For many British children, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book was their first introduction to the jungles and wildlife of India. The 1967 Walt Disney film brought the story of the orphaned boy, Mowgli, Baloo the bear, Shere Khan the tiger, and host of other fantastic characters to the attention of a wider audience still. With the naming of these creatures, he subtly introduced into the English vocabulary the Hindi words for these animals — baloo being a bear; sher a tiger, and so on — and many generations of children have now gone to sleep dreaming of their own adventures in India’s jungles and plains.
(Meals: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner)
Depart from London Heathrow for Mumbai, flying with a choice of British Airways or Jet Airways.
A very warm welcome awaits you in Mumbai! You will be met on arrival by a representative of Indus Experiences, and escorted in an air-conditioned vehicle to check-in for two nights at the Taj Mahal Palace, the iconic setting for the BBC’s Hotel India documentary. The hotel first opened its doors in 1903, its construction costing £250,000 (around £130 million today). It has played host to a raft of kings, presidents, and celebrities, and its location alongside the Gateway of India is unmatched.
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) on 30 December 1865 when his father, John Lockwood Kipling, was Principal and Professor of Architectural Sculpture at the city’s Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art. Kipling lived in Bombay until the age of five when he was sent away to school and he returned here in 1882 en-route to his first job in Lahore.
Our afternoon Mumbai city tour will start with a visit to Kipling’s birthplace, where a plaque commemorates his birth. The school has some striking oriental architecture and remains a centre of creative expression and learning. Famous alumni from the school (usually referred to as the Sir JJ School of Art) include the right-wing Indian politician Raj Thackeray; and the painter Maqbool Fida Husain, a founding member of The Progressive Artists Group of Bombay (PAG). Often referred to as the "Picasso of India", M.F. Husain is the most famous Indian artist of the 20th century, and his ‘Sprinkling Horses’ sold for $1.14 million at Christie’s in New York in 2011. D
The focus of today’s sightseeing programme are the great colonial contributions to Mumbai’s skyline.
Even before the official start of the British Raj in 1857, the British took a significant interest in the port. It been gifted to Charles II by the Portuguese when he wed Catherine of Braganza in 1662, and the crown then leased the area to the East India Company for a sum of £10 per year. The East India Company was headquartered here from 1687, and Mumbai developed as a substantial trading hub. Today it is the most populous city in India, and also the wealthiest.
Architectural highlights of the city which you will see include the UNESCO World Heritage Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as the Victoria Terminus, which was built in 1887 in an eclectic architectural fusion of the Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival and Mughal (Indo-Saracenic) styles. Some 3 million commuters pass through the central concourse each day, making it one of the busiest railway stations in the country. No less impressive are the Rajabai Clocktower, modelled on Big Ben with with a distinctly Venetian influence, and no replica Houses of Parliament alongside; and the Gateway of India. The Gateway overlooks Mumbai Harbour where Kipling returned by steamer after enduring his schooling in England. The natural deep water harbour is spread over 400 sq km, and is sheltered by the Konkan Coast. B,D
Leaving the grand metropolis behind you, you will take a morning flight to Nagpur in the central Indian state of Maharashtra. With more than 110 million inhabitants, Maharashtra is more populous than many countries (including the UK), and it contributes nearly a quarter of India’s GDP.
Travelling on by road to the Kanha Tiger Reserve, you will pass through a landscape of sal and bamboo forests. These trees, and the dense undergrowth beneath them, are prime habitat for Bengal tigers. Kanha is widely considered to be one of the best places in the world for tiger spotting, and it was established as a protected reserve in 1973, as part of Project Tiger.
You will check-in at Kipling Camp, which is run by a British family of conservationists, and after lunch you will head out into the park by 4x4 for an afternoon game drive. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera to hand as the tigers are well camouflaged in the long, dry grasses.
In the evening you will return to the camp for dinner, cooked by three imaginative chefs and served beneath the branches of the Mahua tree. Sarah Shaw will give a brief introduction to Kipling’s short story Tiger! Tiger! and then there will be time for discussion. B, D
"His spots are the joy of the Leopard: his horns are the Buffalo's pride…” Kaa’s Hunting
You will be woken early by golden orioles, scarlet minivets and racket-tailed drongoes: Kanha is a birdwatcher’s paradise, and many of the species start to sing at dawn. A picnic breakfast will be served whilst you are out on the morning safari, and over the course of the day you can expect to see herds of cheetal, sambar, spotted deer, and the rare barasingha, in the meadows; large gaur (wild oxen) on the hillsides; and silver langur monkeys, who bark in warning whenever a tiger is near. As it comes towards the evening, it may also be possible to see leopards and wild cats, foxes and jackals as they wake up from their afternoon naps.
