.

 

Head towards the market for the shopping expedition and the first stop will be the Spice/Masala Market where you will indulge in finding the secret to the mouth-watering Indian cuisines.

 

Afternoon:

Proceed further to the wholesale fruit market at Machua filled with fresh fruits as well as local vendors and shoppers.  Afterwards, we will visit Burra Bazaar or “Big Market.”  Most of eastern India eats food that passes through here. This will be followed by a visit to the Victoria Memorial. This domed Classical structure was completed in 1921 and features beautiful gardens, elegant sculptures of British notables and a rare collection of lithographs by Thomas and William Daniell.

 

We will have lunch together at a local eatery.

 

Pareshnath Jain temple

Today’s itinerary also includes the Pareshnath Jain Temple. Jain temples are known for being some of the most highly decorated of any in India and the Pareshnath Jain Temple is one of the most resplendent. Built by art enthusiast Ray Badridas Bahadur in 1867, the temple interior is filled with intricately patterned marble, mirrors, stained glass, European chandeliers and gilded surfaces. The pastel candy-colored buildings are subdivided into four smaller temples set within a garden dotted with silvered statuary, fountains and mosaics. The main temple is dedicated to Sitalnathji, one of the 24 sages believed to have achieved Nirvana (tirthankaras) in the Jain religion and houses an eternal flame in his honor.  We will return to the hotel in the late afternoon.

 

Evening:

We will enjoy dinner together at the hotel.

 

Meals:         Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

 

Overnight:   LaLit Great Eastern Hotel Kolkata

 

Sunday, February 23rd – Day 6 – Kolkata to Cochin

 

Morning:

After breakfast and check-out, we will have an assisted transfer to the airport for our flight to Cochin [# UK-734 (10:45/ 14:55 hrs)].

 .

Kochi, or more familiarly Cochin, is spread across islands and promontories in a stunning location between the Arabian Sea and the Backwaters. The city was founded in 1341 when a flood created a natural safe port, which became the principal harbor for Malabar Coast’s spice trade. Cochin was on the main trade route between Europe and China. The rulers invited people of various religions to settle here, attracting the Jews and the Christians who built places of worship and their own communities.

 

Afternoon:

After arrival to Kochi International Airport, we will transfer to our hotel.  After check-in and lunch at BTH Sarovaram Restaurant, we will take the ferry to Fort Cochin.

 

We will explore the city with a walk through the bustling harbor area and quaint backstreets to discover its rich and multifaceted past. During this walk you will see the heritage hotels like Koder House (from outside). From there, we will walk to the St. Francis Church, originally named after Santo Antonio and dedicated to him as the Patron Saint of Portugal. Once a wooden building, it was replaced by the present stone building. Vasco De Gamma died on site in 1524 and was originally buried in the cemetery. His grave is still marked with a plaque and a brass rail, though his remains are back home in Portugal. 

 

We will see the Chinese Fishing Nets along the tip of Fort Cochin, a unique mechanical method of catching fish by local fishermen.

 

Evening:

After an early dinner at a local restaurant, we will visit a local theatre to experience Kathakali. Literally meaning "story dance", it is the pantomimic dance drama, the dancing and the acting being blended together into an inseparable form. It is a combination of facial expressions and body movements, which brings out the thought and emotion of the character.

 

Meals:         Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

 

Overnight:   Hotel Crowne Plaza in Cochin

 

Monday, February 24th – Day 7 – Cochin

 

Morning:       

We will have a after-breakfast excursion to the Jewish Town and Muziris. Cochin is also known as the Jerusalem of the East. The first Jewish, Christian and Islamic settlements in India were here during 961 BC, 52 AD and 629 AD respectively. It is one of India’s ancient harbors, approximately 3000 years old.

 

Kodungalloor, 40 kms away from Cochin City, is literally the cradle of several religions. Apart from the first Jews of India, this is the port where the apostle St. Thomas landed which marked the beginning of Christianity in India. It is also the site of Cheraman Mosque, the first Muslim house of worship in India. The Hindu Temple at this place since 1341 is dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy. The prosperous port of Muziris, at the mouth of the Periyar River, overlooking the Arabian Sea was engulfed and silted over by the flooding of the river, leaving its actual site to conjecture. The excavations by the Kerala Council for Historic Research in 2007 & 2008 unearthed the archaeological and historic evidence that confirmed its location.

 

Afternoon:

After lunch at a local home, we will explore the Mattancherry area.  We will visit the Dutch Palace and the Paradisi Synagogue.

 

The Dutch Palace was built in 1555 AD and its coronation hall and murals at Ramayana are noteworthy features.

 

 

The Paradisi Synagogue, built in 1568 AD, was destroyed by the Portuguese and rebuilt by the Dutch a century later. We will explore Jewish Town which abounds with fascinating antique shops and wares.

