Reliable Vacation has been the proud ground handling agent for the very successful and enriching First American Veda Tours program to India!! We learned so much, shared so much that everyone came out adding a lot to the wonderful journey called life!
India is the world capital of surprises, so with the exception of planes, trains and lodging, nothing is etched in stone. That goes double for us because we are arranging special experiences that tourists seldom have, and they involve swamis, gurus and other busy and unpredictable people. Also, when possible and appropriate, we will have morning and evening satsangs (spiritual gatherings) with meditation, yoga, chanting, discussion and other activities led by Brahms and sometimes Phil. To save space we do not list them in the schedule below. Similarly, we do not list every meal. Suffice it to say, on almost every day breakfast and dinner will be at the hotel as one of your amenities.
5 Mar’17 / Saturday
Convene in Hotel Cabana for a meet and greet and orientation from your tour leaders, followed by Ganesha puja. Dinner in the hotel followed by satsang and tying up loose ends of orientation.
6 Mar’17 / Sunday
Morning Satsang with Brahms and Phil
Later departure for Gandhi Smriti: museum dedicated to the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi.
Ramakrishna Mission: Delhi branch of the lineage started by Swami Vivekananda and named for his legendary guru, Sri Ramakrishna.
Lunch on own. Afternoon visit Ananda Ashram, in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda & Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Dinner at Hotel
7 Mar’17 / Monday
Morning, departure for Agra (3-4 hours drive). Hotel check in and lunch.
Afternoon visit Agra Fort, where Shah Jahan, the ruler who built the Taj Mahal, was exiled.
Later, arrive at the Taj Mahal. A local guide will tell us about the history and architecture. Time to be alone and view the sunset on the Taj.
After dinner we’ll celebrate the Maha Shivaratri, a significant Hindu celebration of Lord Shiva.
8 Mar’17 / Tuesday
Early morning, walking meditation in biodiversity park with Brahms, followed by breakfast.
Later, depart for Vrindavan. Hotel check in and lunch at noon. Vrindavan and nearby Mathura are prime pilgrimage sites, with holy places associated with Lord Krishna.
Thanks to our friendship with Radhanath Swami, a devotee named Prem Gauranga Dasa will guide us during our stay. He will take us to Krishna sites and introduce us to the Gaudiya tradition, which gave us Srila Prabhupada, the founder of what we call the Hare Krishna movement.
After lunch, drive to Mathura, where we’ll visit Krishna-related sites, especially Jnamabhumi Temple on the site where Krishna was born. Traditional evening aarti ceremony on the Yamuna River.
9 Mar’17 / Wednesday
Following breakfast we will spend the day visiting various sacred sites and temples associated with Lord Krishna, including Radha Raman Temple and Nidhivan, Radha Govinda Deva Temple, Vamsi Vat and Radha Damodar Temple.
Darshan and kirtan at the Sri Sri Krishna Balaram Temple. Walk through flower garden.
10 Mar’17 / Thursday
Departure for early morning visit to ISKON (Krishna devotees) Bangalore’s Akshya Patra Foundation, Vrindavan kitchen, which has the capacity to give mid day meal to 100,000 to school children.
Bus to Govardhan (45 minutes). This is a legendary hill that figures into a principle story from Krishna’s life, which Prem will tell us. Sacred ponds, Govinda Kund and Chandra Sarovar.
After lunch: Radha Kund.
Free time for rest, wandering or shopping at Loi Bazaar.
11 Mar’17 / Friday
Vrindavan – Delhi - Rishikesh
Departure after breakfast for Delhi airport (about 3 hours). Flight to Dehradhun. Bus to Rishikesh (about one hour).
Hopefully arrive in time for aarti on the Ganges at Parmarth Niketan. Satsang and orientation to Rishikesh. .
12 Mar’17 / through 14 Mar’17 Monday
In the Himalayan foothills, right on the sacred Ganges, it is perhaps the most popular destination in India for yogis and spiritual seekers. We have not tied down our schedule for Rishikesh because of the uncertain schedules of some of our contacts. We will have many satsangs, some led by Brahms and others by local gurus and teachers, and there will be classes at Parmarth Niketan, where we are staying, and other ashrams.
The schedule will certainly include:
The "Beatles' ashram" where the lads famously meditated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Neem Karoli Baba Hanuman temple.
Meeting with local teacher Anand Mehrotra.
Meeting with Pujya Swami Chidananda Saraswati and Sadhvi Bhagavati Saraswati, depending on their schedules.
Optional dip in the Ganges.
Evening aarti at the ashram and in town.
Free time for solitude, exploration, walks along Ganges, shopping, etc,
On the 12th, we visit the Sivananda ashram (Divine Life Society), where Swami Vimalananda has consented to meet with us and tell us about his important lineage.
On the 13th, those who wish to can attend satsang with the highly popular non-dual teacher, Mooji, who happens to be in Rishikesh at the time.
On the 14th we drive upriver to meditate in the cave of the legendary yogi Vasishta.
15 Mar’17/ Tuesday
Rishikesh - Ranikhet
Long bus ride from Rishikesh to Ranikhet. Practices, discussions, singing and rest stops along the way.
