Desert Architecture of Rajasthan
A small group tour led by Dr. Rima Hooja
Friday 02 March to Saturday 17 March, 2018
Dr. Rima Hooja
Tour scholar Dr. Rima Hooja lives and works in Jaipur, Rajasthan. She studied for her PhD at the University of Cambridge, writing her thesis on early agricultural and Mesolithic sites in southeastern Rajasthan. The author of more than a dozen books and recipient of the Publishers Recognition Award (2008), Dr. Hooja has also published nearly 100 academic papers and newspaper articles.
For two years, Dr. Hooja was Faculty Director at New York State Independent College Consortium for Study in India (NYSICCSI). She was also Director of Minnesota Studies in International Development (MSID), India; an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Kota Open University; Senior Fellow at the Institute of Rajasthan Studies in Jaipur; a Visiting Fellow at the Royal Asiatic Society; and a consultant at the Getty Foundation. She has excavated a number of archaeological sites in India and the UK.
London • Mumbai • Udaipur • Ranakpur & Kumbhalgarh • Chittorgarh • Jodhpur • Gajner • Bikaner • Nagaur • Chittorgarh • Mandawa • Jaipur • London
(Meals: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner)
Depart from London Heathrow by direct British Airways or Jet airways overnight flight for Mumbai.*
*Flights from regional UK airports are available on request.
Arrive in Mumbai, India, in the morning and having cleared customs and immigration, connect on a domestic flight to Udaipur in Rajasthan. You will be met on arrival by Dr. Hooja and your driver, and transfer by air-conditioned coach to check in to your hotel, the Fateh Garh Palace. Built with recycled stone and wood, this dramatic heritage resort is on the edge of Udaipur and has 360-degree views of the city and Aravalli Hills. (D)
After breakfast at the hotel, Dr. Hooja will lead a full day sightseeing programme of Udaipur, known as ‘the City of Lakes’. This terribly romantic city is built on the shores of Lake Picchola, with some structures on other inter-connected lakes. Almost every building of the old city looks out onto the water and the Lake Palace, made famous in the James Bond film Octopussy.
A significant highlight of the sightseeing programme is the City Palace complex, a sprawling series of structures built over a period of 400 years from 1533. The home of the Mewar ruling dynasty, and exhibiting a fusion of local Rajasthani and Mughal styles, you will learn about the different architectural features, the functions of different religious and secular buildings, and the lives of the royal family, courtiers, and servants who lived here.
During the day you will also have time to visit the centrally located Jagdish Temple, built in 1651; walk along the bustling narrow lanes and busy ghats along the lake side; and to shop for handicrafts and other souvenirs in Udaipur’s lively market. (B,D)
Leaving Udaipur this morning, you will drive through Rajasthan’s ever-changing countryside, spotting old and new buildings, and small shrines and villages, jostling for space along the way. You will stop for lunch at Ranakpur, famed for its 15th century Jain temple, and Dr. Hooja will explain the core tenets of Jain cosmology, as well as key differences between Jain and Hindu religious sites, as she guides you around the temple complex.
Lunch will be served in Ranakpur in a local Restaurant.
You will continue on to Kumbhalgarh, arriving in the early afternoon. This will allow ample time to explore the 15th century fortress — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — during daylight hours. You will have dinner at your hotel, Hotel Aodhi, and then return to the fortress after dark for a dramatic son et lumiere show. ((B,L,D)
Today you will take a day trip to Chittorgarh, one of the largest fortresses in India. Like Kumbhalgarh, Chittorgarh (garh meaning fortress) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there has been a fortified structure here since at least the 7th century. The sprawling site covers 280 ha, and it includes palaces, temples, towers, gateways, and walls. Nearly all of these are well preserved. (B,D)
After breakfast, drive from Chittorgarh to Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s Blue City. Jodhpur’s skyline is dominated by the Mehrangarh, the palace fortress of the Marwar rulers of the Rathore warrior clan, and you will see it looming long before you arrive. It has featured in numerous films, including blockbusters The Dark Knight Rises and Darjeeling Limited.
In Jodhpur you will stay at the Ajit Bhawan Palace, one of India’s first heritage hotels. This exceptional hotel feels more like a museum, and it offers guests unmatched insight into the lives of India’s aristocrats and maharajas in the last years before India’s independence in 1947. (B,D)
Today Dr. Hooja will lead you on a full day of sightseeing in Jodhpur and its environs. In addition to the core city sites — notably Mehrangarh, Ummaid Bhawan Palace, and Jaswant Thada Mausoleum — you will also drive a short distance out into the desert to the Arna Jharna Folk Museum. Dr. Hooja will explain the most important characteristic of the village’s desert architecture, and you will also be treated to an atmospheric open-air concert by folk musicians from Rajasthan’s famous Langa and Manganiyar communities. Traditional Rajasthani dinner will be served here.
You will return to the Ajit Bhawan Palace after dinner for the night. (B,D)
After breakfast you will depart from Jodphur and drive to Gajner, on the outskirts of the desert-city of Bikaner. You will stay in the lakeside palace, which has been sensitively converted into a heritage hotel, replete with numerous original features. This desert jewel was built by HH Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh of Bikaner as a hunting lodge, and its grounds extend for some 6,000 acres. In the afternoon we recommend you take time to walk around, admire the landscapes and bird life, and take tea outside on the lawn. (B,D)
Bikaner is an extraordinary city surrounded by the Thar Desert. It was once an important stage on the old trade and travel routes traversing India. The former capital of the Bikaner Princely state, it has developed into the fourth largest city in Rajasthan.