 

 

We will be instore for a real treat when we get a chance to meet with Queenie Hallegua (subject to prior permission/availability), one of the nine Jews left in Mattanchery. From here we visit the Sarah’s embroidery store run by one of the last Jewish residents of Kochi and her Muslim caretaker. We will then return to the hotel.

 

Evening:

The evening is at leisure.

 

Meals:         Breakfast and Lunch

 

Overnight:   Hotel Crowne Plaza in Cochin

 

Tuesday, February 25th – Day 8 – Cochin/Jaipur

 

Morning:

After an early breakfast at the hotel, we will transfer to the airport and fly to Jaipur with a stopover enroute [6E-238: (07:55/ 09:15 hrs.); 6E-667: (11:10/ 13:40 hrs.)]

 

Afternoon:

Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan province, is known for its arts and crafts, jewelry, hand-painted fabrics and stone sculptures. It is one of North India’s finest examples of a planned city embodying the best of Rajput and Mughal architecture.

On arrival at Jaipur International Airport, we will transfer to the hotel.

After checking-in, we will embark on a guided walk through local market to explore the colorful bazaars in Jaipur.

 

Evening:

We will enjoy Dinner at a vegetarian restaurant.

Meals:         Breakfast and Dinner

Overnight:   Hotel Indana Palace in Jaipur

 

Wednesday, February 26th – Day 9 –Jaipur

 

Morning:

After breakfast, we will take an excursion to the Amber Fort. Jaipur’s Maharaja Man Singh, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s most successful General, started constructing Amber Fort in the 17th century. Before the City Palace was constructed in Jaipur, Amber was the seat of power. The Fort is surrounded by fortified battlements and overlooks the Moat Lake.  Once you are on top, stroll through the sprawling complex of courtyards and halls. Many of the rooms have delightful wall paintings, with precious stones and mirrors inlaid in the walls. Most fascinating, perhaps, is the Sheesh Mahal (hall of mirrors) where a single lamplight is reflected in the many mirrors, lighting up the room.

 

Later, we will visit Jantar Mantar, an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh ll in the 18th century. The Maharajah, a scientist as well as an astronomer, had the principles of Euclid translated into Sanskrit. One of the most remarkable sites in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar has fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses and tracking stars and planets.

 

Afternoon:

We will then continue to the City Palace, built within the fortified area of the original city, with one of the finest monumental entrances in India. The Palace is now principally a museum housing a collection of great treasures, including miniature paintings, carpets, royal garments and other interesting objects from Jaipur's intriguing past.  The former royal family retains a part of the palace for their personal use. 

 

Palace of Winds

Afterwards, we will take a photo-stop at Hawa Mahal (the Palace of Winds). Five stories in height and built of red and pink sandstone highlighted with white quicklime, it is thought that the women of the royal harem used the many casements to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. In the later afternoon, we will return to the hotel.

 

Evening:

We will enjoy Dinner at the hotel.

 

Meals:         Breakfast and Dinner

 

Overnight:   Hotel Indana Palace in Jaipur

 

Thursday, February 27th – Day 10 – Jaipur/Agra     

 

Morning:

After breakfast, we begin our 6-hour drive to Agra, the city of the magnificent Taj Mahal.

 

Afternoon:

Lunch will be served at a local restaurant en-route to Agra.

 

We will arrive to Agra and check into our hotel.

 

Agra, once a small village on the banks of the Yamuna, was transformed by two great Mughal monarchs, Akbar and his grandson Shah Jehan into the second capital of the Mughal Empire – Dar-ul-Khilafat, or ‘seat of the Emperor’ in the 16th & 17th century.  A world of contrasting edifices of red sandstone and white marble, narrow galleys, bustling streets and small buggies, Agra retains the irresistible charm that made this the favorite city of the Mughals.

 

Taj Mahal

 

This afternoon, we will board our motor coach for a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal. It is fitting to see this extraordinary monument by the sunset as its exemplary beauty is awe-inspiring and will create an unforgettable memory. Mughal emperor Shahjahan built this architectural wonder in 1631 to enshrine the mortal remains of his beloved Queen Mumtaz Mahal.  The edifice took 17 years to construct.

 

Evening:

The evening is at leisure to sample some of the city’s cuisine and see some of its sights at night.

 
   

 

Meals:         Breakfast and Lunch

 

Overnight:   Hotel Crystal Sarovar Premiere in Agra

 

 

Friday, February 28th – Day 11 – Agra to Delhi

 

Morning:                                   

After breakfast, we will start our day with a visit to Agra Fort, the seat and the stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations. This was the seat of Mughal rule and administration and the present structure owes its origins to Akbar who erected the walls and gates and the first buildings on the eastern banks of Yamuna River. Shah Jehan added the impressive quarters and the mosque while Aurangzeb added the outer ramparts. Visit its Hall of Public Audience and its Royal Pavilions.

