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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

Study tours

India: Vast, Various, and Vibrant

January 1-20, 2018

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Please note that the dates for this study tour have been adjusted slightly as we've tightened and upgraded the itinerary. We will leave the U.S. one day earlier—on January 1—and leave India either very late on January 19 or very early on January 20.

Welcome to India, land of vital contradictions. The world's most populous democracy, India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world—and one-third of the world's poor. Eighty percent Hindu, it is a steadfastly secular country. Deeply agrarian, its urban populations are second only to China's. We'll encounter many such complexities as we explore remarkable cities, villages, marketplaces, palaces, and temples that dot India's fascinating landscapes.

After visiting Delhi and Agra, we'll travel by bus and train to Punjab, where we'll visit Amritsar, home to the Sikh Golden Temple, and Chandigarh, Le Corbusier's modernist capital city. In Rajasthan we'll take in the haunting landscapes of the Great Indian Desert and the "Blue City" of Jodhpur, with its imposing fifteenth-century Rajput fort and superb Jain temple. Finally, we'll fly to Mumbai, India's cosmopolitan melting pot, with its Victorian Gothic and Art Deco architecture, bustling film industry, and humming streets.

We'll be led by Porus Olpadwala, professor emeritus of city and regional planning and dean emeritus of Cornell's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, whose themes will be India's political economy, economic development, and the built environment. Throughout, Porus and his wife, Deenaz, will lend a warm personal flavor to our tour as they reflect on changes to their homeland.

Porus Olpadwala

Porus Olpadwala is professor emeritus of city and regional planning at Cornell and dean emeritus of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. He also served as the Dale R. Corson professor and dean of the Hans Bethe House and... > more

Program notes

  • Download the program itinerary.
  • Double occupancy: $11,130 per person.
  • Single supplement: $2,514 per person.
  • See What's included?
  • See Travel links and resources.
  • Fitness scale: Slightly strenuous. May require extended walking over uneven ground as well as the ability to climb stairs and to stand for considerable periods of time.

Preliminary itinerary

Note: We will have group breakfasts at the hotels each day. In addition, you will enjoy many group lunches and dinners. Meals will be posted to the itinerary as soon as we've determined which will be provided and which will be independent.

January 3: Arrive in Delhi

Upon arrival at Delhi airport, we will be met by a tour representative, who will transfer us to the hotel.

After checking in at the hotel and being briefed on the following day's program, we will enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

Imperial Hotel

January 4: Delhi

Following breakfast at the hotel, Porus Olpadwala will give his first lecture.

At 10:00 a.m., we'll meet our tour guide in the hotel lobby and proceed on a full-day sightseeing tour of Old Delhi.

In the seventeenth-century walled city of Shah Jahanabad, we'll visit the Red Fort. Then, by a rickshaw ride through Chandi Chowk (the old marketplace and now a picturesque bazaar), we'll visit the great Jama Masjid, the principal mosque of Old Delhi. Built in 1656 AD by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahanam, it is the largest mosque in India.

In the afternoon we will visit Gandhi Samadi, a memorial to Mahatma Ghandi. We will also take in Humayun's Tomb, the memorial to Mughal Emperor Humayun, built in 1562. The complex is a World Heritage site and the first example of this type of Mughal architecture in India. Qutub Minar, built in the year 1206 by Qutub-ud-din Aibek, is a 240-foot-tall tapering tower with a diameter measuring 47 feet.

Time allowing, we may enjoy some shopping at Delhi Haat and/or the Khan Market on the way back to the hotel.

Imperial Hotel

January 5: Delhi

After breakfast, we'll embark on a full-day sightseeing tour of New Delhi.

We'll begin with a visit to Qutub Minar, a minaret begun in the twelfth century, and Gandhi Smriti, a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. Then we'll drive past India Gate, a memorial built in 1931 to commemorate the Indian soldiers who died in World War I and the Afghan Wars. We'll see that the names of these soldiers are inscribed on the walls of the President's House, built in 1931. Until 1950 it was known as Viceroy's House and served as the residence of the Governor General of British India. On this drive, we will also see Parliament.

