A Jewish Heritage Tour of India

December 5-16, 2018 — Delhi / Agra / Jaipur / Mumbai / Pune

Itinerary: December 5 - 16, 2018

Cochin Post-Trip Extension: December 16 - 19, 2018

Day 1 - Wednesday 12/5

Arrival in Delhi

On arrival at International airport, you will be met and transported to the hotel (if you don’t participate in the pre-trip extension).

Overnight at Hotel Jaypee Vasant Continental.

Day 2 – Thursday 12/6


Breakfast at the hotel.

Proceed to visit Old Delhi.

Old Delhi pulses with energy and color, bursting with the sights, sounds and aromas of the Indian sub-continent. Enjoy thronged bazaars and a maze of narrow lanes which twist and turn between tall, leaning houses. In Old Delhi drive past Red Fort, surrounded by shops and bazaars (built by the Emperor Shah Jehan, the builder of Taj Mahal), In Chandni Chowk (Old Delhi's business nerve center), the hustle-bustle of everyday Indian life all around you, complete with chattering voices. Visit the Jama Masjid mosque with its tapering minarets and wonderful marble domes.

Muhammed Sa’id, more popularly known as Sarmad Kashani or Sarmad Shahid, was a 17th-century Sufi saint and poet of Armenian heritage. Famously beheaded by Aurangzeb for holding non-orthodox views on love, religion and spirituality, Sarmad lies in a tomb is just outside the Jama Masjid (in the spot where he is believed to have been executed), near Meena Bazaar.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

Later proceed for a short sightseeing tour of New Delhi, visiting Rashtrapati Bhawan (from the outside), Government buildings, India Gate and the Jewish Synagogue. Rashtrapati Bhawan, the official residence of the President of India, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and boasts 330 acres of grounds. Once the awe-inspiring residence of the British Viceroys, it is now the Presidential Palace.

A majestic 42-meter arch, the India Gate, was built as a memorial to the Indian soldiers killed in World War I. Return to the hotel.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Jaypee Vasant Continental.

Day 3 – Friday 12/7


Breakfast at hotel.

Day at leisure. Transport available.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

Afternoon visit to Synagogue Judah Hyam Hall established in 1956 in response to the small Delhi Jewish Community who used to hold prayers in their residences; prayers for the high holidays were held in the house of Mr. Baruch B. Benjamin, the First President of the Jewish Welfare Association of New Delhi. The hall also serves as a center for Jewish and interfaith studies. Attend Shabbat services.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Jaypee Vasant Continental.

Synagogue Judah Hyam Hall

Day 4 – Saturday 12/8

Delhi / Agra Drive, approximately 200 kms/5 hrs

Breakfast at hotel.

Drive to Agra, visiting Sikandra en route.

Lunch at a restaurant en route.

Akbar’s mausoleum at Sikandra: the construction of the mausoleum was begun by Akbar himself, and completed in 1613 by his son Jahangir. Architecturally, it is a synthesis of the bold masculine red sandstone structures built by Akbar and the delicately crafted white marble buildings of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The entrance is through a huge gateway that blocks the view of the tomb from outside.

The tomb is in the center of the Charbagh (Persian-style gardens laid out in four quadrants). The mausoleum is four stories, the first three of red sandstone and the one on the top in white marble. Inside, the original ceilings had frescoes in blue and gold. Some of these have recently been restored. Around the tomb you will find some interesting wildlife in the form of monkeys, deer and black bucks.

Later, continue to Agra and check in to the Hotel Trident.

In the evening enjoy the incredible Taj Mahal at sunset.

Taj Mahal: One of the wonders of the world, built by Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved consort Mumtaz Mahal, this beautiful mausoleum is pure white marble and an architectural marvel. Construction of the Taj began in 1631and was not completed until 1653. A total of 20,000 people worked on the building. The Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Turkish, Indian and Islamic architectural styles. While the white-domed marble mausoleum is most familiar, the Taj Mahal is an integrated complex of structures that was completed around 1648. Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is generally considered the principal designer of the Taj Mahal.

Return to the hotel.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Clarks Shiraz.

Taj Mahal

Day 5 – Sunday 12/9


Sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal.

Return to hotel for breakfast.

Later proceed to visit Agra Fort.

