Please join us on this pilgrimage through India. During this program, we will engage with spiritual teachers from vibrant Hindu communities, explore magnificent temples, experience the dynamism of India, and walk in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who have come before us.
During our time together, we will form a community that is predicated on a kind and mindful orientation towards ourselves and others. Our expert guides and teachers will help to create a container that is supportive and nourishing as we explore the rich history of the yoga traditions of India.
As with all of our pilgrimages, the focus of this program is two fold, First, we will explore the locations we visit--Delhi, Agra, Vrindavan, Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, and Puri--soaking in the sites, sounds, smells and tastes. And, secondly, we will use each sacred site to explore our inner worlds through daily meditation, yoga practice, Dharma discussion, and more.
Sacred Path’s Principles of Pilgrimage
Each of the sites we will visit--Delhi, Vrindavan, Varanasi, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Puri, and Konark--are breathtaking and filled with dynamism, holding a unique place in Indian history and Hindu mythology. Below are brief descriptions of each place along with highlights about how we will spend our time there.
The city where lord Krishna was born, Mathura is visited by millions of pilgrims each year, dedicated to immersing themselves within the divine love that Krishna taught. Temples pervade the city, celebrating his life, as well as his wife-consort Radha and the countless saints who have visited throughout history. Of particular significance, the Krishna Janmasthan Temple commemorates the spot of Krishna's birth. The sister-city of Mathura, Vrindavan is also filled with inspiring temples and virbrant communities that represent the rich Hindu traditions. Vrindavan has welcomed pilgrims since the time of Krishna's life. Serving as the epicenter for numerous contemporary communities devoted to lord Krishna, Vrindavan remains a vibrant spiritual center. Perhaps most well-known of these communities is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON), affectionally referred to as the Hare Krishna movement. During our time here, we will visit these communities and learn about their practices.
Located on the banks of the Ganges river, Varanasi is the most sacred city in India--today and throughout history. Its mythological origins begin when lord Shiva is said to have founded the city after defeating lord Brahma in cosmological battle. Also known as Kashi (the city of light) and Banares, Varanasi played a major role during each of the major periods of Indian history. It is where countless spiritual teachers have preached, including the historical Buddha who gave his first sermon on the four noble truths here. The city holds a vital place in the hearts of Hindu devotees who travel here from far and wide to cremate the bodies of their loved ones. While in this inspiring city, we will: explore the ancient Kashi Vishwanath and other temples; visit with local spiritual teachers and scholars who will introduce us to the profound history of the city; take a boat ride along the Ganges, providing a birds-eye view of the spiritual practices people engage in; and visit Deer Park where the Buddha gave his first sermon.
There are numerous ways to etymologize the name Kolkata. Most historians believe it is connected with the Hindu deity Kali. This is exemplified by Kalighat Kali Temple, this central place of worship in the city. Kalighat is considered to be one of the most powerful Shakti Peetas, or sacred sites of feminine energy, in all of India. Kolkata was also home to the East Indian Company for over 150 years and is considered by many to be the cultural capital of contemporary India. This deeply inspirational history, combined with the current vibrancy found today, make this city deeply inspirational to visit. While here, we will explore the multi-textured nature to this inspiring metropolis. Our time will include: visits to sacred sites, such as Kalighat mentioned above; encounters with living Hindu masters who embody the transformative faiths that inspire us; as well as soak in the cosmopolitan culture found in Kolkata today.
Deriving its name from lord Shiva, Bhubaneswar is the modern-day capital of Odisha (formerly Orissa). Historically, it sits at the confluence of three major Indian religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is the location, for example, of the famed battle during which King Ashoka, the Mauryan emperor, renounced his violent ways and adopted Buddhism as his religion. The pinnacle of the city's history came during the Kalinga dynasty during the ninth to thirteenth centuries. During this time, countless temples were built, with the most iconic being the Lingraja temple. Commemorating lord Shiva with a lingum (phalic symbol) in its center, this temple is visited by pilgrims from throughout south Asia. During our time in Bhubaneswar, we will: visit this and other sacred temples; stroll through the battlefield in Dhauligiri where Ashoka converted to Buddhism; visit with local artists; and receive teachings from local spiritual masters.