Imperial Hotel

January 6: Amritsar

We'll check out of the hotel in the early morning with a boxed breakfast provided by the hotel and transfer to Delhi airport to catch our 8:35 flight to Amritsar.

Upon arrival at the Amritsar airport, we will be met by a tour representative, who will transfer us to the Taj Amritsar Hotel. Once settled, we will visit Jallianwala Bagh, the site of the Amritsar massacre in April 1919 of more than 1,000 non-violent protesters by the British Indian army.

In the evening, following an afternoon at our leisure, we will visit the stunningly beautiful Golden Temple, known as Harminder Sahib. Its foundation was laid by Guru Ram Das in the fourteenth century. It is the most holy place for Sikhs, and people of any faith are welcome to worship here. With the largest kitchen in the world, it feeds between 100,000 and 300,000 people a day. While there, we have to keep our heads covered with scarves or handkerchiefs and remove our shoes at the entrance.

Taj Amritsar Hotel

January 7: Amritsar

After breakfast and Porus's second lecture, we'll meet our tour guide and head off on full-day sightseeing tour of Amritsar.

After a morning return to the Golden Temple, we'll visit the Saragarhi Memorial Gurudwara and learn about the Battle of Saragarhi, fought between the British Indian Army and Afghan Orakzai tribesmen. It has gone down in history as one of the fiercest last stands ever.

We'll also take in Durgiana Temple, dedicated to Goddess Durga, and the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum, with its landscaped garden and summer palace of the Maharaja, as well as Panorama in Ram Bagh. The museum features relics of the Mughal era and sketches and portraits of the ruling Sikhs.

In the evening we'll visit the Wagha Border, where India and Pakistan meet eight kilometers from Amritsar. The border security forces from both countries change the guard and hoist and lower the flags with extraordinary precision, sights you should not miss.

Taj Amritsar Hotel

January 8: Amritsar to Chandigarh

After breakfast, we'll check out of the hotel and proceed to Chandigarh by a drive of approximately five hours. En route we'll enjoy a comfort stop for tea or coffee.

Upon arrival in Chandigarh in the early afternoon, we'll check into Vivanta by Taj.

In the afternoon we'll visit Le Corbusier's government complex. Chandigarh is one of the world's most remarkable urban creations: a purposefully built city designed in the 1950s by Le Corbusier. After Partition in 1947, India's state of Punjab needed a new capital, Lahore having been ceded to Pakistan—so prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru commissioned the great Swiss–French exponent of modernism to devise a completely new city, expressive of the country's faith in the future. The result is a masterpiece in concrete—and green spaces, too. It's a very livable place loved locally for its wide avenues and parks.

Vivanta by Taj

January 9: Chandigarh to Agra

After breakfast, we'll check out of the hotel, meet our driver, and head to Agra on an approximately seven- or eight-hour drive. En route we'll enjoy a comfort stop for tea and coffee.

In the afternoon we'll visit Sikandra. The sandstone and marble tomb of Akbar lies in the center of a serene garden at Sikandara, four kilometers northwest of Agra. The mausoleum blends Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Christian motifs and styles in tribute to Akbar's philosophy and secular outlook.

Upon arrival in Agra, we'll check into the ITC Mughal Hotel. After settling in, if time allows, we'll visit Agra Fort, the residence of the Mughal emperors until 1638, when the capital moved from Agra to Delhi. The crescent-shaped fort is enclosed by its twenty-meter-high outer walls. It contains a maze of buildings forming a small city within a city.

Before sunset we'll visit the Taj Mahal. Little needs to be said about this architectural wonder, which is the raison d'etre for every tourist's visit to Agra. Built by Shah Jahan, the Taj is a white marble memorial to his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. Designed and planned by Persian architect Ustad Isa, this monument took twenty-two years to complete. Apart from its stunning balance of design and its perfect symmetry, the Taj is also noted for its elegant domes, intricately carved screens, and some of the best inlay work in the world.

ITC Mughal Hotel

January 10: Agra

We'll return to the Taj Mahal in the early morning to watch the sun rise, then return to the hotel for breakfast.