After dinner at the camp, Sarah Shaw will deliver a selection of readings from Kipling’s Just So Stories, focusing particularly on those animals you have seen in the reserve today. B,L,D
“Shere Khan, the Big One, has shifted his hunting grounds. He will hunt among these hills for the next moon…” Mowgli’s Brothers
Your second morning safari offers yet another chance to see Kanha’s tigers, either from the jeep or whilst you are secreted away in the hide. The tigers are well-camouflaged, and tend to shy away from vehicles and other loud noises, but if you are patient and prepared to sit quietly and wait, your chances of seeing at least one during your stay is high.
In the afternoon you can choose between a guided nature walk, learning about the endemic flora, or a relax and a read in your hammock. If you opt for the latter, you can also then ride down to the river with Tara, the elephant star of Mark Shand’s best-selling Travels on my Elephant, as she goes for her daily bath.
This evening after a farewell dinner at the camp, you will be entertained by tribal dancers bedecked in their traditional costume and jewellery. Other local residents – the flying squirrels living in the trees surrounding the camp – may put in a night-time appearance too! B,L,D
What of the hunting, hunter bold? Brother, the watch was long and cold. What of the quarry ye went to kill? Brother, he crops in the jungle still. Tiger! Tiger!
From Kanha, you will drive on to the Bhandavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, the state known as “the heart of India”. The park takes its name from the 2,000 year-old fortress nearby, and is the historical hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Rewa. Mohan, the white tiger who is the forefather of almost all white tigers bred in captivity around the world, was found and caught by the Maharaja in 1951, and was housed temporarily in the harem courtyard of the palace at Govindgarh.
Bandhavgarh is home to a relatively high concentration of Bengal tigers, of which white tigers are simply a rare genetic mutation. The 2010 Project Tiger census estimated that there were 257 Bengal tigers in the Madhya Pradesh, and that the tiger population was stable.
Dominant males in the park include Bamera, Blue Eyes, and Mukunda, and though tigers don’t have a set mating season, by April the first of the year’s cubs have usually been born. Tiger’s Den, the beautiful village resort where you will stay, has three resident naturalists who know the park and its animals inside out. They will guide you through the park by day, and regale you with their tiger tales come nightfall
Your accommodation at Kings Lodge is in Deluxe cottages set amongst lush gardens. You will enjoy an evening drink around the bonfire, then retire for a good night’s rest. B,L,D
“He would hear, very faint and far off, the chug-drug of a boar sharpening his tusks on a bole.” The Spring Running
On your second day at Bandhavgarh, you will have morning and afternoon safaris by elephant and jeep. Each elephant is guided by an experienced mahout, so you can relax and survey the views from your new, elevated position.
The broken, hilly terrain, grassy swamps and forested valleys of the park are home to around 22 species of mammals and 250 species of birds. Your guide will point out the tracks and other signs that leopards, gaur, chital, and wild boar have recently passed through. By following the freshest tracks, you will come across the animals eating, bathing, and playing, and be able to watch them from a distance which gives you a good view, but does not alarm the animals unnecessarily.
If you can tear yourself away from the wildlife, you will also have the opportunity to go up to Bandhavgarh Fort. Approximately 2,000 years old, the fort was most likely constructed by the Gonds, whose descendants still inhabit nearby forests. Although the fort was built with defence in mind, it served primarily as a regional trading hub, with travelling merchants seeking refuge here at night from the wild animals and bandits which would have threatened them outside the walls.
