Home > Expert-Led Tours > Princes and Palaces of the West - Gujarat and Southern Rajasthan with John Keay
PRINCES AND PALACES OF THE WEST - GUJARAT AND SOUTH RAJASTHAN WITH JOHN KEAY
2ND MARCH - 15TH MARCH 2014
Gondal – Junagadh – Bhavnagar –
Palitana – Ahmedabad –
Vadodra – Udaipur – Mumbai
Western India offers an exquisite sense of discovery. Few tours visit the region and the sights have still to become clichés. Yet here all India is found in microcosm. Lothal boasts the country’s most impressive remains of the enigmatic Harappan civilisation (4-2nd millennium BC); the 863 temples of Mount Satrunjaya (Palitana) make it India’s most spectacular place of Jain pilgrimage; and at Junagadh, on a big black rock, is found the longest and most complete of Emperor Ashoka’s edicts. Ahmedabad’s attractions include one of the most revered textile museums in the world. The hill-top fortress of Champaner (near Baroda/Vadodara) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And Udaipur, set amongst the Aravalli Hills of south Rajasthan, which is regarded by many as the most romantic city in India.
In a region of stark contrasts and eye-searing colour, much of Gujarat is fertile and prosperous, famed for its dairy farms, diamond cutters and provocative politics. Rajasthan, on the other hand, is largely desert, much poorer and less populous but rich in architecture and Rajput romance. Until Independence, both Rajasthan and the Kathiawar peninsula of Gujarat were ruled largely by maharajahs and nawabs. Palaces and princely foibles abound. This is a tour for the connoisseur keen to explore beyond the set-pieces of Mughal and British architecture and to experience a quieter, older and more beguiling India.
This tour is a unique chance to discover some of India’s best kept secrets in the company of one of its outstanding authorities. John Keay has reported on India for the BBC and the Economist, has lectured there for the British Council and tour groups, and has been a regular visitor since the 1960s. Of his twenty-odd books half deal with Indian subjects. Among them, Into India remained the standard introduction to the country for over thirty years, India: A History (HarperCollins, 2000) is the best selling history of the country – in India itself as well as worldwide – and India Discovered (HarperCollins, 2001) will be found of particular relevance to this tour. John Keay has recently completed a history of the subcontinent since Partition. In 2009 he was awarded the Sykes Memorial Medal by the Royal Society for Asian Affairs for ‘outstanding literary contributions to the history of Asia’ and in 2011 he was commissioned by the Archaeological Survey of India to write on the Survey’s early years for its 150th Anniversary celebrations.www.johnkeay.com
Day 1 Sunday 2nd March Depart London Heathrow
This morning make your way to London Heathrow Terminal Five in good time to catch British Airways flight BA139 to Mumbai which departs at 1015 hours.
Day 2 Monday 3rd March Arrive Mumbai (B/D)
Mumbai to Rajkot – by air
Rajkot to Gondal – 40kms
Arrive into Mumbai at 0045 hours where you will be met and transferred to the Leela Kempinski Hotel which is ideally located close to the international airport and where you will stay for the remainder of the night. Rooms will be booked from Sunday 2nd March so as to provide you with immediate access to your accommodation.
Late morning transfer back to Mumbai Airport in good time to catch Jet Airways flight 9W7205 to Rajkot which departs at 1415 hours and arrives into Rajkot at 1520 hours. On your arrival you will be met for the short drive south to Gondal. Stay for two nights at the Gondal Orchard Palace or the Riverside Palace both are the guesthouses of the Huzoor Palace where the owners – scions of the former rulers – still reside. The current ruling family keeps its collection of vintage and classic cars in this palace estate and it is possible to see around thirty of these vehicles including a 1910 ‘New Engine’. The property also has plenty of old furniture and a selection of miniature paintings.
Surrounded by wheat and cotton fields, Gondal is a town that still bears the influence of the progressive rulers who, during the early part of the 20th century introduced wide-ranging reforms, an extensive road network, sophisticated sewerage system, underground electricity, free compulsory education for all children regardless of sex, advanced irrigation and a tax-free economy. Those interested in Ayurveda, Gondal’s Bhuvaneshwari Pharmacy has been making fine traditional herbal medicines for decades.
Day 3 Tuesday 4th March Gondal – visit Junagadh (B/L/D)
Today undertake a full day visit to Junagadh which is located 60kms to the south west of Gondal. Junagadh is one of India’s most historic cities – ancient artefacts have been found on the hilltop citadel, Emperor Ashoka’s edicts were inscribed on rock here during the 3rd century BC and Buddhist caves all serve to ratify the antiquity of the city. Formerly the capital of Gujarat under the Kshattrapa dynasty, the Chudasama Rajputs later ruled from the town from 875 AD onwards.
