Classic Kashi

Varanasi–Bodhgaya–Gaya Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)

Kashi, the former name for Varanasi, is the place to attain almost everything for a Hindu—education, spiritual merit, or even liberation from the cycle of life and death. The reverential tone in which its name is uttered gives it an almost mythical quality. Perhaps it was its far-flung location for Nepali pilgrims and students in the old days, or its location on the banks of Ganga (Ganges), or the fact that its everyday life is infused with piety and ancient Hindu customs that made it the most special destination for Hindus and visiting it a high point in their spiritual lives.    
 
Varanasi’s charm is that it has salvaged its character—so much so that the past tense is almost non-existent in Varanasi. What exists not only glorifies but perpetuates the past: temples have stood here for centuries; the same rituals that were performed on the ghats centuries ago are performed now. But Varanasi appears timeless not because it resists change but because it renews on a daily basis its connection with its roots. It is for a glimpse of such moments that people continue to come to this city that shines with the hallow light of an ancient culture.

     

    Day 01 Fly to Varanasi from Kathmandu

    Assistance at the airport upon arrival and transfer to hotel. In the evening visit the ghats (platforms) beside Ganga to witness the famous aarati ceremony.  
     
    Ghats and Evening Aarati
     
    The ghats of Varanasi are the venue of all the various spectacles associated with Hinduism. At any time, it is peopled with astrologers, mantra-chanting priests and their clients, barbers shaving heads, people stripping down for a dip in the holy waters of the Ganges and, if you’re near the cremation ghats, funeral pyres devouring the deceased. A dip in the Ganges waters is not only an act of washing away one’s sins; it is to immerse in the belief system handed down by one’s ancestors, to do what a grandfather or grandmother might have done in the past.
     
    Evenings on Varanasi’s ghats can cast a spell on you. The elaborate and meticulously performed aarati ceremony and the accompaniment of bhajans (devotional songs) and rhythmic clapping of the devotees charges the evening with an energy that takes hold of your senses.
     
    Overnight at hotel

    Day 02 Boat ride and sunrise viewing from the Ganges. Full-day sightseeing in and around Varanasi.

    Breakfast at hotel. Early morning boat ride on the Ganges to view sunrise and morning rituals on the ghats. Full-day sightseeing of Vishwanath, Tulsi Manas and Durga temples, and Benares Hindu University.  
     
    Boat Ride
     
    To start a day in Varanasi beside the Ganges is to follow the routine people of Varanasi have observed for time immemorial. The common sight of the rising sun bathing the waters in gold and red here becomes special because of the river’s status in the Hindu world. A boat ride on the Ganges is a great way to get a feel of the river Hindus call Ganga Ma, “Mother Ganga.”
     
    Vishwanath Temple
     
    The Vishwanath Temple is the best example of Varanasi’s spiritual heritage as well as its ability to continue under challenges. Dedicated to Shiva’s Vishveswara (Lord of the Universe) manifestation, the temple was built in 1776 by Ahalya Bai of Indore. Its towers were plated using 800 kilograms of gold—a contribution of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore. The chance to perform puja at this most sacred of spots is reason enough for pilgrims to come to Varanasi.
     
    Gyan Kupor Well (Well of Knowledge)
     
    Located near the Vishwanath Temple, the water from this sacred well is said to give anyone who drinks it an intense spiritual experience. This supernatural property of the water cannot be verified, however, because the well is now covered. It is also believed to act as a vault, containing the original Shiva lingam housed in a temple that was destroyed by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.   
     
    Durga Temple
     
    This Nagara-style temple with multiple sikhara tiers was built in the 18th century by a Bengali maharani. The ochre-colored building houses an image of Durga in its inner sanctum.   
     
    Tulsi Manas Temple
     
    The site of this temple marks the place where the poet Tulsi Das lived and wrote the Ram Charit Manas, the Hindi version of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Engravings of verses and scenes from Das’s book cover the temple’s walls. Daily performances of Hindu mythological tales are held on the second floor of the temple.
     
    Benares Hindu University
     
    Founded in 1917 by Pandit Malaviya, the Benares Hindu University is a beacon of Varanasi’s old fame as one of the Sub-continent’s greatest centers of scholarship. The university offers degrees in traditional Indian art, music, culture and philosophy, and is of special importance for scholars of Sanskrit. Its major attraction for visitors is the Bharat Kala Bhavan, which exhibits miniature paintings, sculptures dating back to the 1st century and old photographs of Varanasi. 
      
    Overnight at hotel

    Day 03 Visit Sarnath and Ramnagar Fort

    Breakfast at hotel. Early morning drive to Sarnath. Guided tour of the main attractions of Sarnath. Visit to Ramnagar Fort.
     