The caves in the hills which surround the fort have been inhabited since the 1st century AD. Some of them are decorated with pictures of horsemen, tigers and pigs, as well as bearing inscriptions in the Brahmi script. If you prefer to explore independently, you can also walk into the village near to Tiger’s Den, with its mud houses, market and school
After dinner, Sarah Shaw will give a short talk, entitled “The Jungle Book and the Scout Movement,” discussing how Baden Powell adopted Kipling’s writings for use with his Boy Scouts. B,L,D
“Martyn, he decreed then and there, was to live on trains till further orders.” William the Conqueror
You will have a full day more to spend at Bandhavgarh, and the day’s wildlife programme will focus primarily on Bandhavgarh’s birdlife and butterflies. You can expect to see grey hornbills, red jungle fowl, and the elegant white throated kingfisher, or Smyrna kingfisher, which lives in trees and can be found well away from water
In the evening you will drive to Umaria and board the sleeper train to Agra. The railways are one of the Raj’s greatest accomplishments in India, and remain the pride of the country’s transport network. Now as during Kipling’s lifetime, they are the preferred way to journey across the country, and you will spend a very comfortable night in a 1st class cabin onboard the Utkal Express. B,D
“The ruined tombs of forgotten Mussulman saints heard the ballad of Agra Town…” The Courting of Dinah Shadd
You will arrive in Agra in the early morning and transfer to the Taj Gateway Hotel. Your tour for the day includes the Mughal sites of Fatehpur Sikri, the Red Fort and the tomb of Itimad-ud-daula, nicknamed ‘The Baby Taj’.
Agra lies on the banks of the River Yamuna, and though it was officially founded by Sultan Sikandar Lodi in 1504, there may well have been smaller, less permanent settlements here as far back as 1,000 BC. It is the city’s development in the 16th and 17th centuries, when it was a capital of the Mughal Empire, that has given Agra its most famous sites.All three of Agra’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites date from this period and, of course, are on your itinerary.
Fatehpur Sikri, a city in its own right, is uniquely well-preserved because it was abandoned not long after its foundation in 1569. Its founder, Akbar the Great, had overlooked the fact that the local water supply was insufficient to support a substantial population, and so despite the vast investment he had made, he was forced to admit defeat and move his capital elsewhere. Frozen in time, then, without subsequent years of development destroying older structures, you can stroll through the immaculate Diwan-i-khas (private audience hall); visit the five-storey, pagoda-like Panch Mahal; and take time to stand and reflect in the Ibadat Khana (Hall of Worship), where Akbar called together representatives of numerous different faiths, and had them debate their beliefs.
In the evening, you will relax at the hotel. B,D
“Each must view the Taj for himself with his own eyes, working out his own interpretation of the sight” Letters of Marque
The best time to see the Taj Mahal is at dawn, before all the tour buses arrive. You will need to rise in the dark to arrive as it opens and see what has to be the most beautiful, romantic, and most photographed, building in the world.
Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, you will never forget your first visit to the Taj, nor fail to be impressed by the mastery of its construction. It is estimated that 20,000 artisans were engaged to build it in 1632, and the Taj took 22 years to complete.
Shah Jahan’s original plan was to build two Taj Mahals. The first, the white mausoleum you see, was to house the body of his wife; and on the opposite bank, built in black marble, Shah Jahan planned to have his own mausoleum. The two buildings would have been symmetrical, and their reflections visible in the water. Sadly for Shah Jahan, his son had other ideas, and was impatient to take the throne. Aurangzeb imprisoned his father in Agra’s Red Fort, and took control of the Mughal Empire. Though Shah Jahan could see the completed Taj from his window, he would never be allowed to visit, and when he died he was buried alongside his wife. His dream for a black Taj would never be realised.
You will see the sarcophagi of both Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal when you enter inside the tomb. In fact, these inlaid sarcophagi are ornamental only: the actual graves are beneath the floor. Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, and the tomb of Itimad-ud-daula, which you saw in Agra yesterday, both provided architectural inspiration for the building, and in that respect are the fathers of the Taj Mahal.
You will have an early lunch before leaving Agra, and then drive the two hours on to Delhi, spending the night at The Taj Mahal Hotel. Central to the Taj Mahal Hotel’s prominence is its old world grace and charm, blended effortlessly with contemporary comforts and amenities. In its unique blend of warmth and welcome and assiduous attention to service, The Taj Mahal Hotel is a true ambassador of the Taj Hospitality experience. B,D
More than a hundred years ago, in a great battle fought near Delhi, an Indian Prince rode fifty miles after the day was lost. With Scindia to Delhi
After a late breakfast, your Delhi city tour will begin at 10.30, so that you have ample time to admire the hotel’s art collection, or perhaps to take a refreshing dip in the outside pool.
Kipling was well-acquainted with both Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens, the two architects of New Delhi. He wrote to Baker in January 1913, congratulating him on his commission and urging him to keep control of his colleague and not let him smarm Delhi with his affectations. You will be able to judge his success for yourself when we visit India Gate and the Viceroy’s House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Presidential palace).
