Glimpse into India’s Living Traditions: Astronomy and Astrology

Early cultures identified celestial objects with gods and spirits. They related these objects (and their movements) to phenomena such as rain, drought, seasons, and tides. It is generally believed that the first "professional" astronomers were priests (Magi), and that their understanding of the "heavens" was seen as "divine", hence astronomy's ancient connection to what is now called astrology. Ancient constructions with astronomical alienations (such as Stonehenge) probably fulfilled both astronomical and religious functions.

Day 1: Arrive Delhi
In Delhi, we will be arriving at Indira Gandhi International Airport. After clearing Immigration and Customs, proceed to the arrivals area where you will be met by our representative and transferred to the Hotel.

Overnight at Hotel

Day 2: Exploring Delhi
After breakfast in the morning proceed for city tour of Delhi.

Today first, head out to explore 'Old Delhi' with its narrow dirt roads, its myriad people and inexpensive and colorful bazaars that keep alive the traditional workmanship for which Delhi has always been famous. The first stop is Mahatma Gandhi's house (Gandhi Smriti) at Tees January Marg (the street is named for the day Gandhi died). This house is where Gandhi lived and received most of his famous visitors and it was here on January 30, 1949 that he was assassinated. The house has since been converted into a museum. You continue onto the Raj Ghat (the cremation ground of Mahatma Gandhi).

Driving past the Red Fort (you will visit the more elaborate Red Fort in Agra) you trade your motor vehicles for bicycle rickshaws, which will take you into the heart of Chandni Chowk (the silver square - so named because of the silver merchants). Negotiating alleyways, which seemingly get narrower and narrower you end up at the Jama Masjid, the largest Muslim mosque in India.

Later in the day explore the observatory (Jantar Mantar) with an expert with onsite lecture).

The Jantar Mantar (literally the 'instrument and formula’) is located in the modern city of New Delhi. It consists of 13 architectural astronomy instruments, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, from 1724 onwards, and is one of five built by him, as he was given by Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah the task of revising the calendar and astronomical tables. There is plaque fixed on one of the structures in the Jantar Mantar observatory in New Delhi that was placed there in 1910 mistakenly dating the construction of the complex to the year 1710. Later research, though, suggests 1724 as the actual year of construction.

The primary purpose of the observatory was to compile astronomical tables, and to predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets. Some of these purposes nowadays would be classified as astrology.

Later in the evening, enjoy Welcome dinner with an astrologer joining for discussion.

Overnight at Hotel Taj (B, L, D)

Day 3: Exploring Delhi
After breakfast, further set out to explore New Delhi.

Our day’s exploration starts with a visit to the Lakshmi Narayan Temple also known as the Birla Mandir. Built in 1938, this beautiful temple is dedicated to the goddess of prosperity and good fortune and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Later visit The Nehru Planetarium. The Planetarium is situated in the green surroundings of Teen Murti Bhavan, the erstwhile official residence of first Prime Minster of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. One of the major attractions of this place is the Soyuz T-10 which carried India’s first cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma to space, along with his space suit and mission journal. The Sky Theater shows at the planetarium are very popular and attract about more than 2 lakhs visitors per year. Visuals such as cartoons, paintings, computer animations, video clippings and special effects are liberally used in the programs at the sky theater (film show with a lecture  will be arranged).

Continue exploring New Delhi, to see the Humayun tomb. The tomb is an exquisite example of early Mughal architecture.

Overnight at Hotel (B)

Day 4: Drive Delhi - Jaipur
After breakfast depart for Jaipur.  Upon arrival, check into the Hotel.

Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is the home of the Ragouts, a warrior clan who ruled this part of India for many years. Built in 1727 by the warrior-astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh II, the city of Jaipur is laid out as described in the ancient Hindi treatise on architecture, known as the “Shilpa-Shastra”. Battlement walls with seven gates encircle the old city; broad avenues divide it into neat rectangles. Jaipur is popularly known as the “pink city”, from the pink-colored sandstone of the buildings in the old walled city.

En route stop at the Neemrana Fort for Lunch.

In the evening, explore the colorful bazaars of Jaipur.
Overnight at Hotel (B, L)

Day 5: Exploring Jaipur
You have the full day to explore Jaipur. 

In the morning, tour the Amber Fort and Palace, stopping to watch the sunrise on the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) en route. Amber Fort is a beautiful and very well preserved 16th Century structure, built on four levels and surrounded by ruins. 

After your visit to Amber Fort, you will go on a tour of the City Palace, where the present maharaja resides.  There is a Mughal art museum housing a lovely collection of Rajasthani & Mughal miniature painting.  Part of the complex is an outdoor 18th Century astronomical and astrological observatory (Jantar Mantar) with several incredible sundials, the largest of which is accurate to 0.2 seconds.