Home to the famed Jagannath temple, Puri is one of the four abodes (Char Dam) in the Viashnavite tradition of Hinduism. Each of these locations is said to facilitate moksha, or liberation, on the spiritual path. In turn, pilgrims have visited this destination for thousands of years. Today, Puri is the city of festivals, hosting over twenty-four internationally attended spiritual gatherings a year, many of which date as far back as the turn of the common era. The vibrancy of these festivals and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims can be felt in the temples, as well as the profound works of art that are produced in Puri. During our time here, we will absorb ourselves in the multi-faceted spirituality that defines this place through a range of contemplative and reflective activities. Additionally, we will visit local ashrams to participate in their daily routine of worship and devotion.
The ancient Sun Temple of Konark has been visited by pilgrims for thousands of years. Sitting on the Bay of Bengal, some thirty-five kilometers north-east of Puri, the temple is situated on the far-Eastern shore of India. Its central deity, Surya, is the sun God, one of the earliest known deities in the earliest Vedas. The temple itself is built in the form of a chariot, dedicated to Surya. The temple is covered with reliefs of master-quality depictions of gods and goddesses of all kinds. Some historians believe that Konark is mentioned in the Puranas (early Vedic commentaries) under the name of Mundira. Regardless, this place is pregnant with spiritual energy due, in large part, to the countless pilgrims who have visited it over the centuries. While here, we will take our time and appreciate the profound quality of the Hindu faiths that worship here today.
Dr. Mary Storm, Theresa Murphy, and Yogesh Wadhwa bring decades of experience and deep, embodied expertise about the region and traditions we will explore. Mary has lived in south Asia for nearly two decades, serving as program director for the School of International training and guiding numerous groups around India. Theresa, a yoga instructor for over twenty years, has a deep knowledge of both the embodied and contemplative traditions of South Asia. And, Yogesh has an unparalleled knowledge of the region, extensive experience working with visitors to India, and a caring, supportive demeanor.
Dr. Storm has lived in France (she has a Grand Diplome from Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris), conducted research in Japan, and lived and worked in India for many years; she now lives in Sri Lanka with her husband. She has roamed the back roads of India from West Bengal to Rajasthan, and from Ladakh to Tamil Nadu, in search of archaeological adventure. When forced to explain she says that her work focuses on the archaeological side of art history or the art historical side of archaeology. She has completed a number of research projects at primary archaeological sites, mainly in South India, where she has made some modest, but significant discoveries in the field of archaeology. She has been the recipient of various grants including the Dickson Foundation Fellowship for Art History.
When not teaching, researching, or writing, she spends her time admiring her chickens and vegetable garden. Sometimes she gets the urge to paint, and is proud to report that her watercolour paintings are exhibited on refrigerator doors throughout the world. She has published numerous articles on Indian art history and is the author of Head and Heart: Valour and Self-Sacrifice in the art of India, Routledge, 2013.
Through her studying, practicing and teaching yoga, Theresa has developed a profound understanding of both the theory and practice. Throughout this program, she will provide guided yoga and meditation sessions, as well as lectures on how we can understand the yogic traditions of India in a contemporary context.
Yogesh enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures through travel and food. When he is not leading and organizing travel programs, Yogesh loves reading, playing badminton, cooking and enjoying a good game of chess. He currently resides in the princely state of India- Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur.
As with all Sacred Path programs, this program embraces the native environment and cultural surroundings participants will encounter in a way that enhances the experience of everyone involved. Furthermore, participants will engage in experiential learning processes that bring them closer into contact with themselves and their surroundings.
In the spirit of Sacred Path’s integrated-learning model, this program incorporates a variety of teaching, contemplative, and relational methods aimed at drawing out the maximum benefit for the participants involved. They include:
- Teaching: Both members of the program leadership, as well as local experts will provide information about the places, people, and practices we encounter.
- Yoga/meditation: At each sacred site, Theresa will guide sessions of yoga, inspired by the places and people we visit, as well as guided and silent meditation, aimed at uniting one’s mind and body in the most healthy and productive way possible.
- Relational methods: In order to create a safe container for participants to engage in, the program guides will facilitate active-learning exercises, such as writing/journaling, small group work, interviews, and more. Often the stimuli of these locations can be overwhelming and the intention with these exercises is to provide spaces that help participants’ digest their experience.