Agra Fort: Built by Emperor Akbar, the maze of courtyards, mosques and private chambers of the fort echo the story of the Mughal Empire. Construction of the massive fort began with Emperor Akbar in 1565, and additions were made until the time of his grandson, Shah Jehan. While in Akbar's time, the fort was principally a military structure, by Shah Jahan's time the fort had become partially a palace.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

Evening free for own independent activities.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Clark Shiraz.

Group at Taj Mahal

Day 6 – Monday 12/10

Agra / Jaipur Drive, approximately 230 kms /4 hrs

Breakfast at hotel.

Check out and drive to Jaipur, visiting Fatehpur Sikri en route.

Perched atop a rocky ridge 37 kilometers west of Agra, Fatehpur Sikri came into being four centuries ago when the Emperor Akbar created the first planned city in Indo-Islamic style. The city was built with great energy, but was completely abandoned a little more than a decade later. Fatehpur Sikri is built in red sandstone, and is a beautiful blend of Hindu and Islamic architectural elements. The sandstone is richly ornamented with carving and fretwork.

On arrival, check in to hotel.

Jaipur: The rose-pink capital of Rajasthan is surrounded on all sides by rugged hills crowned with forts. Enclosed by once-embattled walls, the city was built early in the eighteenth century. The Maharaja's palace stands in the center of the city amidst lovely gardens. Houses with latticed windows line the streets, their rose-pink color lending enchantment to the scene and almost magical at sunset. Jaipur is aptly called the “Pink City of India." It takes its name from the famous Maharana Sawai Jai Singh, who founded the city in 1728. A keen astronomer, he built an observatory which still exists and is equipped with masonry instruments of remarkable size.

Jaipur is famous for its garnets and rubies and its craftsmen, skilled in the art of cutting precious stones. It is equally well-known for brass inlay work, lacquer work and the printing of muslins.

Lunch en route.

Evening at leisure or for your own activities.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Clarks Amer.

Day 7 – Tuesday 12/11


Breakfast at the hotel.

After breakfast, proceed to the excursion to Amber Fort.

The fort-palace of Amber, 11 kilometers from Jaipur, is a fascinating blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Built in the 16th and early 17th centuries by Raja Man Singh and his successor, Jai Singh I, it sprawls dramatically on a hillside overlooking Maotha Lake. The white marble and red sandstone complex is laid out on four levels, each with its own courtyard.

The stunning Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) in the Jai Mandir, the Jas Mandir, Sukh Niwas and the shimmering gateway Ganesh Pol justify the ten-minute climb up the hill. The less energetic can make the journey riding a caparisoned elephant, in the manner of former kings and queens.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

Later in the afternoon, sightseeing in Jaipur, visiting City Palace, The Observatory and the Palace of Winds (Hawa Mahal).

The City Palace now houses a museum containing rare manuscripts, paintings and an armory.

The Observatory, built in the 17th century by Jai Singh, features a 90-foot-high sundial; the Museum amidst the Ram Niwas Palace Gardens was founded in 1876 and boasts a large collection of antiques.

The Palace of Winds, a landmark of Jaipur, is made of pink sandstone and is of unique design.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Clarks Amer.

Ride an elephant to visit the Maharaja palace

Day 8 – Wednesday 12/12

Jaipur / Mumbai
Flight 9W 7202 at 10:20. Arrival 11:55

Early breakfast at hotel.

Head for the airport for our flight to Mumbai.

On arrival in Mumbai, you will be met and taken to the Hotel Fariyaz.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

Time permitting, take a city tour, visiting Prince of Wales Museum and Mani Bhawan.

Prince of Wales Museum: The Prince of Wales Museum was built to commemorate King George V's first visit to India in 1905 while he was still Prince of Wales. It was designed in the Indo-Saracenic style and has sections for art and paintings, archeology and natural history. Among the more interesting items is a very fine collection of miniature paintings, images and bas-reliefs from the Elephanta caves, and Buddha images.

Mani Bhawan: This is the building where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his visits to Mumbai between 1917 and 1934. Today it has a pictorial exhibit of incidents in Gandhi's life and contains a library of books by or about the Mahatma.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Fariyaz.

Elephanta Caves

Gate of India

Day 9 – Thursday 12/13

Mumbai / Pune Train
Intercity Express (departs 06:45, arrives 09:57)

After an early breakfast, transfer to Mumbai CST railway station to board train to Pune.