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Built in 1727 by the warrior-astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh-II (considered to be the Newton of the East, born in 1688) was predicted by court astrologers to his father Raja Bisham Singh of Amber that his son would shine like Jupiter in the galaxy. Jai Singh was crowned at the age of 11 in the year 1700 and was educated by the ancient luminaries of Hindu astronomy. As a devoted student of astronomy Sawai Jai Singh had a universal approach to the subject studying foreign classics like Ptolemy’s Syntax’s and Mirza Ulugh Beg’s astronomical tables. However, unhappy with the results following extensive research by scholars traveling abroad who returned with many manuals on cutting edge technology, one such manual contained a copy of La Hire’s tables and the King ordered that the Observatory be built according to the details contained in these manuals. When the construction was complete they were astonished to find the Observatory was 20 seconds more accurate than the tables. The Observatory in Jaipur is the largest and best preserved Observatory in a series of five (at Jaipur, Delhi, Varanasi, Ujjain and Mathura) made by him and completed in 1728 A.D. This observatory has been inscribed on the World Heritage List as "an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period". Early restoration work was undertaken under the supervision of Major Arthur Garrett, a keen amateur astronomer, during his appointment as Assistant State Engineer for the Jaipur District.

Later visit, Birla Planetarium where documentary with lecture has been arranged.

Return to the Hotel.
Overnight at Hotel (B)

Day 6: Drive Jaipur – Fatehpur Sikri – Agra
After breakfast, we begin drive to Agra, stopping on the way to explore Fatepur Sikri. Akbar's eerily abandoned city is full of elegant small palace structures carved from red sandstone. Fatepur Sikri (an hour outside of Agra) was the capital of the Mughal Empire between 1570 and 1586. Akbar built the city to celebrate the birth of an heir (the future Emperor Jehangir).

After 16 years, there was not enough water to support the population, so the capital was moved back to the Red Fort in Agra. The dryness that plagued Akbar and forced him to abandon his dream city is what has perfectly preserved this moment of Mughal history and exquisite memorial to the genius of Akbar for our admiration today. The Emperor spent many hours with his hobby of astronomy at this place.

Resume drive to Agra. On arrival, check into the Hotel.

Later in the day, you set out for your sunset visit to India’s great monument, the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in 1631 to enshrine the mortal remains of his Queen Mumtaz Mahal. It took seventeen years, 20,000 workers and a King's treasury to build this wonder.

Theo Cruz once wrote about the Taj that “The only way I could escape the feeling of being in a dream was to close my eyes.” And Mark Twain wrote that “For ever and ever the memory of my first glimpse of the Taj will compensate me for creeping around the globe to have that great privilege.”

Wander with your guide into the inner chambers of this monument to love, the planet’s most famous and most entrancing exercise in Muslim architecture. Experience the Taj up close, and watch the light play on its magnificent lines from other parts of the city; sometimes the reflection of the Taj in the Yamuna River seems as spectacular as the monument itself.

Return to your hotel.
Overnight at Hotel (B, D)

Day 7: Exploring Agra
Today rise early and watch the sunrise over the Taj Mahal, an unforgettable way to start off your day.

After visiting Taj, return to hotel for breakfast and later drive along the Yamuna River to explore the forerunner of the Taj Mahal - the elaborately ornate Itmad ud Daula. In memory of her father, this mausoleum was built by Queen Nur Jahan in 1622, and is a perfect example of the fine inlaid stonework and translucent marble screens that Agra is so famous for. Many historians believe that this monument was the inspiration for Shah Jahan to build the Taj and is often described as the 'Petite Taj'.

Afterwards, visit Agra Fort, built by Akbar as his citadel over the years 1565-73 in the finest architectural style. It is an almost perfect fusion between military might and lavish beauty. The fort, approachable through its two lofty main portals on the west and south, was successively occupied by three great Mughals - Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan - each of whom made significant structural contributions to this complex. Shah Jahan died here, imprisoned by his son, gazing at the Taj Mahal he had built in memory of his wife.

Visit Gyarah Sidi near Mehtab Bagh.

Gyarah Sidi (Literally eleven steps) are the remains of Mughal Emperor Humayun’s astrological observatory, situated at a stone’s throw from Babur’s Mehtab Bagh, in a field on the banks of the Yamuna river in Agra. It refers to the steps overlooking the hemispherical cavities in the ground from which astronomical readings could be taken. Though nowhere close to their size, Humayun’s observatory is an interesting, diminutive precursor to the massive Jantar Mantars at Jaipur and Delhi built nearly 200 years later.

Return to Hotel
Overnight at Hotel (B, L)

Day 8: Fly Agra - Delhi - Varanasi
Early this morning you will be driven to Delhi for your flight to Varanasi./ OR DRIVE TO DELHI.