 

After our visit, we will return to the hotel for check-out and embark on the 3 ½-hour drive to Delhi.

 

Delhi is India’s capital and a major gateway to the country. Perhaps there is no other capital city in the world so steeped in history and legend as the Indian capital Delhi. It was the magnet, which drew the Mongols, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Mughals and the British, all of whom contributed to its glorious but turbulent past. The fascination with Delhi was such that even though it was abandoned many times, its rulers returned to it again and again rebuilding it at least seven times. Today, the twin cities of Old and New Delhi still intrigue Indians and tourists alike as the cultural and political capital of the largest democracy in the world.

 

Afternoon:

After entering Delhi, we will visit the Akshardham Temple. One of the largest and most intricate religious places of worship ever constructed, the structure immaculately depicts great Indian culture and its architecture. This amazing structure features 20,000 statues, floral motifs and exquisite carved pillars made of stone. It is built along the Yamuna River and is spread over an area of around 100 acres with beautiful gardens, water fountains and carved pavilions.

 

Evening:

We will attend services at the Judah Hyam Synagogue, a Conservative shul frequented by a handful of members and visitors to the city.

 

Afterwards, we will have festive Erev Shabbat Dinner at the hotel.

 

Meals:         Breakfast and Dinner

 

Overnight:   The Taj Mahal Delhi

 

 

 

The Red Fort

Saturday, February 29th – Day 12 – Shabbat in Delhi 

 

Morning:                

After breakfast, we will take an Old Delhi city tour. In old Delhi drive past the Red Fort and Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in year 1650 AD.  

 

From here we will board your cycle rickshaws for a tour of Chandni Chowk (Silver Street) for a glimpse into an Old-World lifestyle slowly fading from Delhi. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can be felt in the Chandni Chowk's narrow lanes. While on the tour, stop at Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest wholesale spice market - operating since the 17th century.  Learn about the spices on sale and smell their aromas. The street is congested with shops on both sides selling spices, nuts and herbs. The overall appearance seems to be very chaotic, but in reality, it is very well managed! There will be great photo opportunities here!!!

 

We will continue on to Raj Ghat – a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, set within beautiful park. Later, we will visit Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, the second most important Sikh shrine in India. There we will learn about the history of this religion.  While at the temple, you have the option to volunteer in the community kitchen to prepare and serve food to the visitors (the temple is visited by about a million every day) and if you wish, you can enjoy a traditional vegetarian lunch at the temple with the community.

 

Afternoon:

In the afternoon, we will drive through New Delhi, passing by the Presidential Palace - the one-time imperial residence of the British viceroys; the India Gate - a memorial raised in honor of the Indian soldiers martyred during the Afghan war, Parliament House and other government buildings built in the first quarter of the 20th century by two famous English architects, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was during this time period that the capital of the British Empire was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi.

 

Later we will visit Humayun’s Tomb – a fine example of Mughal architecture. In fact, the monument is known as pre-curser of Taj Mahal as this is one of the first Mughal monuments with four gardens. The mausoleum was built by Hamida Banu for her husband, the emperor, Humayun unlikely, most of other monuments which were built by the husbands for their wives. 

 

Evening:

We will have a celebratory Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

 

Meals:         Breakfast and Farewell Dinner

 

Overnight:   The Taj Mahal Delhi

 

Sunday, March 1st – Day 13 – Departure

 

Morning:

After breakfast at the hotel, you will have leisure time, but will have to check-out by noon.

 

Afternoon:

We will have an assisted transfer to the airport for our flight back to the United States.

 

Meal: Breakfast

 

Monday, March 2nd – Day 14 – Arrive in the United States

 

 

 

 

This Itinerary is Subject to Change

 

 

 

Our Tour Escort

Moshe Margolin is the Director of Jewish Explorations. He holds degrees from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Teachers College, Columbia University.

His career in the field of Jewish Education spans four decades. He has held senior positions in both the United States and in Israel including the founding VP of Education for Birthright Israel and the Program Officer at the Fulbright Commission at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. He has been associated with The Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Hebrew College in Boston and The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Moshe is married to Dr. Judith Margolin, the Clinical Director of the Women’s Program at Penn Medicine’s Princeton Behavioral Health. She is in private practice as well. They live in Princeton and have three grown children and two grandchildren.

Hotels

 

All hotels are recipients of TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence in 2018.

 

 

City

Deluxe Hotels

Room Category

Nights

Mumbai

Trident Nariman Point

Superior  room

2

 

Kolkata

 

LaLit Great Eastern Hotel

Superior  room

2

Cochin

 

Crowne Plaza

 

Superior room

2

Jaipur

Indana Palace

Executive room

2

Agra

 

Crystal Sarovar Premiere

City view room

1

Delhi

 

Taj Mahal Delhi

 

Deluxe room

2

 

Trident, Nariman Point

Mumbai

 

Nestled in the heart of vibrant and bustling Mumbai lies our hotel Trident, Nariman Point. Soaring 35 stories high, it offers panoramic views of Marine Drive or the Queen's Necklace, as the beautiful promenade is lovingly called. An iconic Mumbai landmark, featuring some of the best accommodations in the city, this is the luxury hotel address to be seen at.

