This tour, anchored in Delhi, goes north of the capital. The terrain and cultural landscape are much more varied than our other North India tours. For one, we hit the Himalayas, the highest mountains in the world, marveling at some breathtaking snow-clad vistas from the town of Dharamshala and the Kangra valley. The Himalayan leg brims with exciting opportunities. Dharamshala, specifically its suburb, McLeodganj, is the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, and that of the Dalai Lama. Kangra is one of the lesser-known tea growing regions of India, its product slowly climbing out from an extended period of relative obscurity, and now recognized with its own geographical indication. Down in the plains, Punjab, “land of the five rivers”, is the homeland of India’s most conspicuous and enterprising diaspora: the Sikhs. Amritsar represents their spiritual and culinary soul.
A sampling of our experiences
Such a perfect dome
Built over the grave of Humayun, the second Mughal emperor, the tomb precedes its more glamorous ‘descendant’, the Taj Mahal, by about 100 years. Historically, its appearance on India’s architectural landscape of the time is startling, as nothing that came before it comes close in grace and scale. The final resting place of the emperor who nearly lost his adolescent empire has all the classic features of Mughal architecture: elegance, symmetry, geometry, the use of red sandstone and marble, and a garden of fours, amidst which it stands. As a bonus, we take you to the small, unobtrusive hospice of the Sufi saint, Nizamuddin.
This is the world’s largest community kitchen.
The concept of langar is an inseparable part of the Sikh religion and has risen from the spirit of service deeply ingrained in the faith. Every gurdwara (Sikh temple) has a langar. At the Golden Temple, the service is round the clock, the food free, and you can eat as much as you want. Obviously, any kitchen that feeds 50,000 people daily (100,000 on special occasions) would pack some formidable stats. Here are a few: about five tons of wheat are used up per day; each of the three lentil cauldrons has the capacity to cook 400 kg at a time; the stirring is done by hand-held ladles, which are taller than a man; the list goes on…The food? Simple, vegetarian, and home-delicious. Much of the preparation, serving, and washing is done by pilgrims and volunteers–it is considered a privilege to do so. And everything is hygienic, spick-and-span, and orderly.
Adya’s tour not only includes a wholesome meal but also a glimpse at how it all comes together.
A world translocated
Ever since the Dalai Lama moved to Dharamshala on the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, the settlement has grown into a vibrant centre of Tibetan culture. We will engage with these resilient, positive people at several levels. Through institutions like the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, and Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, we gain access to the “roof of the world”. Lamas and monks will acquaint us with aspects of Buddhist philosophy and Vajrayana, the “thunderbolt vehicle“, as Tibetan Tantric Buddhism is called. And while the younger generation light us up with their worldview, sense of belonging, dreams, and aspirations, at the Tibetan cafes the food will talk for itself.