India Photography Tour
Kumbh Festival and Varanasi
Join Master Photographer IV AIPP Nick Melidonis and I on this incredible journey into the heart and culture of India. Gathering in Ujjain and witnessing the Kumbh Mela, where 10’s of millions of pilgrims and saints gather and bathe in the Shipra River, many naked and covered in white ash, to wash away their sins. Then continuing on to Varanasi to witness the religious ceremonies on the sacred Ganges river, where we will photograph these amazing ceremonies from boats near the ghats. Get wrapped up in the colour and life of this amazing culture.
Tour Dates: 20th of April to 2nd of May
Duration: 12 Nights / 13 Days
Participants: 10 to 12 (open to all levels of photographic experience)
Guides: Aaron Dowling & Nick Melidonis
We are currently taking registration of interest for this amazing tour, register quickly if this is a tour you’d like to attend.
Nick and I will guide you through India to witness some of the most amazing cultural events on earth. On this 13 day trip into the heart of India Nick and I will provide you with photographic assistance to ensure that you are getting the most out of your photography while witnessing events that need to be seen to believe. We’ll be transferred in air-condition transport, staying in high quality hotels and be guided by two english speaking guides who will look after us and make sure we get close to the action and experiencing the true India. You’ll get swept up in the energy and culture, the vibrancy and life, the raw emotion, the amazing lives of the people.
Day 1: 20th of April (Delhi)
All guests arrive in Delhi and are transported to the hotel unwind and recover after their journey.
Day 2: 21st of April (Delhi – Indore (Flight) – Ujjain (Drive))
After breakfast we’ll depart to the airport for our flight to Indore. On our arrival in Indore we’ll immediately depart for our drive to Ujjain (60km – 1.5 hours).
Ujjain is a quiet and relatively small provincial town. Ujjain is one of the greatest cities of ancient India and one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus in India. It is also one of the four towns where the Kumbh Mela is held and plays as a host 20 – 30 million pilgrims who gather every 12 years.
The Kumbh Mela takes place in Ujjan every 12 years in the month of April. During this festival, millions of pilgrims from all over the country gather here for a dip in the holy river. This festival lasts for a month and draws large crowds from surrounding villages.
Day 3 – 7: 22nd – 26th of April (Ujjain)
Spending five and half days in Ujjain we will witness and photograph this amazing festival where millions of pilgrims and saints gather with many covered in white ash and colourful flowers and garments.
The commemoration of the Mela at Ujjain is known as ‘Simhastha Kumbh Mela’, and the major attraction of this festival is ‘Shaha Snan’ (royal bath). It is believed that those who get a royal bath in the holy Shipra River on the occasion of Kumbh Mela can wash away their sins of all previous births. The devotes consider it an opportunity to get them revived from the never ending birth cycle.
‘Simhastha Kumbh Mela’ in Ujjain is the unique combination of divinity and purity, which is experienced when the crowd of ash-covered sages, priests, devotees gets fused together with the roaring of elephants and camels. People who witness the spiritual festival feel good fortune by their side and sense positive aroma purifying their souls and thoughts.
The Kumbh Mela holds a very important place in the hearts of Indian Sages, known as Sadhu in Hindi. Sadhus from all over the country reach the mela and bathe in the sacred river for absolution from sins and peccadillos. The most common types of sadhus that visit the Kumbh are:
Nagas – Naga sadhus are nudist sages which smear their entire body with ash. They usuall keep long matted hair. These sadhus smoke marijuana, known as charas in Hindi, constantly since they believe it can help in enlightenment. the continuous exposure to various weather conditions make their body insensitive to the extremities of weather.
Urdhwavahurs - These sadhus put their bodies through strict austerities out of their religious beliefs.
Parivajakas – Parivajakas are sages who have resolved not to speak ever, the observation called muan vrat in Sanskrit and hindi. They keep on tinkling bells to let other know that they are coming and make way for them.