Once in Junagadh visit the Uparkot Citadel – expanded in 1472, 1683 and 1880 – which is on a small plateau to the east of the town and the Jama Masjid in its centre which was built from the remains of a Hindu palace. Also of interest is the 11th century Adi Chadi Vav step-well, or baoli, with its 172 steps and beautiful spiral staircase. After touring the fort, drive down to see the impressive mausoleum complex of the latter Junagadh rulers – the Maqbara of Baha-ud-din Bhar is flamboyant and features intricate carvings. On the return to Gondal stop to visit the 4th century Buddhist caves which are located in the small village of Khambalida and have splendid carvings of the Bodhisattvas.
Day 4 Wednesday 5th March Gondal to Bhavnagar – 210kms (B/L/D)
Today drive to Bhavnagar where you will stay overnight at the Nilambagh Palace Hotel (Standard Rooms) which was built in 1859. Surrounded by extensively cultivated farmland, a major cotton export centre and a rapidly developing ship-building port, modern day Bhavnagar is a testament to the many progressive rulers who have ruled this city since it was founded in 1723. One ruler, Maharajah Takth Sinhji, commissioned European architects to build grand buildings for both private and public use and the palace-like Takhtsinghji Hospital, designed by Sir William Emerson and completed in 1883, as well as the 18th century Darbargadh, now the State Bank, are good examples of this heritage.
Day 5 Thursday 6th March Bhavnagar to Vadodara – 220kms (B/L/D)
Very early this morning you may wish to join the pilgrims and climb Palitana which is situated 50kms from Bhavnagar. The hills of Palitana are known as the ‘Abode of the Gods’ and are covered with 863 Jain temples spanning a period of over 900 years. Their finely carved spires and towers glisten in the sunlight as pilgrims make the uphill journey on foot. The climb will take about two hours each way so do carry water and a sun hat with you.
Later this morning leave Bhavnagar and drive to Vadodara calling in on the way to see the archaeological site of Lothal which is home to some of the most important Harappan archaeological remains of the subcontinent. Thought to date from around 2,500 to 1,700 BC, Lothal was once a port and is located between the Sabarmati and Bhogavo Rivers now 10kms inland from the Gulf of Khambhat.
Located on a desolate plain encircled by thorn and scrub, Lothal’s remains are those of an ancient city and include a dry dock, warehouses and a mud-brick embankment which may also be a defensive wall. Archaeologists are undecided as to whether Lothal was originally settled by Harappan trading communities arriving by land or by sea. However, what is not in doubt is the importance of the remains which have uncovered drainage systems, brick houses with baths and fireplaces, painted pottery, ivory artefacts, semi-precious stones and gold jewellery which point to Lothal being a centre of scientific advancement and at the heart of a trading network stretching as far as the Arabian gulf.
Later, leave Lothal and continue to Vadodara, once the capital of the affluent Baroda Princely State and home to some magnificent 19th century palaces and public buildings. On your arrival stay for two nights at the Gateway Hotel (Standard Rooms).
Day 6 Friday 7th March Vadodara – visit Champaner (B/L/D)
Today visit the Pavagadh – Champaner archaeological zone which is Gujarat’s first UNESCO approved World Heritage Site and encompasses forts, temples, mosques, mausoleum complexes, pavilions, wells and tanks. Champaner’s Jami Masjid, built around 1523, is considered the high water mark of 16th century Indo-Saracenic architecture. The mosque has a huge three-storey dome, with large and small domes built at different levels around it, and two tall minarets rising from its third floor. On the Pavagadh hilltop, reached by cable-car, the 11th century Laukulish temple also has fine stone carvings. Later return to Vadodara via the historic citadel of Dabhoi which has a majestic gateway built in the 12th century.
Day 7 Saturday 8th March Vadodara to Ahmedabad – 120kms (B/L/D)
This morning leave Vadodara for the journey to Ahmedabad – one of the most exciting cities for those interested in architecture. The eastern part of Ahmedabad has majestic 15th and 16th century mosques and mausoleum complexes built in an unique Indo-Saracenic architectural style, step wells created between the 11th and 15th century to harvest water, havelis or courtyard houses with fine stonework and wooden facades, historical Hindu and Jain temples, the Mughal palace at Shahibagh and 18th and 19th century buildings with their Maratha or European colonial influences. The city also has modern masterpieces like Charles Correa’s Gandhi memorial, Le Corbusier’s Museum and the Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners Association (ATMA) building. With Luis Kahn’s IIM building, Balkrishna Doshi’s Gandhi Labour Institute and other award winning contemporary works, Ahmedabad is widely regarded as a major architectural centre. Stay for three nights at the Courtyard by Marriott Ahmedabad Hotel (Deluxe Rooms).
