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Jewish Heritage Tour

Duration : 16 nights / 17 days
Places Covered : Mumbai - Cochin - Kolkatta - Imphal - Aizwal
Highlights : Visit most famous Jewish Synagogue across India.

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Day 01 - ARRIVE MUMBAI
Meeting and greetings on arrival and transfer to the hotel for overnight stay.

Day 02 - MUMBAI
During the religious persecutions in Israel in the time of King Antiochus 2,200 years ago, some Jews escaped to India and were shipwrecked off the coast of Bombay. The few survivors came ashore, kept the faith, lived in interior villages, and were unknown to the Jewish world until they were discovered in the 1700s. They were known as the Bene Israel or "Sabbath oil pressers".

After breakfast at the hotel proceed to visit the original landing site at Navgoan, Visit a 2000 year old Jewish cemetery to see the historic monument, visit a primitive Bene Israel village and meet with the remaining Bene Israel Jews. Photograph the historic and unusually picturesque synagogue at Alibag. Discuss living style of India Jewish community. Overnight at Hotel.

Day 03 - MUMBAI
Early morning optional 6.30 am service at Gate of Mercy Synagogue also called Juni Masji, established in 1896. For those who observe Shabbat - independent morning. Later proceed for full day tour visit the Prince of Wales Museum which is Indo Saracenic architecture in keeping with the Gateway, but the dome of glazed tiles gives it a very Persian and Central Asian flavor.

At the museum you will walk through the excellent archeological section which has a well displayed section on the Indus Valley civilization, a sophisticated and advanced people who inhabited the Indus Valley from 8500BC to 3500BC. In 2000 BC the main city of Mohenjo Daro was deserted and within the next 250 years the entire civilization disappeared. The museum also houses an excellent collection or jade and silver jewelry and Indian miniature paintings. On the way to the visit Hanging Gardens, Pass through the Victorian Gothic buildings of the city, stopping at the most remarkable of them all, the Victoria Terminus built in 1878. The frontage is symmetrical with a large central dome flanked by two wings. The dome is capped by a 4m high statue of Progress. The booking hall with its arcades, stained glass and glazed tiles was inspired by London's St Pancreas station. The Hanging Gardens offer a panoramic view of the harbor and a glimpse of the Towers of Silence, the rather unusual crematorium of the Parsi community. We stop for pictures at the Dhobi Ghat a sight unique to Mumbai and end at Mani Bhavan. This is a private home where Mahatma Gandhi used to stay and today is a museum dedicated to him and his achievements. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 04 - MUMBAI
Morning after breakfast at the hotel proceed for full day excursion south of Mumbai to see legend of the Bnei Yisrael started. There is a saying that 7 men and 7 women survived a shipwreck in the time of Solomon. They became oil pressers and remained in the area. There are a few shuls there and still Jews doing oil pressing today. The area is also considered to be the holiest shrine for the Bene Israelies of Mumbai. This is where it is believed the prophet Elijah arrived on his chariot and the mark can be seen on the rock. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 05 - MUMBAI
Morning after breakfast proceed to visit two Jewish schools operated by ORT. First visit Mazgaon School and meet with the school administrators. Later visit ORT school in Worli. Later return to the hotel and spend rest of the day by relaxing or self exploration. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 06 - MUMBAI-COCHIN
Morning after breakfast the hotel transfer to airport to board flight for Cochin. Meeting on arrival at Cochin Airport and transfer to the hotel. Cochin reflects the influence of the many foreign traders who visited the city. You may opt to walk in the heritage zone, which has preserved the original architecture of the city. Visit St Francis's Church and the Chinese fishing nets, which line the mouth of Cochin harbor. Evening proceed to attend a Kathakali Dance performance at local theater. Kathakali is a classical dance form that has its origins in Theyyam a ritual tribal dance of north Kerala and Kalaripayyattu the martial arts which goes back 1000 years. The dancers use dramatic costumes and exaggerated facial make up, and to accompaniment of drums and cymbals, use stylized movements to relate episodes from the Mahabharat and Ramayan. Overnight at the hotel.

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Day 07 - COCHIN
Morning after breakfast visit the Jewish Community and the beautiful Pardesi Synagogue. This Synagogue was built by Samuel Castiel, David Belila, Ephrahim Sala and stands on the grounds of the Maharaja of Cochin's residence. It is the first synagogue in India, and one of the oldest in the world. Near the synagogue is an interesting market selling spices, and antiques, bursting with activity and variety. We spend time in the markets and walk to the Mattancherry Palace, which was commissioned by the Portuguese for the raja of Kochi in exchange for trading rights. The palace is two storeys high and is built in the traditional Kerala style known as nalukattu (four buildings). The palace exhibits memorabilia from the raja of Kochi' collection, but it is best known for its outstanding murals painted on the wooden walls. The royal bedroom has ceilings and walls covered with forty-five 16th century paintings illustrating the Ramayana. Evening sunset cruise on the backwaters of Kerala. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 08 - COCHIN- KOLKATTA Fly via Chennai
Morning after breakfast transfer to airport to board flight Kolkata with a flight change at Chennai. Arrive Kolkata and transfer to the Hotel. Rest of the time at leisure. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 09 - KOLKATTA
Kolkatta, it is the capital of West Bengal. At one time, Kolkatta was the proud intellectual and cultural capital of India. Its inhabitants made outstanding contributions to art, medicine, science and social reform.