***All hotels listed are subject to change***
Day 1 (lodging: Lutyens Bungalow): We will convene as a group on the first day around lunch time for an informal gathering. Afterwards, our leadership team will facilitate an orientation, which will provide essential information on how to get the most out of our trip. During the afternoon/early evening, we will venture into the city and visit Raj Ghat, the memorial of Indian revolutionary, Mahatma Gandhi. Set along the Yamuna river, this memorial is deeply contemplative and we will use our time here to orient to India’s place in contemporary history. In the evening, we will return to the hotel for some rest, relaxation and an evening meditation session.
Day 2 (lodging: Lutyens Bungalow): On the morning of our first full-day together, Theresa will continue the intention setting activities from the evening before, highlighting how orienting the heart-mind toward self-discovery is the essence of pilgrimage. Once this intention is solidified, we will head out into Delhi for more adventure.
During the morning, we will visit Humayan’s Tomb, an UNESCO World Heritage Site and great example of Mughal architecture. While here, Mary will provide an introduction to Delhi’s place in Indian history, which is wonderfully diverse and deeply inspiring. After a delicious south Indian meal at Andhra Bhavan, we will venture to Khan market for some shopping. Khan market is a central hub in New Delhi for fashion and imported goods.
Day 3 (Clark’s Inn): After a morning yoga session, followed by a nourishing breakfast, we will begin our journey on the road, heading south towards Mathura, roughly fifty kilometers from Delhi
Mathura is an inspiring place, filled with some of the greatest expressions of the Hindu faith, all aimed at bringing to life the care and devotion necessary on the path. Our first stop will be the Krishna Janmasthan Temple Complex, which commemorates the birth of lord Krishna. Legend says that the original shrine was built by Krishna’s grandson. Today, the temple complex contains an assortment of shrines dedicated to different periods of Krishna’s life. During these site visits, Mary will bring to life the iconography and architecture, illuminating the place Mathura holds in Hindu faith and folklore.
In the afternoon, we will visit the center for the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), affectionately referred to as the Hare Krishna movement. With its headquarters in Vrindavan, this temple is spectacular, based both on its grand size and impactful architecture. While here, we will visit with senior Sannyasins (religious renunciate) from the temple who will explain the background of the organization. Before returning to our hotel, we will feast in their world-renowned vegetarian restaurant, serving classical north Indian vegetarian fare, which will be followed by evening Kirtan in the central shrine.
Day 4 (Clark’s Inn): After a morning meditation session, we will load up the bus and head out for the day. Vrindavan is literally a maze of temples, with devotees heading in every direction in search of truth. During our time here, we will visit: the Banke Bihari Temple, which is the most frequently visited temple by locals; the Govind Dev Temple, which was constructed in red sandstone, leftover from building the red fort in the sixteenth century; and the Madan Mohal temple, widely believed to be the oldest in Vrindavan.
In the late afternoon, we will head further south to the famous Taj Mahal. Constructed on the banks of the Yamuna River in the seventeenth century, this ode to love is perhaps the most inspiring building in all of southern Asia. Built by Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal was described by Indian Poet-saint Rabindranath Tagore as a “solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.” This place is deserving of all the accolades possible and we will take our time to soak in its prestige.
In the evening, we will rest in our hotel, preparing for the next leg of our journey.
Day 5 (lodging: Hotel Ganges View): After our daily yoga practice and meditation, we will fly to our second major location: Varanasi. Claimed by some historians to be the longest continually inhabited city in the world, Varanasi is a spectacle in every way possible. Also known under the names Kashi and Benares, this city represents the climax of Hindu pilgrimage for millions of devotees each year.
After our morning flight, we will head to Asi Ghat, one of two riverside areas of worship that flank the city of Varanasi, and constitute its name (the other being the Varana Ghat). From here, we will head out on a boat onto the mother Ganga, widely considered the holiest of river in India. From our vantage point, we will witness a range of ritual offerings, as well as cremations of deceased Hindu adherents. While on the river, Mary will provide a frame of reference for this massive and deeply inspirational location, while Theresa will lead us in a reflective exercise attuning us to the profound energy of this place.