After breakfast you will leave Gajner Palace on your sightseeing tour. Highlights of your programme will include the grandiose Junagarh Fort; the impressive Laxmi Niwas Palace, a magnificent structure dating from 1902 and built from red sandstone; and the Karni Mata Temple, also known as the Temple of Rats. 25,000 black rats live here and they are revered by devotees as reincarnations of the people from the bardic Charan community to which Bikaner’s ruling deity – the goddess Karni Mata, belonged. If you are lucky, you will see one of the shrine’s few white rats. The temple’s current buildings date from the early 20th century but are in the Mughal style, with an elaborate marble facade, decorative panels, and silver gates.
You will return to Gajner in the late afternoon. (B,D)
Leaving Gajner after breakfast, you will drive through the Thar Desert to Nagaur, mid way between Bikaner and Jodhpur. Nagaur is a place of great historical significance, thanks to its strategic location, and it was fought over by a succession of Rajput and Muslim rulers. It is also a site of religious importance: the shrine of the early Sufi saint Sultan Tarkin is here, and Nagaur was also visited by Hazrat Hamiduddin, a disciple of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, of the Chishti Sufi order.
Tonight or tomorrow night, you will be privy to a special private puppet show, not one created for tourists but an authentic, traditional performance which links the Fort of Nagaur with the ballad of Prince Amar Singh Rathore, a royal prince and one-time heir-apparent of Jodhpur. (B,D)
Nagaur has a wealth of monuments and other cultural sites to explore during your full day sightseeing programme. Dr. Hooja will guide you around Nagaur Fort, a fine example of Rajput-Mughal architecture, the earliest parts of which date from the 12th century. You will also see the 10th century Jain temples of Ladnun, which is a centre for religious learning, near Nagaur. (B,D)
From Nagaur your journey continues on to Mandawa in Shekhawati, a semi-arid region of Rajasthan famed for the stunningly decorated painted town havelis (mansions) built by wealthy Marwari merchants between the 18th and 19th centuries. Overnight stay is at Castle Mandawa.
Your tour will begin at Mandawa Fort, which is also your hotel. Built in 1755 on the traditional mini-fort cum chieftain’s palace pattern, the fort’s gateway is adorned with paintings of Lord Krishna and his cows, and the interiors are decorated with exquisite murals, wood and stone carvings, and mirror work.
After seeing the fort, Dr. Hooja will then lead you on a walking tour of the town, which is in essence an open air museum. You will see a series of beautiful historic havelis, many of which are painted with frescoes of the gods, maharajas, or with erotic scenes. The Sewaram Saraf Haveli in particular has been the set for a number of Bollywood films. (B,D)
Jaipur — Rajasthan’s Pink City — is one corner of India’s Golden Triangle, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Quite rightly so. Your drive here from Mandawa will be a leisurely one, as you will break the journey to visit the painted Morarka Haveli in Nawalgarh and to have lunch at Nawalgarh. There will be an afternoon stop at an organic farm, where Dr. Hooja will talk about 21st century rural architecture, and you will then reach Jaipur in the late afternoon.
In Jaipur you will stay at Samode Haveli, an urban oasis within the historic walled city. This award winning property was built more than 175 years ago and retains many of its original features, including intricately painted interiors, stained glass, and royal apartments. (B,L,D)
Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, a bustling modern city built around an equally busy Old Town. Jaipur was one of India’s first planned cities, laid out by town planning enthusiast Jai Singh II, Raja of Amer, in the early 18th century. He built the city in clearly defined blocks, two of which were for palaces and state buildings, and the other seven for use by ordinary people. The controversy whether the city was originally ‘pink’ (its more a rusty rose, or sienna colour actually), or whether the colour scheme was introduced in 1876 when Jaipur was decorated in readiness for the visit of the Prince of Wales, continues to generate debate.
Dr. Hooja’s guided tour will include two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Amer Fort, and the Jantar Mantar Observatory. You will also visit the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) and the City Palace. (B,D)
You will have Day 15 at leisure to further explore the city, or to relax. The choice is yours. If you do decide to venture out, we highly recommend shopping in the Old Town, visiting the Birla Mandir with its sculptures of important figures from all world faiths, and taking in a polo match at the famous Jaipur Polo Club. (B,D)
After breakfast on your final morning you will transfer to Jaipur Airport to fly home to London via Mumbai by direct British Airways or Jet airways flights. (or to a regional UK airport)
- How to Book this Tour
- Travel Insurance
*The US Dollar price is based on the exchange rate in April 2017. Contact us for the most up-to-date price for this tour.
International air fare inclusive all taxes on direct British Airways or Jet Airways.
Internal flights inclusive all taxes in economy class.
- Accommodation with private facilities as mentioned in the itinerary.
- Meal Plan: Daily breakfast and dinner. Lunch in Ranakpur and Nawalgrah Fort.
A transfers and sightseeing arrangements by an air-conditioned chauffer driven private coach.
Entrance fee to all monuments and places of interest.
Services of a local English speaking guide.
- Services of trip scholar Dr Rima Hooja.
Complimentary mineral water while driving and on sightseeing.
Full ATOL & ABTA bonding.
Cost does not include:
- Visa fee for India. We will send a step by step guide how to apply for an E-tourist visa for India.
Travel Insurance. You can obtain a comprehensive travel insurance from Travel & General click here
Any expense of a personal nature
- Tips and Gratuities
- To book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £500.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Credit card payment will be charge at 2% extra. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.
- If you wish to join the tour and fly from any country other than United Kingdom please contact us for land only arrangements.
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
- It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
- It covers you for all activities.
- Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
- If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.
If you have any question about your cover, please check with your insurer.
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