Later this afternoon take a heritage walk with your guide through the old city. Although the majority of the city walls have long since crumbled away, much of beauty and intrigue still remains with this area exhibiting many striking examples of Indo-Islamic architecture related to the provincial Gujarati style that flourished from the mid-15th Century. The Swami Narayan Temple, Kalipur, Rajani Vaishnav Temple and Harkore Haveli as well as the havelis on Doshwadani Pol are beautiful examples of the elaborate wood carving traditional to this style and are not to be missed whilst the Jami Masjid mosque, completed in 1423, is regarded as one of the finest in India.
Day 8 Sunday 9th March Ahmedabad (B/L/D)
In the morning visit the Calico Museum of Textiles which is set within pretty, well-tended gardens. The museum itself exhibits rich silks, brocades, carpets, embroideries, beadwork, religious paintings, royal wardrobes, an exquisite Mughal tent, textiles made for international trade and delicate temple cloths. There are also fine pieces of furniture and bronzes in the museum whilst the courtyard has reassembled facades of wooden havelis from the north of Gujarat.
After the museum tour, visit the Sabarmati Ashram founded, in his home city, by Mahatma Gandhi in 1917 and the starting point of his famous 385km Salt March to Dandi in 1930. This is one of the most moving memorials to Mahatma Gandhi and includes his residential cottage housing his spinning wheel, work table and simple possessions as well as a number of places used for meditation, prayers and work. There is also a memorial museum designed by Charles Correa.
After lunch, visit the monumental complex of Sarkhej and the 15th century mausoleum of the spiritual mentor of Sultan Ahmed Shah. Here there is also a medieval mosque, further tombs and an artificial lake which is overlooked by the Sultan's pavilions.
Day 9 Sunday 24th February Ahmedabad – visit Modhera and Patan (B/L/D)
After breakfast leave Ahmedabad and visit the beautiful 15th century Adalaj step well a cavernous structure with stairways leading down to the cool depths via a series of raised platforms. The walls, pillars, cornices and niches are sculpted with beautiful figures of dancing maidens, musicians, animals and deities and are of exceptional quality.
Leaving Adalaj, continue to the 11th century Surya ‘Sun’ Temple which is considered to be one of the finest Hindu temples of Gujarat. Relatively difficult to reach, Modhera retains a special atmosphere and is a wonderful place in which to peacefully enjoy what is a fascinating site. Completed in 1026 AD during the reign of Bhimdev I, Modhera’s sun temple pre-dates its namesake at Konark in Orissa by two centuries and is resplendent with intricate carvings of goddesses, animals and birds. Over the centuries, earthquake damage has taken its toll on the temple. However, its remains a beautiful and imposing architectural masterpiece.
Later, continue on to Patan which was once the capital of Gujarat before the founding of Ahmedabad in 1411. Patan is the home of the famous Patola silk weavers – one of richest silk textiles in the world – and is woven using the rare double-ikat technique. Also of interest here is the magnificently carved 11th century seven storey step well which is one of Gujarat’s largest.
Day 10 Tuesday 11th March Ahmedabad to Udaipur – 275kms (B/L/D)
After breakfast drive north to Dungarpur, a town which dates from the 13th century. Still the main home of the Bhil tribal people it is also renowned for its stone masons a fact that is supported by Dungarpur being the home of one of the most richly decorated palaces in Rajasthan. Stop for lunch at the Udai Bilas Palace – a turn of the century palace built from green local stone and home to mirror mosaics and art deco furniture. In the afternoon continue to Udaipur and the Leela Palace Hotel (Lake View Rooms) where you will stay for the next three nights.
Set in the Girwa Valley amongst the Aravalli Hills of south Rajasthan, Udaipur is a beautiful city and regarded by many as the most romantic in India. In contrast to the many neighbouring ‘desert’ cities Udaipur is an image of white marble palaces, languid deep blue lakes and attractive gardens set against a background of endless green hills. Founded by Maharana Udai Singh in 1559 the rulers of Udaipur prided themselves on their independence from other more powerful regional neighbours, however, this was to have a price. Due to its individuality Udaipur was almost constantly at war resulting in the city becoming one of the poorest princely states in Rajasthan. Nevertheless, the attitude of its rulers never changed and even when Udaipur, and the wider Mewar kingdom, came under British control in 1818 the city still managed to avoid almost all British cultural influence which in turn has helped it to retain its true character to this very day.