The 555 rooms and suites at Trident, Nariman Point, offer stunning views of the ocean and the five star Mumbai city skyline. Spacious and well-appointed with all modern amenities, including complimentary high-speed Internet for up to four devices, the rooms are complemented by our attentive yet unobtrusive service. Trident, Nariman Point is ranked amongst the best hotels in Mumbai.

 

LaLit Great Eastern

Kolkata

A favorite haunt of royalty, dignitaries and international celebrities for years, The LaLit Great Eastern Kolkata offers 215 aesthetically designed rooms and suites, complete with all modern amenities. Rooms in the Heritage Block I and II exude the timeless legacy and heritage of the hotel through restored furniture, bay windows and vintage iron pillars.

 

Crowne Plaza

Cochin

Crowne Plaza Kochi is ideally located on the new business district of city NH 47 Bypass and provides easy access to Info Park Kakkanad, Cochin Special Economic Zone, M.G. Road, Cochin Port, Shipyard, Naval Base, major sightseeing areas like Fort Kochi and Mattancherry.

 

Indana Palace

Jaipur

Indana provides you with every modern comfort and luxury that a discerning world traveler expects in this day and age.

Plush accommodation, varied dining experiences, a signature wedding venue with supporting services, state-of-the-art business facilities for events and conferences and pampering leisure amenities namely Swimming Pool, Health Club and Spa which comes together to provide a luxurious home away from home.

Our goal is to provide you with the very best hospitality in the Pink City - Jaipur.

 

Crystal Sarovar Premiere

Agra

Crystal Sarovar Premiere, Agra, is a full-service premium hotel strategically located in the heart of Agra's   tourist hub, Fatehabad Road. Sharing close proximity with the Taj Mahal, our hotel in Agra offers a mesmerizing view of the magnificent Wonder of the World, from its rooftop restaurant.

Offering an amalgamation of timeless elegance and new age convenience, our leisure hotel in Agra is perfect for the modern traveler. The hotel offers a large number of facilities such as fitness center, spa, swimming pool, kid's activity zone, travel desk, and much more.

 

Taj Mahal Hotel

Delhi

The Taj Mahal Hotel is a five-star luxury hotel located in the very heart of New Delhi. On Number One Mansingh Road, it stands as tribute to timeless hospitality and service, complementing the broad leafy boulevards of Delhi's chief architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. Its proximity to the seat of government, the city's diplomatic corps, and entertainment, heritage and business districts has furthered the hotel’s reputation as the epicenter of the capital. Prominent landmarks - India Gate, the Presidential Palace and the National Museum - are a short 10-minute drive away.

The glorious Mughal architecture, dramatic façade of pink Dholpur sandstone, impeccable gardens and pool give it the ambience of a luxurious in-city haven.

All around, grandeur meets understated elegance. Antiques, priceless art, and traditional accents & colors are impeccably woven together with contemporary style and modern amenities. Stay in our 292  luxurious rooms and grand suites, all of which offer stunning aerial views of Delhi’s historic skyline, or at our one-of-a-kind Presidential Suite, all perfected to host dignitaries and celebrities from across the globe.

 

Price

LAND ONLY

$3,635

 

SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT

$1015

 

Airfares are not yet available.

 

$500 deposit due upon registering.

Minimum 10 participants.

 

PACKAGE INCLUDES:

                               

  

•        Hotel accommodations.     

                

•        Meals indicated on the itinerary.     

                   

•        Ground transportation in luxury motor coach throughout itinerary.       

                     

•        Entrance fees.      

                                                             

•        Guides & driver. 

 

        Touring indicated on itinerary including internal flights in India.

 

 

DOES NOT INLCUDE:  

 

     •        Tips

 

 

•        Personal expenses.

 

 

        Alcohol at meals.

 

•        Travel Insurance - Insurance can be purchased at:         http://www.giltravel.com/israel-travel-resources/israel-travel-insurance.html 

Questions???

 

For Travel and Registration-Related Questions:

Please Contact

Luca Dessardo

Gil Travel Group

800-223-3855 X376

lucad@giltravel.com

 

 

For Program Questions:

Please Contact

Moshe Margolin, Director

Jewish Explorations

866-898-0037

moshe@jewish-explorations.com

This program is copyrighted by Adult Jewish Learning Programs LLC.  Travel services for Jewish Explorations study tours are provided exclusively by the Gil Travel Group.

 

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