The first critical step is research, familiarizing yourself with India’s “must-see” destinations and routes. Destination routes include The Golden Triangle (Delhi – Jaipur – Agra), Colors of Rajasthan (Delhi – Jaipur – Udaipur – Jaisalmer – Agra), Adventures in the North-west Himalayas (Delhi – Shimla – Leh / Ladakh), Glimpse of God’s Own Country (Kerala), One State Many Worlds (Karnataka from Bangalore), Untouched Northeast (Calcutta – Darjeeling), The land of Five Rivers (Punjab), and City to Beach Escapes (Mumbai – Goa). Theme routes include religious and cultural pilgrimages, spa and Ayurveda (specifically in the Himalayas in the north and Kerala in the south), cuisine and culinary experiences, wildlife and tiger safaris, trekking and adventure, heritage and historical routes, and train travel. To date, India has the largest train network in Asia, including exquisite luxury trains such as the Palace on Wheels http://www.palaceonwheels.net. Some of the more unique experiences to be found in India include: textile block printing, Kerala backwaters cruising, visiting a local tribal village, shopping the Mumbai Thieves Market, dodging through the Kokata Mallick Ghat Wholesale Flower Market, jungle patrolling in South India, indulging in an Ayurvedic massage, taking a cooking lesson in a small village and attending an Indian wedding in your own made-to-measure traditional dress.
Timing Your Visit
Nothing captures India’s spirituality, mystique, and rich cultural diversity more memorably than its year-round festivals and other special events. They include centuries-old religious and seasonal celebrations, as well as spectacular cultural and artistic events – the most important of which attract participants and spectators from all over India and around the world. So, whether your clients are planning a first-time or return trip to India, give them the opportunity to really experience it by including one of the following 2014 events in their itinerary:
HOLI – March 16-18
Marking the end of winter, the joyous Festival of Colors is celebrated throughout India. The “Holi Fire” cleanses the air of evil spirits and bad vibes, and the next day, participants spray each other with vivid colors. The revelry ends with a feast.
POORAM – May 9
One of India’s most famous temple festivals, Thrissur Pooram is celebrated in the state of Kerala. It features decorated elephants, drums, and umbrellas, traditional music and spectacular fireworks.
PURI RATH YATRA – June 29-July 7
Known as the “Chariot Festival,” this famed Hindu festival is held in Puri, Odissa. It is highlighted by the construction and decoration of three huge chariots, each over 44 ft high, that are pulled by devotees.
HEMIS FESTIVAL – July 7 & 8
Held in Leh, the former capital of Ladakh, the festival celebrates the birthday of Guru Padamasambhava by masked monks who dance to a cacophony of drums, cymbals and long horns. The surrounding landscape is unspoiled and picturesque.
KRISHNA JANMASHTAMI – August 17
Celebrated across India, this event commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna, a highly venerated God. Festivities feature re-enactments of the God’s life – from his birth in prison to his childhood pranks to his miracles.
GANESH CHATURTHI – August 29
The festival marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the “God of knowledge and the remover of obstacles” and the son of God Shiva and Parvati. It’s celebrated in Mumbai and the states of Maharashtra and Andrhra Pradesh over a 10-day period.
PUSHKAR CAMEL FAIR – Oct. 30-Nov. 6
A spectacle on an epic scale, this huge event draws farmers, traders and villagers – and over 10,000 camels, horses and cattle from all over Rajasthan. The festival attracts thousands of visitors.
Things to Know
Book clients in one of India’s many heritage properties, boutique hotels, and upscale family-run home-stays to get in touch with the people of the country. Air India offers daily non-stop service from New York and Chicago to Delhi, and from Newark to Mumbai – and connecting service to over 50 other cities across India. For details, special individual and group fares, and reservations, call 800-225-3191, or visit http://www.airindia.in
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