India has been on my mind lately. Maybe because I may have the opportunity to visit next year, or because of what seems to be a small influx of wonderful movies set in India. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" was simply delightful, not to mention "Outsourced" and I am looking forward to seeing "The Life of Pi."
Technically I have been to India, though I am not sure that two days in New Delhi enroute from Bangkok to Kabul, Afghanistan in the late '70s really counts! It did give me a taste of India, however, and speaking of taste, Indian food ranks as one of my very favorite cuisines.
I also have been doing webinars on India. Ananda Spa in the Himalayas looks breathtaking, as do all the Taj and Oberoi hotels. But more on those later.
In August, I attended the Virtuoso Luxury Travel and Adventure Show, which is the largest of its kind in the world. One of the meetings there really stands out in my mind. I met a very charismatic woman from India named Lakshmi Singh. She is a spiritual Sadhak (in modern usage, a Sadhaka is often used as a generic term for any religious practioner), who is also a Kumbh specialist; she was flown in especially for this conference by a well-respected travel company called Cox and Kings.
She will host a spiritual event of epic proportions that takes place every 12 years in the city of Allahabad in Northern India. This is the Maha Kumbh Mela and it is a pilgrimage of faith, salvation and hope for millions of Indians. The event in 2013 will be the largest gathering of humanity in a single place in all of history. More than 70 million people are expected to reach the holy city of Allahabad during the 56 days of the Maha Kumbh Mela.
The Kumbh Mela is a festival that celebrates and commemorates the triumph of the gods over the demons in the battle for "Amrit," the nectar of immortality. It is believed that taking a dip in the "Sangam" (the holy confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati) at Allahabad during the Kumbh Mela will cleanse a person of all their sins and grant an escape from the endless cycle of reincarnation by paving a path for salvation, or Moksha.
Lakshmi will host people for this event at a luxury tented-camp called Lakshmi Kutir. This camp is based on the premise of getting the guests to connect with the real, spiritual and holistic aspects of Maha Kumbh, and those related to Indian philosophy, mythology and wellness.
The camp is spectacularly located at the highest point of the Maha Kumbh, directly in line with the Sangam, or main bathing area, and overlooking the Akharas of the various sadhus, seers and religious personages. A special viewing terrace has been set up so guests can watch, if they want, the vast melee without leaving camp. The entire camp will be secured around the clock by trained security personnel.
There are three different levels of accommodations. Super luxury, luxury and accommodations for long-stay guests. All tents feature luxury amenities and all modern conveniences, including an in-suite bathroom.
Ayurveda spa treatments will be created especially to provide guests with therapies that use ancient Indian methods, as well as yoga and breathing exercises.
Excursions will provide guests with opportunities for photography and one-on-one interactions with sadhus and seers. A walking tour and a boat ride to the bathing areas and Sanam will be offered in small groups of six passengers.
Food, which is near and dear to my heart, will be integral to the whole experience. The menus will be prepared using fresh, organic produce grown in the private garden, and the traditional home recipes will be carefully prepared, keeping in mind the ancient Indian philosophy of Satvik food.
The experience that Cox and Kings have put together with Lakshmi for the Maha Kumbh Mela is three nights. Prior to this, people could spend time in Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. No visit to India should omit the Taj Mahal, the opulent forts of the Mughal Empire and the magnificent palaces in Rajasthan.
If you had time, you could travel to Ranthambore to see Bengal tigers and even extend your stay to see Bhutan and Nepal.
Those with limited time could even do a Himalayan helicopter safari.
The hardest thing, as with all big continents, is choosing where to go and how to fit it all in!
Rosie Holliday is an ex-pat Aussie and long-time local travel agent who owns Holliday Adventures, an affiliate of Andavo Travel, a Virtuoso agency. While she can and does book the world, her specialties are Australia, New Zealand and Africa. Reach her at 970-748-9818, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.hollidayadventures.com.