Day 11 Wednesday 12th March Udaipur (B/L/D)
This morning visit the City Palace which is an impressive complex of several palaces and stands on a hill on the banks of Lake Pichola. Of interest is the attractive Mor Chowk court, the Manak Mahal or ‘Ruby Palace’, the Chini ki Chitra Mahal and the Queen’s Palace. Continue to the Fateh Prakash Palace to visit the unique Crystal Gallery overlooking the grand Durbar Hall to see the rare collection of Osler's crystal. After, leave the palace and walk through the old town to view the impressively carved Jagdish Mandir temple built in 1651 and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In the afternoon take a sunset cruise on Lake Pichola (water level permitting) to admire the serene beauty of Udaipur.
Day 12 Thursday 13th March Udaipur – visit Kumbhalgarh and Ranakpur (B/L/D)
This morning it is a picturesque drive through the mountains, villages and farmland of Rajasthan to visit the famous and historically important Kumbhalgarh Fort. Built mostly by Maharana Kumbha in the late 15th Century the fort is situated on a ridge of the Aravalli hills and commands a great strategic position on the border between the Rajput kingdoms of Udaipur and Jodhpur. Guarded by seven gates, numerous bastions and towers as well as 36kms of walls Kumbhalgarh was virtually impregnable and is believed to have been taken only once in its long history. The Maharana’s Palace with its remarkable blue Darbar Hall and the Badal Mahal which offers stunning views over jungle covered hillsides.
After lunch continue onto the Jain temples at Ranakpur which are beautifully preserved and are renowned for their intricate carvings and architecture. The most prominent temple, built in 1439, is the Adinatha which is symmetrically planned around the central shrine and has numerous spires, gateways and porches. Dedicated to the first Tirthankar the sanctuary includes 1,144 engraved pillars, each one unique, intricately carved ceilings and arches as well as images of Jain saints and their lives which is a sight to behold. After lunch visit some of the remaining temples, including the Parsvanatha and Neminath Temples as well as the intriguing star-shaped Surya Narayana Temple, before continuing through the Aravalli Hills to Udaipur.
Day 13 Friday 14th March Udaipur to Mumbai – by air (B/L/D)
This morning transfer to Udaipur Airport in good time to catch Jet Airways flight 9W7202 to Mumbai which departs at 0715 hours and arrives into Mumbai at 0835 hours. On your arrival you will be met and transferred to the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel (Superior Sea View Rooms – Tower Wing) where you will stay overnight.
One of the world’s great cities, Mumbai has grown from a small group of islands to India’s economic powerhouse and gateway to the world. Presented to King Charles II in 1661 as part of the dowry when he married Princess Catherine de Braganza of Portugal, in the late 19th century it was the British who dismantled the old fort walls of the city, began sea reclamation and laid the foundations of today's modern city. Still growing fast – Mumbai’s population now tops 20 million – it is the hypnotic combination of old and new, the chaotic and the peaceful, which draws visitors back time again to this vibrant, bustling and most human of cities.
This afternoon explore the city with your local guide and start the tour with a visit to the Gateway of India. Built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, the Gateway of India remains an iconic image of the city. The Gateway of India is also located in the heart of the historic Colaba district and from here it is worthwhile soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the impressive Gothic and Victorian architecture which most notably includes the Rajabai Clock Tower, University of Mumbai, Flora Fountain, Mumbai High Court, Crawford Market and spectacular Victoria Terminus. Later, continue along Marine Drive then up Malabar Hill for far-reaching views over the city. Nearby is a Jain temple, dedicated to Adinath, and on the hill’s summit are the Towers of Silence which are held sacred to followers of the Parsi faith. Continue to Mani Bhavan, now a small museum, where Mahatma Gandhi lived on his visits to Mumbai between 1917 and 1934 and end the day at the Dhobi ghats – a unique feature of Mumbai where traditional laundryman collect, wash and return the city’s linen.
Day 14 Saturday 15th March Mumbai to London
This morning transfer back to Mumbai Airport in good time to catch British Airways flight BA198 to London Heathrow Terminal Five which departs at 1345 hours and arrives back into London at 1810 hours.
Alternatively, from Mumbai fly to Goa and relax by the Arabian Sea at the Taj Exotica Resort or fly to Kochi to spend time in Kerala. Please contact us for further suggestions.
END OF SERVICES
The cost of the above 14 Day itinerary will be as follows:
1. £4450.00 per person based on twin sharing accommodation and World Traveller Class travel with British Airways.
