Rotary Polio Team – India:

10 to 23 November 2010




Destination Highlights

This trip offers a grand panorama of the fabulous art and sculpture produced by the ancient civilization of northern India. It will also present many of the amazing, colourful facets of life on the streets and in the countryside that make up the ever-changing, ever-lasting kaleidoscope of India.

Delhi: At the time when Bombay and Madras were just being established, Delhi had already been the capital of an empire for 500 years past. No fewer than eight cities have been built side by side on this site over the centuries. The city as it stands today has been built by Hindu, Muslim and British builders, and in a few minutes you can be transported from the neo-classical architecture of the elegant garden city of New Delhi to the narrow, twisting lanes that surround Chandni-Chowk in the old city.

Standing on a steep front of the Aravalli Hills, Sohna looks out on a wide panoramic view of the plains below. The early morning sounds in Sohna are dominated by the call of peacocks and the ringing the temple bells from the nearby town. Sohna is famous for its natural hot springs, and a basic sulphur and steam bath facility is available at the sulphur spring temple. A walk in the town reveals a warm intermingling of the rich Old Heritage of India with the sometimes garish New.


Mewat, land of the Meos, has its genesis in its tribal inhabitants, the Meo tribals, who are agriculturalists. The area is a distinct ethnic and socio-cultural tract. The Meos, who trace their roots to the early Aryans of North India, call themselves Kshatriyas and have preserved their social and cultural traits to a surprisingly large extent, unlike the other tribes of nearby areas. During the regime of the Tughlak dynasty in the 14th century A.D., these people embraced Islam but till today, they have maintained their age-old distinctive ethno-cultural identity. Meo men are tall and dark, with ponderous turbans woven around their heads, dressed in long flowing robes. The Meos are about a million-strong tribe, a Muslim Rajput community living in southern Haryana and north eastern Rajasthan known for its admixture of Hindu and Islamic customs, practices and beliefs. Only one in ten Meos is able to properly read and write. The Meos have two identities, both of which they are equally proud of. On the one hand, they claim to be Muslims, tracing their conversion to various Sufi saints who began settling in their territory from the eleventh century onwards, and whose shrines or 'dargahs' today dot the entire Mewati countryside. Almost every Meo village has a mosque, but in many places Meos also worship at Hindu temples.

The fortifications surrounding Jaipur give it a medieval atmosphere. The delicate honey-comb design of the ‘Palace of Winds' glows in the light of the setting sun. Quaint bazaars thrive around this edifice. High above the city, the towers and domes of the Amber Palace are reminiscent of scenes from a fairy tale. Indeed, Jaipur embodies all that you may have heard about the pomp and pageantry of India, its Maharajahs and their fabulous palaces, and the marvellously colourful drama of Life on its bustling streets.


At Agra, the Mogul Emperor Shah Jehan presented the world it’s most magnificent monument to conjugal Love. A colossal, perfectly proportioned mass of marble, the Taj Mahal is literally a jewel. It was fashioned over 17 years by 20,000 craftsmen & labourers. From a distance, it seems to float, like a fantastic mirage, upon the banks of the River Yamuna.

Allahabad is among the largest cities in Uttar Pradesh. Allahabad stands at the confluence of two of India’s holiest rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna. The Sangam, as the confluence is called, is the venue of many sacred fairs and rituals, and attracts thousands of pilgrims throughout the year. A third mythical Saraswati river, believed to flow underground towards the Sangam, gives the confluence its other name 'Triveni'.

Emperor Akbar founded this city in 1575 and called it by name of `Illahabas’, which has now become modern Allahabad. The monarch realized its strategic importance as a waterway landmark in North India and also built a magnificent fort on the banks of the holy Sangam. Over the centuries that followed, Allahabad remained on the forefront of national importance - more so, during the days of the Indian independence struggle. The chequered history of Allahabad with its religious, cultural and historical ethos also gave rise to several renowned scholars, poets, writers, thinkers, statesmen and leaders. The city was an important cantonment during the British Raj and has some beautiful remnants of colonial architecture. In the early 20th century, Allahabad University was the foremost centre of learning in the country. Allahabad, today is an important city where history, culture and religion create a confluence … much like the sacred rivers that caress this God-graced land.


The northern extreme of the Kaimur hills affords an impressive view from the invincible sandstone battlements of Chunar, that overlook a bend in the Ganges. Vikramaditya of Ujjain is said to be its earliest occupant, way back in 56 B.C. The fort has been in the control of many rulers from the Moghuls to the British down the centuries. Chunar sandstone has been used for the past many centuries, most famously in the making of the Ashokan Pillar, which was highly polished for sheen and longevity. Later, we will cruise in county sailboats for about 5-6 hrs down the Ganges, arriving in Varanasi just before sunset, in time for the evening arati on the Ganges.

Varanasi is probably the world’s oldest living city, contemporary of Babylon, Nineveh and Thebes. Here we will witness the colourful, ancient and sometimes amazing rituals performed on the banks of the river by thousands of devout pilgrims. Since time immemorial, millions of pilgrims arrive every year in Benaras, in search of salvation in the waters of the holy river Ganges. At the crack of dawn, they become a thousand spots of colour bathed in the golden waters of the Ganges. Yogis meditate in impossible positions. Brahmins sit under mushroom-like umbrellas, to bless everyone for a fee. Bursts of religious song mingle with the tolling of temple bells, and the rhythmic beat of washer-men pounding the city’s laundry.