At 11:00 a.m. we'll leave for Fatehpur Sikri, a drive of approximately one hour. Fatehpur Sikri is the wonderful antique city near Agra created by Akbar, the famous Mughal emperor. Though it served as the Mughal capital for only ten years, it is an architectural wonder and a model for successive Mughal communities. Akbar was enthusiastic about his forbear Timur's Persian courts, an interest that shows up in the designs of this community of buildings, as do the influence of Jain and Hindu architecture in the red sandstone structures.

We'll tour the Agra Fort, if there was not time the day before, and in the evening we'll head to the Kalakriti Cultural and Convention Center to see a dance drama depicting the story of the making of the Taj Mahal. This multilingual show also displays a large replica of the Taj Mahal, with multicolored lights showing its moods through the day and night.

ITC Mughal Hotel

January 11: Agra to Jodhpur

After breakfast, we'll check out of the hotel and travel to Jodhpur, an approximately ten- to eleven-hour drive. We'll enjoy sightseeing and comfort stops on the way.

Upon arrival in Jodhpur, we'll check into the Vivanta by Taj Hotel.

Jodhpur is a popular tourist destination, featuring many palaces, forts, and temples. Set in the stark landscape of the Thar Desert, it is called both the Sun City for its year-round sunshine and the Blue City for the blue-painted houses around the Mehrangarh Fort.

We'll do some evening shopping if time allows.

Vivanta by Taj

January 12: Jodhpur

After breakfast at the hotel and Porus's third lecture, we'll meet our tour guide and go off for a full-day sightseeing tour of Jodhpur City, beginning with the Mehrangarh Fort.

One of the largest forts in India, the Mehrangarh Fort has seven gates, including two with Indian names meaning "victory," one built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over the Jaipur and Bikaner armies and another by Maharaja Ajit Singh to mark the defeat of the Mughals. The palm imprints upon these still attract much attention.

We'll visit the Jain Temple and take the Water Walk at the Bijolai Palace, a unique learning experience designed to provide first-hand information about traditional water harvesting techniques. It's a crash course in understanding the brilliant technology and rainwater wisdom developed over millennia in the desert. It demonstrates a traditional water harvesting system combined with the modern knowledge.

We'll do some evening shopping, if there wasn't time for this on the previous day.

Vivanta by Taj

January 13: Jodhpur to Udaipur

After breakfast, we'll check out of the hotel and proceed to Udaipur, a drive of approximately six and a half hours. En route, we'll visit the spectacular Ranakpur Jain Temple.

In the afternoon we'll check into the breathtaking Taj Lake Hotel in Udaipur—truly a highlight of our adventure. Udaipur has many beautiful attractions, such as enormous marble palaces, enchanting lakes, beautiful green gardens, and ancient temples.

We'll enjoy a special session with artists who specialize in miniature painting, a style that evolved and flourished in the royal courts of Rajasthan.

In the evening we'll take a boat ride on Lake Pichola.

Taj Lake Hotel

January 14: Udaipur to Ahmedabad

After breakfast, we'll check out from hotel, meet our tour guide, and head out for a full-day sightseeing tour of Udaipur City.

We'll visit the Jagdish Temple, one of the famous temples of Udaipur. Built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1651 and located in the City Palace complex of Udaipur, this temple is made in the Indo-Aryan style of architecture. Its garden features famous lush green lawns, marble art and fountains, and a delightful lotus pool.

Situated on an island in the middle of Lake Fateh Sagar, the Udaipur Solar Observatory hosts the largest telescope in the country. The inside isn't accessible to the public.

In the early afternoon we'll depart for Ahmedabad, a drive of approximately four to five hours. We'll have a comfort stop en route for tea and coffee.

Upon arrival in Ahmedabad, we'll check into the Hyatt Regency.

Hyatt Regency

January 15: Ahmedabad

After breakfast and Porus's fourth lecture, we'll meet our tour guide and proceed on a full-day sightseeing tour of Ahmedabad City.

We'll visit the Indian Institute of Management and four Le Corbusier buildings, then tour Sabarmati Ashram, home of Mahatma Gandhi. Though a museum now, no longer an ashram, we'll be able to see and feel how Bapu led his life. The main objective of this museum is to preserve and nourish Gandhi's legacy.