2. Single Room Supplement £1290.00 per person
You may also wish to consider upgrading your World Traveller flights with British Airways to World Traveller Plus as follows:
* The supplement, subject to availability, for World Traveller Plus would be £375.00 per person return. World Traveller Plus is a separate cabin, with fewer seats which provides a more spacious and relaxing environment. A wider seat with 38 inch legroom (compared to 31 inch in economy) and a good recline ensures you have a more comfortable flight.
We are a licensed bonded Inclusive Tour Operator (ABTA V5041, ATOL 2841). The above price is a fully inclusive price covering all our services and is fully guaranteed against any surcharge for any reason once your deposit has been paid.
If you would like to proceed with the booking, we will require a deposit of 10% of the total cost, and this can be paid by cheque or credit / debit card. We are pleased to accept credit cards (Visa, Amex and MasterCard) or debit card (such as Maestro or Delta) over the telephone if this is more convenient for you. Pettitts do not charge a supplement on deposit payments by credit cards; however, balance or full payment is subject to a 2% charge towards the cost of the credit card issuers commission. There is no charge for any payment by debit card.
Pre-existing medical conditions / Disabled passengers
It is essential that you advise us before booking if you have any disability, pre-existing medical conditions or important dietary requirement that Pettitts should be made aware of before we accept responsibility for operating this itinerary to the countries named. We may request that you provide a letter from your doctor confirming your fitness to travel.
This tour is based on a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 20 clients and we anticipate that it will be oversubscribed. However, if eight weeks or more before departure there are insufficient bookings we reserve the right to cancel the tour and you would receive an immediate full refund.
Gujarat is a ‘dry state’ and alcohol can only be obtained by permit and consumed in private. Although the permit can be obtained on arrival in Gujarat, we suggest obtaining it at the same time the visa application is made in the UK. Once on the tour, our representatives will assist those with permits to purchase their alcohol requirements.
John Keay has agreed to lead this tour; however, in the unlikely event that he is unable to accompany this tour for whatever reason we reserve the right to arrange a suitable alternative leader. Whilst we do not anticipate any major changes to this itinerary, John Keay at his discretion, may adjust it to suit local conditions at the time.
Driving times – on major roads between towns and cities we will average approximately 40kms per hour, whilst on poorly surfaced roads, approximately 30kms per hour. These averages can vary considerably according to local conditions at the time.
Hotels: This journey, in parts, is off the normal tourist trail and this is reflected in the varying standard of hotels. From clean and comfortable in Gondal and Bhavnagar, to the 5 star Courtyard by Marriot Hotel in Ahmedabad to the luxury Leela Palace Hotel in Udaipur.
* The tour will be led by Mr John Keay together with the full time services of a Tour Manager Mr Sandeep Madhavan, Director of Pettitts Delhi together with the services of an English speaking guide in Gujarat and a local English speaking guide in Udaipur and Mumbai.
* World Traveller class travel to and from India using the scheduled services of British Airways using Boeing 747 series aircraft. Once issued, flight tickets are restricted for use only on the dates specified in the itinerary and are non-refundable.
Please note that airlines are required by new laws to give border control agencies access to passenger data. Accordingly any information we hold about you and your travel arrangements may be disclosed to the customs and immigration authorities of any country in your itinerary.
* Sightseeing and entrance fees.
* Between places you will travel by air-conditioned coach and economy class flight using the scheduled services of Jet Airways as shown in your itinerary.
* Accommodation as specified including hotel service charges and local taxes.
* Meals are based on a set menu basis as indicated in the above itinerary:
* All gratuities to drivers, porters and local guides in India.
* Travel insurance. It is a condition of your contract with Pettitts that every member of the party has full Travel Insurance which covers, specifically, medical treatment and emergency repatriation where appropriate, without any exclusion. Please note that we will need to know the name of your insurers, your policy number and their emergency contact number before commencement of your holiday.
Any expenses of a personal nature, such as drinks, telephone calls, laundry, camera/video camera fees, meals (other than specified) etc.
* Cost of visas. Visas are required for India.
India – Please make sure your passport is in order. It should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your planned return date and must also have at least 2 blank pages. Application forms will be sent at the time of booking. Please visit www.uk.cibt.com/pettitts for further information.
Travellers must ensure that their passports are valid for at least six months beyond their planned return date and their passports has one blank visa page.
Please note that Gujarat is a ‘dry state’ and alcohol can only be obtained by permit and consumed in private. Although the permit can be obtained on arrival in Gujarat, we suggest obtaining it at the same time the visa application is made in the UK. Once on the tour, our representatives will assist those with permits to purchase their requirements.
Princes and Palaces of the West with John Keay