Celebrate Dussehra in Kolkata
September 26-30, 2017
Dussehra is the ultimate celebration of the victory of good against evil. Festivities honor an ancient legend in which the goddess Durga won a nine-day battle against the half-man, half-bull demon, Mahishasur. To add Dussehra to your Asia travels in ultimate style, take in the Durga Pooja in legendary city of Kolkata (Calcutta). The city’s Dussehra celebrations are renowned for its huge display of pandals, temporary, wooden structures erected across the city to house beautifully-painted, life-sized clay idols of the goddess in various stages of her legendary battle. Per local tradition, the idols are worshiped for the first five days and then immersed in water. Food stalls selling savoury snacks and ferris wheels, craft shops and cultural entertainment all add up to an unforgettable carnivalesque atmosphere.
Witness Onam in Kerala
August 26-September 4, 2017
The harvest festival of Onam is Kerala's most iconic annual celebration. The festival is marked by grand feasts, boisterous dance and music and traditional snake-boat races. Like most Indian holidays, the celebration also has mythological underpinnings. It focuses on honoring King Mahabali, a mythological character who reigned during Kerala “golden age” and now dwells in the netherworld and visits his subjects each year. ATJ’s unique approach to cultural luxury travel in Asia allows you to experience the festivities first-hand with a local guide.
Feel the Beat at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF) in Jodhpur
October 5-9, 2017
The Rajasthan International Folk Festival is set against the incredible backdrop of the Mehrangarh Fort under the brightest full moon of the year. The UNESCO-recognized festival may well be the highlight of your Asia travels. It attracts artists and audiences from far and wide, brought together by their love of folk music, and supports sustainable development.
Honor Diwali like a local
October 19-23, 2017
India’s best-known festival is celebrated throughout the country with lamps and candles lit to symbolizes the victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair, but the details differ by location. Traveling during this time is a perfect way to highlight the cultural variety of your luxury travel in Asia. For example, in north India, festivities focus on the mythical victory of Lord Rama against the demon-king, Ravana. Costumed, streetside performers enact the legend to the delight of locals and visitors alike. The Goddess Laxmi, deity of wealth and prosperity, is also given top billing in the north. In her honor, card games and gambling are common evening activities, along with exchanging gifts, feasting on sweetmeats and firecrackers. In south India, the traditions are simpler and more austere. The holiday is honored with early morning oil baths, the wearing of new clothes, prayer rituals, festively decorating one's home and dining on savoury snacks.
Join the locals at the Uthralikavu Pooram in Wadakkancherry
March 21, 2017
Join the locals of the small town of Wadakkancherry, Kerala in celebrating the yearly Uthrallikkavu Pooram (pooram is the term used locally to describe festivals honoring the divine forms of Durga or Kali). During this exuberant celebration, processions of caparisoned elephants are fitted with gold-plated headgear and their riders, carrying silken parasols, sway in rhythm as traditional musicians serenade the crowds. The festival culminates in the joyful reuniting of three sister goddess icons who reside in Wadakkancherry and two nearby villages and are transported to the festival ground atop the festival’s three tallest elephants. This festival is visited on our luxury small group tour: Temples, Tea & Spice
Travel expert recommendations
Experience History in Motion (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India)
Witness the three-millennia-old aarti ceremony that takes place at the Assi ghat each evening. This blessing is an offering to the gods in which Hindu holy men light candles and oil lamps, play music, ring bells and chant. Per ATJ’s style of providing culturally immersive luxury travel in Asia, you will enjoy the perfect vantage point from a private boat, afloat in the ganges—the best way to take in the incredible scene in relative seclusion
Buy (and Donate) a Camel at the Pushkar Camel Fair (Pushkar, Rajasthan, India)
Drawing livestock traders from all over Rajasthan, the Pushkar Camel Fair is something akin to an India county fair, complete with Ferris wheels, carnival vendors and street performers. But, in true India fashion, this fair also contains deep spiritual significance—the lunar calendar dictates the date of the yearly festival, thus transforming a mere livestock show into an auspicious spiritual confluence of human and beast ordained by the heavens. Mystics, priests, musicians and villagers in their Sunday best from every corner of the region rub shoulders with the camel-wallahs and livestock traders in a colorful hodgepodge of activity. In a central arena, horse and camel races are held. This festival is visited on our luxury small group tour: Treasures of India
Wake Up with India’s City (Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)
Sometimes all it takes is a different vantage point to set your Asia travels apart from the pack. Very early in the morning, set out on a Mumbai-by-Dawn tour for insights into what makes this magnificent city tick. The tour starts with the newspaper vendor distribution network. See hundreds of newspaper vendors sitting on the street and sorting out newspapers based on seven-to-eight different local languages (most of these vendors are illiterate!). Then proceed with your guide to the local market to watch Mumbai men and women bargain with wholesale fruit and vegetable vendors to pick up fresh produce for their day ahead. Walk to the Sassoon docks, Mumbai's first and oldest wet dock, and see how 10-20 tons of fish arrive in the city every day. And then to the flower market where wholesale traders ready themselves for a busy day ahead. With over two tons of Marigold, Jasmine, Daisies, Lotuses, Spider Orchids etc. being sold to florists, event managers, garland makers and individual people daily, this market is melee of color and unending flurry.
India hosts the world’s largest festival, the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu gathering that attracts crowds of up to 100 million!
India's 2014 Mars Mission costs less per kilometre than an auto-rickshaw ride
The population of India is greater than that of the entire Western Hemisphere
Indian housewives own 11% of the world's gold (in the form of intricate jewelry). That is more than the reserves of the US, IMF, Switzerland and Germany put together.
Cuisine & Recipe
Whenever an ATJ staff member returns from their Asia travels to India, they know to have spices in tow. Several of us are aficionados of India’s iconic Masala Chai (spicy, sweet milk tea) and we know the only way to capture the authentic flavor is by starting with high-quality whole spices. They don’t have to be hand-carried from India, your local spice shop or well-stocked grocery store will do.
Masala Chai Spice Mix (makes about 1 cup spice mix)
4 Tbs. whole cardamom pods
1 ½ Tbs. whole black peppercorns
1 Tbs. whole cloves
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
¼ cup ground ginger
Use a clean coffee grinder or small food processor to grind the cardamom, peppercorns and cloves to a coarse powder. Add to cinnamon and ginger, and mix well. Store in an airtight container.
Perfect Masala Chai (makes 2 cups tea)
1 cup whole milk (substitute coconut milk for dairy-free)
1 cup water
1 tsp. Masala Chai Spice Mix (from recipe above)
1 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. tea leaves (tear open tea bags, if you don’t have loose tea on hand)
Put milk, water, Masala Chai Spice Mix and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes and then add tea leaves and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes and then move to heat to cool slightly. Pour tea through a strainer into cups. Drink hot or chill for an iced chai latte.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.
In this smart, heartfelt, and beautifully written book, sure to please fans of transporting travel narratives and personal memoirs alike, Lisa Napoli discovers that the world is a beautiful and complicated place—and comes to appreciate her life for the adventure it is.