We'll take in the Jhulta Minara, also known as shaking minarets, located in the Sidi Bashir Mosque. Interestingly, when you shake one of the three stories of a minaret, the other two stories and the minaret starts shaking too.

Hyatt Regency

January 16: Ahmedabad to Mumbai

After breakfast, we'll check out of the hotel, meet our driver, and transfer to the airport to catch our flight to Mumbai.

Upon arrival at the Mumbai airport, we'll transfer to the Trident Nariman Pont Hotel.

In the afternoon, we will have a guest lecture, followed by a reception with the Cornell Alumni Association of Mumbai.

Trident Nariman Point Hotel

January 17: Mumbai

After breakfast, we'll meet our tour guide and head off on a sightseeing tour of Mumbai City.

We'll visit the Jain Temple, followed by a photo stop at Hanging Gardens, where we'll have an excellent view of the city. We'll drive past the Parsi Tower of Silence for a photo stop at Dhobi Ghat, the open-air Indian laundry—still popular with the citizens despite the advent of the modern washing machine.

We'll take the Heritage Walk and the Art Deco Drive, noting the Somaiya Vidyavihar campus. We'll visit Mani Bhavan, a museum that was Gandhi's Mumbai residence from 1917 to 1934. Then we'll drive through the business districts of South Mumbai, passing by monuments built during the British era—the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (Victoria Terminus), Mumbai University, the High Court, and the Prince of Wales Museum—before returning to the pier, with a brief photo stop at the Gateway of India.

We'll board a local train for a brief ride to Churchgate Station. Local trains of Mumbai are the lifeline of the city, carrying as many as a million people to work each day.

At Churchgate Station, we'll watch the activity of the famous dabbawalas, known for their accurate delivery of lunch boxes to thousands of people residing in the suburbs of Mumbai and coming to work in the city. Though the work sounds simple, it is actually a highly specialized trade that is over a century old and integral to Mumbai's culture. The dabbawalas' main customers are Indian businessmen, and the service often includes cooking as well as delivery. The organization has Six Sigma Certification from Forbes.

In the afternoon there is an optional visit to the Happy Home and School for the Blind.

Trident Nariman Point Hotel

January 18: Mumbai to Aurangabad

In the early morning, we'll transfer to Mumbai airport for our flight to Aurangabad. Upon arrival at Aurangabad airport, we'll transfer to the Vivanta Taj Hotel.

We'll take an excursion tour to Ellora Caves. The caves are over 2,000 years old and consist of temples and monasteries hewn from rocks by Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks and craftsmen. Ellora is a World Heritage Site and represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The thirty-four "caves" are actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills. The twelve Buddhist, seventeen Hindu, and five Jain caves, built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history. It is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll visit Daulatabad Fort.

Vivanta by Taj Hotel

January 19: Aurangabad to Mumbai to U.S.

After breakfast, we'll check out of the hotel, meet our tour guide, and set out on a full-day sightseeing tour of Ajanta Caves, approximately three hours away. The caves are cut from the volcanic lava of the Deccan Traps in a steep crescent-shaped hillside in a forested ravine of the Sahyadri Hills. These caves are older than those at Ellora, consisting of twenty-four monasteries and temples hewn out of solid rack. The wall paintings and frescoes of these caves have a wealth of colors.

We will proceed to the Civic-cum-Cultural Complex, a gallery of local art and crafts and a shopping complex. Then, after freshening up at the hotel, we'll enjoy a local city sightseeing tour. We'll visit Bibi Ka Maqbara, a tomb situated about three kilometers from the city. The burial place of Aurangzeb's wife, Rabia-ud-Durrani, the tomb is an imitation of the Taj and is popularly known as the Mini Taj of the Deccan.

In the late afternoon we'll transfer back to the Aurangabad airport to catch our flight to Mumbai. Upon arrival at the Mumbai airport, we will have dinner at an airport hotel.

After dinner, we'll return to the airport to catch our flights back home late at night on January 19 or early in the morning on January 20.

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