Time to enjoy the mountain air and views at the hotel. Evening satsang after dinner.
16 Mar’17/ Wednesday
After breakfast, early bus ride to Dwarahat.
Visit to the Yogoda Sat Sanga ashram. This is the Indian equivalent of Self-Realization Fellowship, the custodians of Yogananda’s lineage.
We have arranged for them to show us the ashram and provide an orientation and a guided hike to the cave of the deathless yogi, Mahavatar Babaji. (Provisions will be made for those who choose not to make the full hike, which is about 45 minutes uphill.)
After meditating in the cave, we will rest in a peaceful area and eat box lunches provided by the ashram. Return to hotel for free time and after-dinner satsang.
17 Mar’17/ Thursday
Ranikhet/Haldwani/ Night Train
After breakfast, satsang with Brahms and restful morning.
Visit Kainchi Dham (Neem Karoli Baba’s ashram, where Ram Dass, Krishna Das and others sat with their guru in the late 60s/early 70s).
Also visit the Qutub Shahi tombs, domed mausolea in black
Dinner in Haldwani. 8:40 p.m. Overnight train to Delhi. This will be an adventure. We have asked Kuldeep and Rao to do everything possible to make sure we’re fed and comfortable.
18 Mar’17/ Friday
Travel / Varanasi
Arrive in Delhi. A bus will meet us, with boxed breakfasts provided by a good hotel. Ride to airport.
Flight to Varanasi.
Noon: arrive Varanasi, drive to hotel. Lunch, rest and free time. Boat up the Ganges to evening aarti at the main ghat. Evening Free. Dinner at hotel.
19 Mar’17/ Saturday
Breakfast at hotel.
Bipin Mehrotra, a Yogananda devotee, will lead us on a walking tour of Yogananda-related sites in the old city, e.g., the home of, and shrines to, Lahiri Mahasaya (Yogananda’s guru’s guru), Anandamayi Ma ashram/girls school.
After lunch, drive to Sarnath (about 40 minutes). Here, at the Deer Park, is where Buddha delivered his first discourse. It is sacred to Buddhists, with monasteries, stupas and a museum. We arranged for a highly recommended local guide.
20 Mar’17/ Sunday
Sunrise boat ride on the Ganges to see the ancient city in the dawn light and witness morning ablutions and age old spiritual rituals
. Satsang, breakfast and free time. Depart for Vedanidhi (the Vedic Heritage Research Foundation) and meet with Swami Sharadananda. (This visit was arranged for us by Swami Vidyadhishananda of the Self Enquiry Fellowship in Santa Barbara.)
After lunch, if possible, go to Vishwanath temple and/or free time at the ancient bazaar for local color and shopping.
Visit Swami Probuddhananda at his ashram, the International Vedanta Society. Classical music/dance concert arranged for us by Swami Probuddhananda. Late dinner at hotel.
21 Mar’17/ Monday
Morning meditation followed before breakfast.
Satsung/yoga with Brahms after breakfast.
We’ll spend the morning visiting a variety of sites, such as Dura Mandir ("Monkey Temple"), Benares Hindu University (see campus and Shiva temple), Tulsi Manas Temple.
Lunch and free time before leaving for the airport at 4:00 p.m. Arrive in Kolkata at 8:50 p.m. Hotel check in and late dinner.
22 Jan’17 / Tuesday
After breakfast, morning satsang.
We’ve obtained permission to visit 4 Garpar Rd., where Yogananda spent most of his youth (his grand nephew’s family lives there now).
Local devotee Debashis Maity will take us to other sites related to Yogananda’s early years, such as the ashram of the “Levitating Saint” mentioned in the Autobiography of a Yogi, and the current Yogoda Sat Sanga ashram on the site where the teenage Yogananda started his first ashram.
After lunch, visit Swami Vivekananda museum, on the site of his birthplace and visit the Sri Aurobindo Bhavan. .
Visit the Rabindranath Tagore house. Evening discussion with Phil and Brahms.
23 Jan’17 / Wednesday
After breakfast, bus to Dakshineswar (about 20 minutes).
Visit Kali Temple where Sri Ramakrishna lived and drew many seekers to his darshan, including Vivekananda.
Visit the Yogananda ashram and meet with swamis. After lunch, drive upriver to Serampore (45 minutes).
Visit the ashram where Yogananda was groomed by his guru, Sri Yukteswar, and see the campus where he spent his last two years of college. Evening satsang after dinner.
24 Jan’17 / Thursday
This is the day of Holi, the festival of colors.
We leave early and ride to Belur Math, the international headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission (Vedanta Society here in the US). We have arranged for Swami Atmarupananda to show us around the sprawling campus, temple and schools.
If he is available, the head of the organization, Swami Suhitananda, will meet with us. Lunch at Belur Math. Enjoy Holi festivities in a safe way. Celebration of our time together with a farewell dinner, closing ceremony and sharing.
25 Jan’17 / Friday
Our final time together, to be decided, based on individual flights and needs.