A rare journey in 2019 will guide guests over 10 days through the centuries-old worlds and traditions that help define today’s spiritual universe of India.
Wildland Adventures has organized this Feb. 9-18, 2019, trip, Diving into Immortality, to culminate at the Kumbh Mela (The Festival of the Urn), a 45-day spiritual gathering in Allahabad, which the Hindus consider to be India’s religious capital.
A massive pilgrimage of faith and the most euphoric religious event in India, the Kumbh Mela observes the largest congregation of men, women and children on the planet. It is especially renowned for the presence of an extraordinary array of sages, yogis, mendicants and religious ascetics (sadhus and mahants) enticed from remote hideaways in forests, mountains and caves. During the festival, more than 10 million zealous devotees gather together to wash away their sins for the purification of body, mind and soul. The city vibrates in hectic religious fervor amidst the intermittent chanting of mantras, the heart-rending dance of the Aghori (people smeared with cremation ashes) and the holy ghats (steps to the river) lit up with fiery diyas (oil lamps). The Hindu people hold this festival in the highest regard because the Kumbh Mela, representing a cycled phased over 12 years is considered to be the most auspicious time to take a dip in the sacred river and attain a step forward toward salvation.
“Over the two days we spend in Allahabad, we will step out of the comfort of our luxury tents in the heart of the Kumbh Mela to the center of the largest gathering of sadhus and pilgrims on earth. Streets are awash in ash-covered bodies hung with garlands of bright orange marigolds. The smells, sights and sounds overwhelm the senses. With our camp host and personal guru, we will walk into a zone unknown to western culture and religion. I predict we will return home reborn with new perspectives that will manifest in positive changes in our lives. This is how travel can be transformational,” underscored Kurt Kutay, Wildland Adventures’ founding CEO/President.
Shepherding Wildland guests from their “glamping” tents will be host Lakshmi Singh, a spiritual disciple of two great Advait philosophy masters and a princess from the royal family of Tikari in Bihar. She spent years operating luxury camps throughout India. In 1989 she discovered the Kumbh Mela when one dip in the holy Ganges changed her life. She has traveled multiple times to Allahabad to be part of the special gathering with her guru. Lakshmi and expert guides navigate guests through the sea of people and labyrinth of piety, providing unrivaled access and photographic opportunities.
In the week leading up to this immersion, Wildland Adventures’ guests dive into India’s soul in some of its holiest cities. The itinerary begins in with the imperial vibe of New Delhi and the frenetic bustle of Old Delhi, moving on to Amritsar, the center of the Sikh religion, and then to the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi and Allahabad, both so sacred for the Hindu religion.
Guests lodge in New Delhi at Claridges, which gives a nod to this city’s British colonial past. They enjoy modern regional Indian dishes in the gardens of the National Handicrafts Museum and they witness the world of street children as seen through the eyes of the children themselves, now trained as local guides. Here in India’s capital city are vestiges of the one-time Mughal Empire that was ruled by a Muslim dynasty.
The Sikh religion, the world’s fifth largest religion, is introduced at the gold-plated holy shrine in Amritsar, the site of Sikhism, a religion founded in the 15th century in part as a rejection of the Hindu caste system. Since 1481 the Golden Temple has been serving free hot meals (Langar) to people of all faiths who come to its doors. Volunteers, along with 300 sewadars (permanent helpers), daily prepare over 50,000 nourishing vegetarian meals. Wildland travelers join devotees to witness the Langar and participate in an evening Palki Sahib ceremony that prepares a palki or palanquin (a large box carried on horizontal poles) for the transport of the Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Book) from the main shrine to the inner sanctum, laying the book to rest for the evening. The Sikhs also represent an ethnic group known as Punjabis. Out in the country guests visit a working farm and sit down to tandoori, a typical Punjabi lunch, returning in the evening to Swarna Amritsar, a five-star Taj hotel.
In Varanasi guests participate in the glittering Aarti ceremony on the Ganges when to honor the deities candle wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) are set afloat. And guests walk through the great cremation ground of Shiva, the deity that destroys evil. The host hotel here, Suryauday Haveli, is located beside the river with convenient access to a particular flight of steps to the river, the Ganga Ghats. Guests have multiple opportunities in this, one of the oldest living cities in the world, to witness the rituals of life and the afterlife that are focused on Mother Ganga.
The per person double rate exclusive of international and domestic air is from $6,395. A single supplement is $2,375. For details please see: http://www.wildland.com/trips/asia/india/diving-into-immortality/overview.aspx.