Shirshasinse – These Indian holy men meditate with their bodies standing upside down. The position is known as shirshasana in Sanskrit.
Kalpvasis – Kalpvasis are sadhus that live near river banks and bathe several times a day. They spend most of their time meditating.
Day 8: 27th of April (Ujjain – Indore (Drive) – Flight to Delhi)
We’ll spend the morning continuing our photography in Ujjain before driving to Indore to catch our flight back to Delhi.
Day 9: 28th of April (Delhi – Varanasi (Flight))
After breakfast we’ll transfer to the airport for our flight to Varanasi then transfer to our hotel.
Varanasi is referred to as ‘the city of temples and learning’, the holy city of Varanasi is situated on the banks of the tiver Ganges, and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth.
Encapsulating the essence of India’s Hindu religion, Varanasi with it’s endearing faith, picturesque river ghats, and a way of life unlike any other in the country, Varanasi ranks amongst the most sought-after destinations. One of the holiest destinations of Hindu pilgrimages, Varanasi stands at the very centre of the Hindu universe, offering photographers a unique perspective to the soul of India.
Day 10 – 11: 29th – 30th of April (Varanasi)
Early in the mornings will take a boat ride to the Varanasi Ghats where we will witness culture, set of beliefs, customs and practices that give the people a sense of collective identity. Varanasi epitomises India’s Hindu faith and culture. Central to culture are places where people tend to congregate; in Varanasi it is the river ghats.
For thousands of years, devout Hindus have flocked the ghats every morning to bathe in the holy river and absolve themselves of their sins. For thousands of years priests have ceremoniously lit lamps every evening and performed elaborate rituals in worship of the holy river. For thousands of years life in Varanasi has revolved around the river and the stone steps (ghats) that lead to it.
We’ll witness and photograph the thousands of devotees, elaborate religious ceremonies and daily life at the ghats in the warm morning light.
In the afternoons we will visit markets and temples. The narrow lanes alongside the ghats bustle with activity of all sorts. Here you’ll find the ubiquitous ctea vendor dishing out his milky fare in earthenware cups. Walk ahead and you’ll find customers bargaining with the follower sellers over the price of garlands for the temple deity. Small shops sell colourful sarees. There is an unhurried pace to life here that will give you ample opportunities to photograph a true exotic marketplace in the heart of India.
Day 12: 1st of May (Varanasi – Delhi)
After breakfast we’ll take a trip to Sarnath. Sarnath is a world famous Buddhist site about 10kms from Varanasi. Bhuddists worldwide look upono India as the land of the Buddha and a visit to this country means a pilgrimage to those places sacred to the memory of the Enlightened One.
Later in the afternoon we’ll transfer to the airport to board our flight back to Delhi, where we will check into our hotel for our last night in India.
Day 13: 2nd of May (Dehli – Home?)
Our tour parts company to home or wherever your travels are taking you next.
- All Accommodation (12 Nights in quality hotels)
- Organised transport for all locations during the tour, ground transport in air conditioned vehicles.
- All internal flights in India
- 2 local guides
- All photographic tuition and workshops
- All airport transfers
- Flights to and from India and Visa’s
- Gratuities / Tips
- Any transport or trips not in the itinerary.
- Travel Insurance (This must be obtained before acceptance to the tour)
- Camera Equipment (you will need to supply your own camera, lenses, tripod, etc…)
- Personal expenses such as laundry, telephone, Wi-Fi (when not included at hotels), entry fees to sites not listed in the tour itinerary.
Tour cost is approximate and will be finalised prior to taking bookings
Approx: $6700 AUD based on double occupancy
Single Supplement: Approx: $1000 (If you require your own room)
RESERVE YOUR PLACE
As this tour is being planned on short notice we are gathering expressions of interest prior to finalising our commitments for accommodation and flights. A not to be missed event, these festivals are only held once every 3 years in India, and this particular Kumbh is held only once every 12 years and is one of the largest in the country.
Please register interest as soon as possible if you genuinely would like to attend this event in April 2016.
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