Rashtrapati Bhawan is a 340-room mansion, surrounded by the Presidential Estate. Although it can usually only be viewed from the outside, this is more than sufficient to get an impression of its scale and grandeur. For nearly 70 years, from Indian independence until the opening of President Erdogan’s new palace in Turkey in 2014, Rashtrapati Bhawan was the largest residence of a Head of State in the world.
Lutyens preferred to work in the Edwardian baroque style, and was initially dismissive of indigenous architectural styles, writing on one occasion, “They want me to do Hindu – Hindon't I say!” But in the creation of Rashtrapati Bhawan, he conceded that incorporating Indo-Saracenic motifs into his design, even if only superficially, would be politically expedient. You will therefore see elephant statues on the outer walls, 2.4m deep chajja (overhanging eaves), elevated pavilions known as chhatris, and red sandstone grilles akin to the latticed screens of Rajasthan.
There will be a trip to the National Museum, where there is a stone edict by King Aśoka, and some of the Gandharan art that Kim’s lama loved so much. Sarah Shaw will explain the background to this, and why early the 20th C British, as well as the Indians, rated King Aśoka so highly as a model of just kingship.
In the afternoon, your tour will continue in Old Delhi. It feels as if you are going back in time. You will visit the impressive Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India), another masterpiece built by Shah Jahan; and you will then be free to explore the labyrinthine lanes of Chadni Chowk (“the moonlit square”), one of Delhi’s oldest and busiest markets. Historically this area was famous for its silver merchants, and though the jewellers are still here, you can also buy any number of other goods, from sweets and deep-fried snacks, to textiles and coloured papers, to Ganesh statues, and more. B,D
“Look, Hajji, is yonder the city of Simla? Allah, what a city!” Kim
Leaving Delhi behind you, this morning you will board the train to Kalka and then connect with The Himalayan Queen to Shimla. Also known as the toy train, the Kalka-Shimla railway line is a masterpiece of engineering. Built in 1898 to connect Shimla, the summer capital of the British Raj, with the rest of the Indian railway network, this heritage line through the hills has 102 tunnels, 864 bridges, 919 curves, and an average gradient of 3%. It is in recognition of the engineering feat taken to build it, as well as the breath-taking mountain views you see from the carriages, that this route is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will be able to toast the end of the train ride, and your arrival in Shimla, with a gin and tonic on the veranda of the historic Oberoi Cecil Hotel, your home for the next three nights. The hotel’s fabulous ballroom dances made it the social hub for Shimla’s fashionable elite, and its reputation has stood tall for more than 130 years. Kipling attended dances here on his summer holidays. B,D
Cast out your swarthy sacrilegious train, And give -- ere dancing cease and hearts be broken - Give us our ravished ball-room back again. The Pleas of the Simla Dancers
Kipling came to Shimla for his summer vacation in 1883 and returned for a month each summer from 1885-88. He took the train here from Lahore and threw himself into the town’s many pleasures: picnics, dancing and theatrical performances. The town had a profound influence on Kipling and he used it as a setting in Plain Tales from the Hills, The Phantom Rickshaw and other Tales, and, most famously of all, in Kim.
Your heritage walking tour of Shimla includes a number of sites familiar to Kipling. These include Christ Church, the second oldest church in North India, where Kipling’s father was asked to serve; Scandal Point and Gaiety Theatre on The Mall; and Rashtrapati Niwas, now the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, but in Kipling’s time the Viceregal Lodge.
Located on the Observatory Hills of Shimla, Rashtrapati Niwas was built between 1880 and 1888, and its first resident was Lord Dufferin, the 8th Viceroy of India. Henry Irwin, the British architect who designed the building, was enamoured with the Indo-Saracenic style, but for this particular commission he turned instead to Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture, creating a sprawling and eccentric Jacobethan mansion. B,D
“Lurgan Sahib has a shop among the European shops. All Simla knows it. Ask there.” Kim
Today you will be able to explore Shimla and its surroundings independently. We particularly recommend the short, scenic walk to Annandale where Kipling played golf and watched the races; or you can choose to remain in the town to seek out some of the many sites from Kim: Lurgan Sahib’s house and Curiosity Shop; the Town Hall and the Alliance Bank; and, of course, the shops and bazaar. You might also enjoy a visit to Gaiety Theatre.
Sarah will give a talk on the Great Game before dinner. Other topics discussed on the trip will include:
The Lama – a real person and a real Buddhist lineage. How Kipling was influenced in his positive depiction of the lama by his contacts with Tibetan Buddhism. Plain Tales from the Hills – a discussion of what are regarded as some of the greatest short stories in English, written when Kipling was still in his early twenties.