After relaxed breakfast meet proceed to visit the Neveh Shalome Synagogue, established in 1825, the first Synagogue in Kolkatta. Later visit the Magen David Synagogue, built by Mr. Elias David Joseph Esra in memory of his father Mr. David Joseph Esra. It is a charming walk to this synagogue. Afternoon visit Nahoum Bakery, owned by a Jewish family. Evening service at Magen David Synagogue. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 10 - KOLKATTA
Morning services at synagogue. Later socialize with the members of the synagogue. Afternoon proceed to visit to Indian cultural sights of interest including Dakshineswar Kali temple built in 1847. It has 12 smaller temples in the courtyard dedicated to Shiva, Radha and Krishna; south of the temple is Kumartuli, the home of the kumhars or potters who all year round prepare clay images for pujas and festivals. Kali, the patron goddess of Calcutta, usually seen in her blood thirsty form, garlanded with skulls; from this bastion of Hinduism we head to the bastion of colonialism. Visit the Victoria Memorial, the white marble monument to Queen Victoria. Designed in Italian Renaissance Mughal style; St Paul's Cathedral is the original metropolitan church of British India completed in 1847; and Sishu Bhavan, one of Mother Theresa's many homes for the underprivileged. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 11 - KOLKATTA
Morning after breakfast at the hotel proceed towards the crowded streets of Kolkata with its beautiful but crumbling homes of the wealthy people of Kolkata. Visit University of Performing Art, which has a small but charming museum dedicated to the poet laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, Bengal's favorite son. Later proceed to College Street, where a cup of coffee in the Coffee House and a walk along the streets can be very interesting. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 12 - KOLKATTA-IMPHAL Fly
Transfer to the airport in time to board flight for Imphal. Meeting on arrival and transfer to the Hotel.
Imphal lies in the heart of an oval shaped valley in Manipur, and is very picturesque.

Afternoon visit the lone Synagogue in Imphal, located in the heart of the city where you will have a chance to talk to the members of the Jewish community and attend afternoon prayers. Some of the members of the Bnei Menashe Jews live in the synagogue building. The prayers are held everyday between 0700 and 0900, and again, 1500 and 1600. Overnight at the hotel.

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Day 13 - IMPHAL
Morning prayers at the synagogue. After breakfast at the hotel time free to rest. Afternoon proceed to visit Langthaband Palace, the historical palace, with its ceremonial houses and temples. It stands on the hills among formally planted pine and jackfruit trees on the Indo-Burma road. Later proceed to visit the Shri Govindaji Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna. This Vaishnavite center with shrines to Vishnu, Balaram, Krishna and Jagannath has regular performances of ceremonial dancing. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 14 - IMPHAL-AIZWAL
Morning after breakfast transfer to airport to board flight for Aizwal. Meeting on arrival and transfer to the hotel. Aizwal (Capital city of Mizoram), the residence of a small group of people who have been practicing Judaism for more than 25 years. They have not taken on a "new" religion. These people in fact have returned to the religion of their ancestors and call themselves Benei Menashe, or the descendents of the Tribe of Menashe, one of the lost tribes. Get introduced to members of the Jewish community to learn more from them about their practices and life. Rest of the time free to walk into the Bara Bazaar and admire the handicrafts of Aizwal and the vibrant colored fabric that they weave. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 15 - AIZWAL
Morning after breakfast visit the two synagogues in Aizwal and talk to the elders of the Jewish community. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 16 - AIZWAL- DELHI Fly via Kolkata
Morning free to relax. Early afternoon transfer to Airport to board flight for Delhi with a flight change at Kolkata. Meeting on arrival in Delhi and transfer to the hotel for overnight stay.

DAY 17 DELHI AGRA DELHI By Train Taj Mahal remain closed on Fridays
Early morning transfer to Railway Station to board superfast train for Agra. Meeting on arrival and commence full day Visit to Fatehpur Sikri, with its graceful palaces and its unique desert architecture and Agra Fort. During the afternoon visit to the Taj Mahal, you will learn about the Jewish influence during the Moghul period in India and the unknown Jewish connection to the Taj Mahal. On arrival in Delhi transfer to the hotel for overnight stay.

Day 18 At DELHI
Morning after relaxed breakfast at the hotel proceed to visit Old and New Delhi where you will visit India gate, President's House, Qutab Minar, Humayun Tomb, Red Fort, Raj Ghat and Jama Mosque. During your Delhi sightseeing tour you will also visit Judah Hyan Hall Synagogue. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 19 Depart Delhi
Transfer to the airport in time to board your homebound flight.

Bon Voyages

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