Varanasi: Unity in Diversity (A) (3 nights)

KOC 413-201
  • Explore the religious complexities within India
  • Hear about “Religions of India” by a prominent local expert
  • Enjoy 2 nights in Varanasi – A hub of the Hindu religion
  • Visit Sarnath on the outskirts of Varanasi – an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists
  • Visit the famed Taj Mahal.
Program Overview
Country: India
Depart: 10/26/2017 0500
Return: 10/30/2017 0100
Duration: Overnight
Difficulty: Moderate
Capacity: Min 10 / Max 30
Category: ILLUMINATE: History / Culture
Program Fee
$1540 (early booking: $1464)

Field Class Conflicts
  • PHIL 171: Religions of the West
  • LB 171: World Literatures – The Modern Period
  • ANTH 100: Introductory Cultural Anthropology (Section 1)
  • IE 471: Children and Youth in Global Context
  • PSY 315 Social Psychology

Registration for overnight programs in India has closed. We are no longer accepting registration for this program

Explore how different religions co-exist harmoniously in India through this meaningful journey to Varanasi. Varanasi is not only a hub for the Hindu religion, but also the birthplace of Buddhism where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon in Sarnath. Get a glimpse into religious diversity in Delhi through a visit to the Lotus Temple of the Bhai faith, a Gurudwara (place of worship for Sikhs) and a Mosque. And because no travel to North India would be complete without it, put the cherry on top with a visit to the Taj Mahal!

On the first day, travel to Varanasi on an morning flight (transferring in Hyderabad). The following morning, become acquainted with the holy Ganges River on an early morning boat ride. Watch the sunrise and observe pilgrims taking a dip and performing Hindu rituals such as yoga and meditation. After breakfast, embark upon a  tour of Varanasi Sarnath where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. Here our lucky participants will have an exclusive meeting with a Buddhist Monk to learn more about the religion from a monk’s perspective and observe a small prayer ceremony. In the afternoon, attend a short talk on the religions of India with a focus on Hinduism by a prominent local expert. Later on, embark once more on a boat ride on the river Ganges to witness the evening prayer ceremony. Every evening, a very sacred aarti or ‘prayer to Mother Ganga’ is performed by specially-chosen priests. This is a passionate and divine journey as the music and the oil lamps create a trance-like experience. Voyagers will get the chance to float their own illuminated lamp down the river too!  This is a great opportunity to compare the religious activity happening on the river during both dawn and dusk.

The following morning, fly to India’s capital. Explore the living legacy of the Indo-Islamic culture & lifestyle in Old Delhi. Moghul emperor Shah Jahan transferred his capital from Agra to Delhi and laid the foundations of Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi. On a tour of the city, see the Raj Ghat, cremation ground of Mahatma Gandhi, the famous leader of the Indian Independence Movement. Travel past the Red Fort and proceed towards the Chandni Chowk market. There is no better way to observe this bustling part of the city in the afternoon than on a cycle rickshaw. Zoom through the narrow lanes and explore the little stalls teeming with food and other goods, experience the daily activities of the merchants, and observe the the local population going about its day. Meander through Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest spice market. The hundreds of spices and condiments for sale are arranged in neat colorful piles, making the entire market a visual treat. Participants will also see the Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque), India’s largest mosque, also built by Shah Jahan. Then visit a Gurudwara, a Sikh place of worship, and The Lotus Temple, a place of worship for people of the Bhai Faith.

The next day, travel to Agra to see the magnificent Taj Mahal! The Taj Mahal is credited with being the finest architectural achievement of the Moghuls, and maybe of mankind. Built over a period of 22 years by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1630, the Taj enshrines the mortal remains of his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Later experience Agra Fort. Agra Fort was built by three Mughal Emperors beginning with Akbar the Great in 1565 AD. It is a masterpiece of design and construction and includes a number of exquisite buildings such as the the Moti Masjid, Jahangir’s Palace, Khas Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Diwane-i-Am, Diwane-i-Khas and Musamman Burj, where the 5th Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan died as a prisoner. Later, after an early lunch, travel back to Delhi to board the return flight to Kochi. (This program will return to the ship after midnight and therefore is not an option for those with last day Field Classes.) 

“I liked the cultural experience we got. It was interesting to see how different the North and South of India are. I loved our experience at the Ganges. Probably the best part.” — Darian P., Spring ’17 Student Voyager

“I liked that it showed us more than just the tourist parts of India. Varanasi was definitely a culture shock, but it showed us a side of India I would never think of going to alone.” — Justine W., Spring ’17 Student Voyager


Day 1

  • Fly to Varanasi (via Hyderabad)
  • Dinner and overnight at hotel

Day 2

  • Early morning boat ride on River Ganges
  • Breakfast
  • Tour of Varanasi
  • Meeting with a Buddhist monk and prayer ceremony
  • Lecture on Religions of India with a focus on Hinduism
  • Evening boat ride on River Ganges to observe the evening Aarti
  • Dinner and overnight at hotel

Day 3

  • Fly to Delhi.
  • Tour of Delhi
  • Dinner and overnight at hotel

Day 4

  • Travel to Agra (~4hrs)
  • Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
  • Lunch
  • Travel back to Delhi (~4hrs)
  • Fly to Kochi (dinner on board) (return to ship very late– after midnight)

*Please note, times and activities are tentative and subject to change.

Meals Included

Day 1: dinner
Day 2: breakfast, dinner
Day 3: dinner
Day 4: lunch, dinner on plane

Special Note

  • This program requires A LOT of travel and very early departures and late arrivals.
  • This program is not scheduled to be back to the ship until ~1am on the last day in port and therefore, poses a conflict for those with last day Field Classes.
  • Removal of shoes is necessary when visiting places of worship in India. Please pack accordingly.

**The Taj Mahal has been undergoing restoration and will likely have scaffolding surrounding parts of the famous monument during the program. Though it won’t affect the itinerary, it may affect participants’ photos.**

  • Southern Facade, Southeast Minaret & Southwest minaret – expected completion AUG 2017
  • Northern Facade – expected completion OCT 2017
  • Western Facade – expected completion DEC 2017
  • Wall of Periphery, Sheesh Mahal – expected completion JAN 2018
  • Four Chhatris on the roof of the main mausoleum – expected completion APR 2018
  • Pinnacle and dome – expected completion NOV 2018