    Sarnath
     
    Sarnath, located only 10 kilometers from the throbbing Varanasi, seems ever ready to host another great philosopher’s speech. Its large gardens filled with bird and scurrying squirrel press upon the visitors the gift of tranquility. Here, silence needs no prompting. The historical and spiritual significance of the fact that the Buddha delivered his first sermon somewhere in this expanse of gardens makes you more attentive to the surroundings. The senses are equally engaged by the hulking remain of the 34-meter-high Dhamekh Stupa. Although the present edifice dates back to 500 AD, excavations of the site have yielded bricks dating back to 200 BC. The ruins of a large monastery and the partial Ashokan pillar all hark back to the heyday of Buddhism in the area.
     
    Ramnagar Fort
     
    Standing majestically across the Ganges from Varanasi, the Ramnagar Fort is an alluring monument. It is the residence of the former Maharaja of Benares, and although it no longer has the bustling atmosphere of a palace, it impresses with its trappings of regal life ranging from vintage Fords and Cadillacs to gold-plated elephant howdahs to silver palanquins. The most interesting object on display in this museum is an astrological clock that besides showing time also shows the position of the sun, phases of the moon, and gives astrological information. You can feel like a monarch for a moment standing on the stone platforms on the palace’s western end, with the Ganges flowing below and the ancient Varanasi across it.
     
    Overnight at hotel

    Day 04 Fly from Varanasi to Kathmandu

    Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to airport for departure. 
     
    Option: You can extend your tour by a day, which will be spent visiting religious sites in Bodhgaya and Gaya.
     
    Breakfast at hotel. Drive to Bodhgaya (duration: 5 hours). Half-day sight-seeing of Bodhgaya and Gaya. 
     
    Bodhgaya
     
    Bodhgaya: where a young man who had renounced life as a prince undertook severe austerities, meditated for weeks, attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. Whether one thinks of the Buddha as a philosopher or as a god, Bodhgaya marks the site of a most wonderful transformation. Surviving as an indirect link to this event in the Buddha’s life is the bo tree growing in the premises of the Mahabodhi Temple. The tree is believed to be the offspring of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. The spread of the Buddha’s teachings around the world is reflected in the Tibetan, Burmese, Japanese, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Bhutanese and Nepali monasteries standing nearby.
     
    Gaya
     
    According to Hindu mythology, Vishnu bestowed on Gaya the power to absolve sins. Hence for Hindus, a visit to Gaya is an opportunity for spiritual cleansing. Gaya is also one of the holiest places for a Hindu to offer pinda (cakes offered to the spirits of one’s ancestors). Performing this ritual at Gaya combined with a circuit of Gaya’s holy sites is believed to liberate one’s ancestors from the cycle of birth and death.  
     
    Vishnupad Temple
     
    For a Hindu pilgrim the most attractive place in Gaya is the Vishnupad Temple. As the name suggests, it is dedicated to Vishnu, the suffix ‘pad’ meaning ‘feet.’ This sikhara-style temple was built in 1787 by Queen Ahalya Bai of Indore. The temple houses a 40 cm footprint on a rock, which Hindus believe was made by Vishnu’s foot.

    Overnight at hotel

    Day 05 Drive to Varanasi, and departure by air

    Breakfast at hotel. Early morning drive to Varanasi. At Varanasi, transfer to airport for departure.

    Download PDF Varanasi–Bodhgaya–Gaya Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)

    The best time to visit?

    From late October to March.
     

    Attire

    Mornings and evenings start getting chilly November onwards and get really cold from December right up to February. Warm clothes needed for visits in the November to February period. Avoid dresses that reveal too much of your body.
     

    What to do when inside temples and monasteries?

    Most places that forbid entry to foreigners carry signboards stating this, so look for them. Although religious buildings are sites of historical and artistic appeal, they are above all places of worship. Do not act in any way – excessive photography, talking loudly, wearing shoes into prayer rooms – that impinges on the activities of the priests or devotees.
     

    Necessary Items

    Sunscreen, insect repellent, hats and sunglasses. Pack medicines for stomach illnesses.

    Download PDF Varanasi–Bodhgaya–Gaya Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)

    Package Includes

    • Transport, pick-up, and drop
    • Sight-seeing and activities in Varanasi, Sarnath, Bodhgaya and Gaya
    • Hotel accommodation (with B&B)
    • Entrance fee for: sites in Varanasi, Sarnath, Bodhgaya and Gaya

    Package Excludes

    • Lunch and dinner
    • Airport tax for international flight during departure
    • Visa fee at the International Airport
    • Laundry
    • Personal expenses
    Download PDF Varanasi–Bodhgaya–Gaya Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)

    Adult (12yrs+) Child (02-11yrs) Infant (below 2yrs)**

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    ** Infant tickets will be issued at the check-in counter before your flight at 10% of adult fare rate

    Download PDF Varanasi–Bodhgaya–Gaya Pilgrimage Tour Package (4 days, 3 nights)