Captivating India Photography Tour
Kumbh Mela Festival and the Best of Varanasi

 

 

Join Master Photographer Nick Melidonis and Pro photographer Aaron Dowling on this incredible journey into the heart and culture of India. We arrive in Ujjain and witness the Kumbh Mela,the largest religious festival on Earth. Tens of millions of pilgrims and Holy men gather and bathe in the Shipra River, many naked and covered in white ash, to wash away their sins. This event only happens once every three years. We then continue on to Varanasi to witness the religious ceremonies and life on the sacred Ganges river from our boats drifting past the Ghats or steps that descend into the Ganges. Get inspired in the colour and life of this rich and ancient culture. 

Tour Dates: 20th of April to 2nd of May 2016
Duration: 12 Nights / 13 Days
Participants: 10 to 12
(open to all levels of photographic experience)
Guides: Nick Melidonis and Aaron Dowling with our support team on the ground

We are currently taking registrations of interest for this amazing tour, register quickly if this is a tour you’d like to attend as accommodation near the event is close to full.

To register interest, email Nick at nick@nickmelidonis.com

Aaron and I will guide you through India to witness some of the most amazing cultural events on earth. On this 13 day trip of a lifetime into the heart of India; we will provide you with photographic assistance to ensure that you come away with stunning images while witnessing events that need to be seen to be believed. We’ll be transported in air-condition comfort, staying in quality hotels and be guided by two English speaking guides who will look after us and make sure we get close to the action and experiencing the true India. You’ll be swept up in the energy and vibrancy of life and emotion in this truly amazing destination.

Please note, we currently don’t have copyright access to Khumb Mela photographs and photos featured here were taken by Nick Melidonis on previous tours and shoots to India

 

ITINERARY

Day 1: 20th of April (Delhi)
All guests arrive in Delhi and are transported to the hotel to unwind after their journey.

Day 2: 21st of April (Delhi – Indore (Flight) – Ujjain (Drive))
After breakfast we’ll depart to the airport for our flight to Indore. On our arrival in Indore we’ll immediately depart for our drive to Ujjain (60km – 1.5 hours).

Ujjain is a quiet and relatively small provincial town. Ujjain is one of the greatest cities of ancient India and one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus in India. It is also one of the four towns where the Kumbh Mela is held and plays as a host to the 20 – 30 million pilgrims who gather every 12 years. 

The Kumbh Mela takes place in Ujjan every 12 years in the month of April. During this festival, millions of pilgrims from all over the country gather here for a dip in the holy river. This festival lasts for a month and draws large crowds from surrounding villages.

Days  3 – 7: 22nd – 26th of April (Ujjain)
Spending five and half days in Ujjain we will witness and photograph this amazing festival where millions of pilgrims and saints gather;  many covered in white ash, colourful flowers and garments. 

The commemoration of the Mela at Ujjain is known as ‘Simhastha Kumbh Mela’, and the major attraction of this festival is ‘Shaha Snan’ (royal bath). It is believed that those who get a royal bath in the holy Shipra River on the occasion of Kumbh Mela can wash away their sins of all previous births. The devotees consider it an opportunity to get them revived from the never ending birth cycle (Samsara). 

‘Simhastha Kumbh Mela’ in Ujjain is the unique combination of divinity and purity, which is experienced when the crowd of ash-covered sages, priests and devotees get fused together with the roaring of elephants and camels. People who witness the spiritual festival feel good fortune by their side and sense positive aroma purifying their souls and thoughts.

The Kumbh Mela holds a very important place in the hearts of Indian Sages, known as Sadhu in Hindi. Sadhus from all over the country reach the Mela and bathe in the sacred river for absolution from sins and peccadillos. The most common types of sadhus that visit the Kumbh are:

Nagas – Naga sadhus are nudist sages which smear their entire body with ash. They usually keep long matted hair. These sadhus smoke marijuana, known as charas in Hindi, constantly since they believe it can help in enlightenment. The continuous exposure to various weather conditions make their body insensitive to the extremities of weather. 

Urdhwavahurs - These sadhus put their bodies through strict austerities out of their religious beliefs. 

Parivajakas – Parivajakas are sages who have resolved not to speak ever, the observation called muan vrat in Sanskrit and hindi. They keep on tinkling bells to let other know that they are coming and make way for them. 