On arrival in Pune, proceed to see the Jewish sites.

The area has an interesting Jewish history – in the early 19th century, Bene Israel military pensioners settled in Thane and Pune. Gradually, Baghdadi Jews shifted to Pune in small numbers including the well-known philanthropist David Sassoon. He built the Magnificent Synagogue with its tall, red spires rising high above the surrounding buildings. He passed away in 1864 and lies buried in the tomb here.

Visit Succath Shelomo Synagogue, established in 1921, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1919. Ohel David Synagogue, established in 1867, was built by the Sassoon family.

The Sassoon Hospital, built in 1867, still stands in its Gothic splendor.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

A must-see is the Raja Kelkar Museum, with its impressive assortment of about 17,000 artworks, bizarre musical instruments, strange locks, carved wooden doors and more. A delight for everyone.

Return to Mumbai by bus.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Fariyaz.

Ohel David Synagogue

Day 10 – Friday 12/14


Early morning, we’ll have tea and then visit Sassoon Docks, built by an influential family of Baghdadi Jews. The docks are bustling with activity in the mornings, as the day’s catch is bought and sold. It’s a great introduction to Mumbai’s traditional fisher-folk, an interesting community where the men fish, and the women handle the commercial transactions (they are expert negotiators!).

Return to hotel for breakfast. Check out and proceed to visit the synagogues.

Drive to the Gateway of India, and see the Fort Heritage District and the Kala Ghoda Art District. Among the beautiful buildings that we will visit in this district are the Kenneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, with its beautiful interiors, and the David Sassoon Library. Continue to the Chabad Center and learn about their work in India and the infamous terrorist attack on the center in 2012.

Next, visit the oldest synagogue in Mumbai, the Shaar Harahamim or Gate of Mercy Synagogue, built in 1796 by Samaji Hasaji Divekar (Samuel Ezekiel Divekar), a Bene Israeli. The street on which the synagogue is housed is also named Samuel Street after him.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

From here, we will drive to the Magen David Synagogue, a tall blue building with a Gothic feel that towers over all the other buildings in the area. We will visit the Sassoon Children’s school in the same compound.

From Magen David, drive to Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai’s unique outdoor laundry system. Attend Shabbat service and enjoy Shabbat meal with community members.

Overnight at Hotel Fariyaz.

Gate of Mercy Synagogue, oldest in the city

Magen David Synagogue

Magen David Synagogue

Day 11 – Saturday 12/15

Mumbai / Navagaon-Alibag Excursion, approximately 2 hours one way

After breakfast, excursion to Navagaon.

The Bene Israel story starts 2,100 years ago after a shipwreck stranded seven Jewish families from Judea at Navagaon near Alibag, just south of Mumbai. They were engaged in pressing oil and were nicknamed the shanivār telī ("Saturday oil-pressers") by the local population as they abstained from their work on Saturdays, Judaism's Shabbat. Bene Israel communities and synagogues are situated in Pen, Mumbai, Alibag, Pune and Ahmedabad, with smaller communities scattered around India. Mumbai had a thriving Bene Israel community until the 1950s to 1960s, when many families from the community immigrated to the State of Israel. The Bene Israel community has risen to positions of prominence in Israel. In India itself the Bene Israel community has shrunk considerably with many of the old synagogues falling into disuse. In Mala, Thrissur District, Jews have a synagogue and a cemetery. The bodies that washed ashore from the original shipwreck were buried in this Navagaon cemetery. There are no headstones, just a memorial that was constructed centuries later.

Lunch at local restaurant. Return to Mumbai hotel.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Fariyaz.

Day 12 – Sunday 12/16

Mumbai / Departure (for those not continuing on with post-trip extension to Cochin)

Breakfast at hotel. Day free for independent activities.

Lunch at a local restaurant. We’ll have our rooms until 1800 hours.

Transfer International airport to board flight for onward destination.

COCHIN Post-Trip Extension

Day 12 – Sunday 12/16

Mumbai/Cochin Flight 6E 143 at 08:30, arrival 10:30

Breakfast at hotel. In time you will be transferred to domestic airport to board flight to Cochin.

Arrive in Cochin. Lunch at airport hotel.

Visit to the Chendamangalam.