After dinner, those who would like may join for a few rounds of Kim’s Game, and a wider discussion about the Great Game, the period of British and Russian espionage which enveloped this part of the Himalayas, and spread up into Central Asia, and is the major concern of Kim. B,D
“The train stopped at Amritsar, and Scott went back to the ladies' compartment, immediately behind their carriage.” William the Conqueror
After breakfast at the hotel, you will leave Shimla and drive to Ambala to board the Pashchim Express to Amritsar, the modern capital of the Punjab. Kipling visited the city several times whilst working in nearby Lahore (now in Pakistan) for the Civil and Military Gazette, and he mentions it in Plain Tales from the Hills. In Kipling’s time, prior to partition, travelling between Amritsar and Lahore didn’t warrant a second thought: the two cities were only a short train or bus ride away.
This afternoon you will visit Jallianwala Bagh, the site of the Amritsar Massacre on 13 April, 1919. A deeply humbling experience, you will learn about the background to the massacre, the threat which the British soldiers believed they faced, and the catastrophic human cost of their officers' mistakes. B,D
You will stay tonight at hotel Hyatt Amritsar.
“There’s a priest somewhere, in Amritsar or outside it, or somewhere else, who cut off his tongue some days ago, and says it’s grown again.” Hunting a Miracle
Amritsar is the holy city for Sikhs, and the splendid Golden Temple is its crowning glory. The Sikh religion intrigued Kipling, and there are numerous Sikh characters in his stories, not least in The Eyes of Asia. Sikhism developed in the Punjab during the 15th century, influenced by Bhaktism, a theistic movement which itself emerged from medieval Hinduism. The religion is based on the teachings of Guru Nanak and 10 successive gurus, and of the holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib.Today you will visit the Harmandir Sahib, informally referred to as the Golden Temple. Built in 1764 on the foundations of a 16th century temple, more than 100,00 people come here each day to pray. The dome is said to be plated with 100 kg of pure gold, and many of the architectural features are said to reflect the world view of Sikhism: four entrances signify the importance of acceptance and openness; the temple is surrounded by a tank of water, representing immortal nectar; and devotees must walk down steps to enter the temple, as unlike other temples, it not positioned on a high place.
After your guided tour you will join the Silk pilgrims for langar, the community lunch served free to more than 75,000 people every day. In keeping with Sikhism’s egalitarian philosophy, everyone is welcome to come together and eat, from beggars to tourists to kings. This is an exceptionally spiritual and moving experience, and one which we hope you will enjoy.
Mid-afternoon, you will have an optional excursion to the Wagah Border Ceremony where you can watch the pomp and circumstance of the Indian and Pakistani troops. This elaborate ceremony has taken place daily since 1959, and there is a party atmosphere in the spectator stands.
As this is the final night of the tour, you will rendezvous once more at the Hyatt Amritsar and drink a very special toast to Rudyard Kipling and to the pleasure he has given us all. B,D
On your final morning in India, you will transfer to the airport, and then fly from Amritsar to Delhi, connecting with your onward Internatiional flight to London. Due to the time difference, you will arrive in London the same day. B
- Tour Leader
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S A R A H S H A W
Tour lecturer Sarah Shaw is a Faculty Member at the Oriental Institute at Oxford University, and an Honorary Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. One of her key research interests is Indian and Asian influences on British nineteenthcentury writers, of whom Kipling is surely the most famous. Throughout the tour she will give a series of short lectures about Kipling and his work, as well as carefully chosen poetry and short story readings.
International flights in economy class on direct British Airways flight. Supplement costs for World Traveller Plus and club class are available on request.
Internal flights in economy class.
Train reservations in Executive Chair car (Delhi to Kalka) , First air-conditioned class (Ambala to Amritsar) and second air-conditioned class (from Umaria to Agra).
Air-conditioned accommodation with private facilities on twin, double sharing and single room occupancy
Meal Plan: All meals in Kanha and Bhandavgrah, daily breakfast and dinner at other places.
All sightseeing arrangements including game viewing by private jeeps & elephant as per itinerary.
Services of an experienced local English speaking guide.
Services of Sarah Shaw as tour lecturer.
Complimentary mineral water while travelling and on sightseeing.
Full ATOL Bonding.
Cost does not include:
Visa fee for India. (E-Tourist visa facility is now available for India, we will send relevant information how to apply to all participants.
Any expenses of a personal nature.
- To book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £400.00 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.