Depart Agra   06:30 Hrs   By surface
Arrive Delhi   12:00 Hrs (approximately)

Depart Delhi  14:10 Hrs   SG 114 (Spice Jet)
Arrive Varanasi  15:45 Hrs

Upon arrival in Varanasi, you will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel.

At sunset you will have the wonderful experience of a sunset boat ride on the Ganga River and witness the evening aarti. The “Aarti,” is a Hindu devotional hymn normally sung at the conclusion of any religious ceremony or puja, or simply by itself at sunrise or sunset.

Meet an Astrologer and know your future!!!

Return to the Hotel.
Overnight at Hotel (B, L)

Day 9: Exploring Varanasi
You will rise early this morning and take a boat ride on the Ganges past the ghats for which Varanasi is well known. Here, pilgrims gather on the steps that lead down to the river to bathe in the sacred Ganges as the city begins to come alive in the magical misty light of dawn. Walk through the streets and visit some of Varanasi’s many temples.

Also pay a visit to the astronomical observatory at Man Mandir.

The palace Man Mahal, popularly known as Man Mandir is located adjacent to the famous Dashashvamedh ghat, one of the most famous ghats in Varanasi.

Man Mahal situated on the western bank of river Ganga just adjacent to the famous Dashashvamedh ghat at Varanasi is a beautiful example of Mughal-Rajput architecture with stone balconied windows and painted ceiling. It is famous especially for its masonry observatory. The palace was built in around 1600 A.D. by Man Singh, the Raja of Amber and a celebrated General of the Great Mughal Emperor Akbar. But the observatory was added to it in around 1737 A.D by Sawai Jai Singh II (1686-1745 AD) who himself was a great astronomer, the founder of Jaipur city and a descendant of Raja Man Singh. Besides inventing a number of instruments, tables and formulae, constructed five masonry observatories located at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi and Mathura. These are popularly known as Jantar Mantar which is a corrupt form of Yantra- Mantra meaning thereby the calculation with the help of instruments. The plan of the observatory in the palace of Man Mahal was prepared by Jagannath, an astronomer and the work was executed by an architect from Jaipur named Sardar Mohan under the supervision of Sadashiva. .Samrat Yantra (Small and large) Digamsa Yantra, Nadivalaya Yantra, Chakra Yantra and Dakshinottara Bhitti Yantra are the main instruments of this observatory. These are meant for calculating time, preparing lunar and solar calendar and studying the movements, distances, angles of inclination of the stars, planets and other heavenly bodies.

By the orders of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh of Jaipur, Pandit Gokul Chand Bhavan, the then court astronomer had carried out major restoration work to this observatory in the year 1912 as it was turned into ruins during the middle part of 19th century A.D.

Also visit the ‘Department of Astrology and Oriental Science’ at the Benaras Hindu University  with  discussion on Vedic astrology with a professor and later  interact with the students.

Overnight at Hotel (B, L)

Day 10: Fly Varanasi - Kolkata
After a leisurely breakfast, check out from the hotel, proceed for an excursion to Sarnath.

It was here at the Deer Park of Sarnath that Sakyamuni Buddha, having achieved enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, delivered his first message of the middle path to final nirvana. Also of interest are excavated pillars from the time of the Maurya Dynasty (323-185 B.C) and stupas from as late as the 12th Century. These were unearthed during the British archaeological explorations in 1836 and are housed in the museum on site.
Later transfer to airport for flight to Kolkata.

Depart Varanasi  14:25 Hrs   9W 2461 (Jet Connect)
Arrive Kolkata  15:40 Hrs

Upon arrival in Kolkata, you will be met and transferred to the hotel.

Enjoy the Farewell dinner at the hotel.
Overnight at Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 11: Exploring Kolkata – Fly out
After breakfast, enjoy an orientation tour of Kolkata including visit to the Victoria Memorial. It is a huge white-marble structure and the most enduring of remains of the British Raj in India. The structure, which is now floodlit in the night, gives a fascinating site. It has been now converted in a museum that houses the most impressive collection of memorabilia's from the days of Raj.

Also visit the Mother Teresa Orphanage and enjoy watching the children growing up in a loving environment.

We will get a chance to visit the largest observatory of India.

Loosely styled on the Buddhist stupa, the Birla Planetarium is one of the world’s largest. Its exterior looks impressive when floodlit. Inside, its outer circle forms a small but well-presented, tomb-like gallery featuring astronomer busts and fading star-gazer pictures. The star shows are slow moving, thickly accented introductions to the night sky. The planetarium provides a parlance where astronomical presentations take place. It provides useful piece of information about our solar system, galaxies, life span of stars, space, planets and other heavenly bodies in the most interactive manner via audio video aids.
Return to the hotel.

Later in the evening, we will be met at the Hotel and transferred to the International Airport for  our flight back home.