Located an hour from Cochin’s main town, Chendamangalam consists of a church, a temple, a mosque and the remains of a Jewish synagogue, all in close proximity, an ideal example of the ancient Indian tradition of religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. At Chendamangalam, apart from these historic sites, the place also a singular geography of three rivers, seven inlets, hillocks and vast expanses of green plains.

Drive to Trident Hotel and check in.

Afternoon visit:

Parur, the largest of Kerala’s synagogue compounds, is the most architecturally distinctive of the seven extant buildings, and is truly worthy of a visit. In the mid-1950s, most of the congregation immigrated to Israel, and the synagogue has not been an active place of worship since the mid-1970s. The building and property were not adequately maintained for the next thirty years, yet it represents the most complete and elaborate example of a Jewish house of prayer incorporating the many influences of building design and construction from this region of India. As its architecture was also shaped by various Jewish building traditions, a distinct and remarkable style of synagogue architecture can be experienced at Parur.

(The Synagogue is closed on Mondays.)

Dinner and Overnight at Hotel Killians.

Jewish Museum

Day 13 – Monday 12/17


After breakfast, we’ll take a city tour, which includes the Dutch Palace, St. Francis Church, and the Chinese fishing nets.

Cochin's historic Mattancherry district bustles with traders in tea, jute, rubber and spices, and is the area called Jew town, where we can see Mattancherry Palace, locally known as the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese and given as a gift to the Rajas of Cochin. The interior is adorned with fantastic and richly detailed 16th century murals that illustrate stories from the Ramayana.

Later: short sightseeing to the Paradesi Synagogue, Mattancherry.

Paradesi Synagogue, Mattancherry: More than 400 years old, the synagogue’s interior has curved brass columns, an intricately carved teak ark, Belgian crystal chandeliers and Torah crowns of solid gold set with gems. The floor has hand-painted porcelain tiles from Canton, each tile with a different pattern. The most prized possessions are two copper plates with details of privileges granted to the Jews during the reign of Bhaskara Ravi Varman in the 10th century. The four dials of the 45-foot clock tower have numerals in Hebrew, Latin, Malayalam and Arabic.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

Kadavumbhagam Synagogue: Situated at Broadway Market Ernakulam (city center), in the center of the crowded market area on west side of Market Road, this is one of two former synagogues in Ernakulam once serving the Malabari Jews. Similar to other Kerala synagogues, the building is constructed of locally quarried laterite stone, with block walls veneered in white-washed chunam (a polished lime plaster). The building’s two corners facing the street are broadly chamfered, so from the front Kadavumbhagam Synagogue is half-octagonal in form. The angled wall intersections are demarcated by rusticated quoins that for years have been painted a rust color. The building’s ground floor was used as a social hall and for overflow seating during Jewish high holidays and special occasions. On the second floor were rooms that served as a Jewish school when the congregation was active.

Visit St. Francis Church, which may have been built by Franciscan friars from Portugal, St. Francis was the model for many Christian churches in India.

Chinese fishing nets: The Chinese fishing nets are fixed land installations for an unusual form of fishing: shore-operated lift nets. Huge mechanical contrivances hold out horizontal nets of 20 meters or more across. Each structure is at least 10 meters high and comprises a cantilever with an outstretched net suspended over the sea, with large stones suspended from ropes as counterweights at the other end. Each installation is operated by a team of up to six fishermen. Enjoy the sunset view.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Killians.

Jew Street

Day 14 – Tuesday 12/18

Cochin / Mumbai Flight SG 164 at 12:00, arrival at 2:00 pm

Breakfast at the hotel.

Check out, and transfer to airport to board flight to Mumbai. Arrive in Mumbai and transfer to Hotel Fariyas.

In time you will be transferred to the international airport to board flight for onward destination if your flight is at night.

Day 15 – Wednesday 12/19

Check out after breakfast.

Best flights:
Toronto 21:15 – Delhi 21:40 / AC042
Mumbai 00:55 – Toronto 05:35 / AC047

Your Tour Leader

Ariel Goldstein was born in Uruguay, studied Latin American history in Montevideo and then studied tourism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has led tours throughout Israel, Europe, the Persian Gulf, Latin America, China, India, Africa and the United States. Ariel speaks Spanish, English, Hebrew and Portuguese. He traveled throughout India for three weeks in January 2014 and led the first JCCSF trip to India in December 2014.

Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.

Contact our travel experts for more details