Shirshasinse – These Indian holy men meditate with their bodies standing upside down. The position is known as shirshasana in Sanskrit.

Kalpvasis – Kalpvasis are sadhus that live near river banks and bathe several times a day. They spend most of their time meditating. 

Day 8: 27th of April (Ujjain – Indore (Drive) – Flight to Delhi)
We’ll spend the morning continuing our photography in Ujjain before driving to Indore to catch our flight back to Delhi.

Day 9: 28th of April (Delhi – Varanasi (Flight))
After breakfast we’ll transfer to the airport for our flight to Varanasi then transfer to our hotel. 

Varanasi is referred to as ‘The City of Temples and Learning’, the holy city of Varanasi is situated on the banks of the river Ganges, and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth. 

Encapsulating the essence of India’s Hindu religion, Varanasi fascinates with its endearing faith, picturesque river ghats, and a way of life unlike any other in the country. Varanasi ranks amongst the most sought-after destinations. One of the holiest destinations of Hindu pilgrimages, Varanasi stands at the very centre of the Hindu universe, offering photographers a unique perspective to the soul of India. 

Day 10 – 11: 29th – 30th of April (Varanasi)
Early in the mornings will take a boat ride to the Varanasi Ghats where we will witness culture, set of beliefs, customs and practices that give the people a sense of collective identity. Varanasi epitomises India’s Hindu faith and culture. Central to the culture are places where people tend to congregate; in Varanasi it is the river ghats. We will also have an opportunity to walk the ghats under guidance and witness the stunning Fire Puja ceremony.

For thousands of years, devout Hindus have flocked to the ghats every morning to bathe in the holy river and absolve themselves of their sins and have ceremoniously lit lamps every evening and performed elaborate rituals in worship of the holy river (Fire Puja). We’ll witness and photograph the thousands of devotees, elaborate religious ceremonies and daily life at the ghats in the warm morning light. 

In the afternoons we will visit markets and temples. The narrow lanes alongside the ghats bustle with activity of all sorts. Here you’ll find the ubiquitous tea vendor dishing out his milky fare in earthenware cups. Walk ahead and you’ll find customers bargaining with the flower sellers over the price of garlands for the temple deity. Small shops sell colourful sarees. There is an unhurried pace to life here that will give you ample opportunities to photograph a true exotic marketplace in the heart of India.

Day 12: 1st of May (Varanasi – Delhi)
After breakfast we’ll take a trip to Sarnath. Sarnath is a world famous Buddhist site about 10kms from Varanasi. Bhuddists worldwide look upon India as the land of the Buddha and a visit to this country means a pilgrimage to those places sacred to the memory of the Enlightened One. 

Later in the afternoon we’ll transfer to the airport to board our flight back to Delhi, where we will check into our hotel for our last night in India. 

Day 13: 2nd of May (Dehli – Home?)
Our tour parts company to home or wherever your travels are taking you next. 

 

Inclusions

  • All Accommodation (12 Nights in quality hotels)
  • Organised transport for all locations during the tour, ground transport in air conditioned vehicles.
  • All internal flights in India
  • 2 local guides
  • All photographic tuition and workshops
  • All airport transfers 

 

Exclusions

  • Flights to and from India and Visa’s
  • Gratuities / Tips
  • Any transport or trips not in the itinerary.
  • Meals 
  • Travel Insurance (This must be obtained before acceptance to the tour)
  • Camera Equipment (you will need to supply your own camera, lenses, tripod, etc…)
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, telephone, Wi-Fi (when not included at hotels), entry fees to sites not listed in the tour itinerary.

 

Tour Costs

Tour cost is approximate and will be finalised prior to taking bookings
Approx: $6700 AUD based on double occupancy
Single Supplement: Approx: $1000 (If you require your own room)

 

RESERVE YOUR PLACE

As this tour is being planned on short notice and as we need to secure the rooms close to the Khumb Mela site, we are gathering expressions of interest prior to finalising our commitments for accommodation and flights. This needs to happen by the end of November. A not to be missed event, these festivals are only held once every 3 years in India, and this particular Kumbh Mela is held only once every 12 years and is one of the largest in the country. 

Please register interest as soon as possible if you genuinely would like to attend this event in April 2016. Email Nick on nick@nickmelidonis.com

 

 

 

 

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