Day 6 (lodging: Hotel Ganges View): In the morning, we will travel to Sarnath, the famed location of the historical Buddha’s first sermon. Since this first turning of the wheel of Dharma in the fifth century BCE, Buddhist pilgrims have traveled here in search of the same tranquility and wisdom that the Buddha spoke of. Upon arrival, we will gather near the massive Dhameka Stupa, where Mary and Theresa will lead us in dialogue and contemplation on the Buddha’s first teaching–the four noble truths–as well as the interconnection between the Hindu and Buddhist faiths.
After lunch, we will continue our exploration at the Sarnath museum, which houses a world renowned collection, as well as the Mulagandhi Kuti Vihara temple, which commemorates the location where the Buddha allegedly sat in meditation. Upon returning to the city, we will decompress over dinner and a performance of classical Indian music.
Day 7 (lodging: Hotel Ganges View): After our morning practice session, we will visit the famed Kashi Vishwanath temple. While iterative versions of the temple have been destroyed, the first in the twelfth century by the Delhi Sultinate, the current space is nonetheless deeply inspiring. Housing one of twelve jyoltri linga, which are physical manifestations of the god Shiva, this temple has been visited by pilgrims for thousands of years. During our time here, we will slow down, ensuring we soak up this powerful space.
In the afternoon, we will engage in a half-day mini-retreat where Theresa will guide us through yoga and meditation sessions that will help us deepen our connection to both ourselves and the spaces we are visiting. In the evening, we will be joined by Dr. Anjan Chakravarti, renowned expert on Indian textiles, one of the primary handicrafts produced in Varanasi.
Day 8 (lodging: Hotel Kenilworth): After a leisurely breakfast and morning practice session, we will board our flight for “The City of Joy,” Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Serving as the political headquarters of this region for the East Indian company, the city is filled with reminders of a bygone era.
After settling in at the hotel, we will venture out to the famed Kalighat–the most sacred location in Kolkata. Devoted to the Hindu female deity Kali, this temple is one of the most sacred sites of Hindu Shaktism, the sect of Hinduism devoted to the divine feminine. During our time here, we will learn about both the exoteric and esoteric practices associated with this approach.
Day 9 (lodging: Hotel Kenilworth): After our morning yoga and meditation, we will venture out into Kolkata, visiting sites associated with different components of Indian history and culture. The intention of this time is to more deeply get to know India, the diversity that exists here, and how we arrived at this point in history. The sites will include: the Victoria Memorial, which housed the East Indian Company throughout British rule and is now a museum; the Parshwanath temple dedicated to the Jain religion; and the Marble Palace.
Our night will be capped off with a dinner at #6 Ballygunge Place, truly a celebration of Bengali culinary history. From delicious curries to impeccable sweets the food is exemplary of this often celebrated region’s cuisine.
Day 10 (lodging: Hotel Swosti Grand): Leaving Kolkata behind, we will board our flight for the coastal state of Odisha (formerly Orissa). This region of India is infrequently visited, but nonetheless home to some of the most breathtaking monuments and important historical destinations in regard to spiritual pilgrimage.
Upon arrival, we will visit the famed sixth-century Parasuramshewar and tenth-century Mukteshwar temples. Meditating, contemplating, and dialoguing in these powerful places, we will consider the impactful histories of these temples. Parasuramshewar commemorates a conflict between the gods Shiva and Vishnu in which Shiva showed grace to Vishnu after a mythical battle, while Mukeshwar celebrates Shiva in a tantric depiction evident in the reliefs surrounding the temple that depict various meditative postures.
In the evening, we will visit Radhika Handloom textile facility. Odishian textiles are renowned throughout India as a celebration of their vibrant and colorful culture. While here, we will see first hand how the fabrics are made, as well as have an opportunity to buy some inspirational souvenirs.
Day 11 (lodging: Hotel Swosti Grand): We will take our time this morning to reconnect with our bodies and minds before beginning the last leg of our journey. This time is intended to strengthen our internal awareness, as well as heighten our experience of the profound locations we are visiting.
After an extended yoga and meditation session, as well as leisurely breakfast, we will venture to the Lingaraja Temple. Built in the eleventh century, the Lingaraja temple houses a lingum, or naturally occurring stone phallus, that represents Shiva. Through the various dynasties, this location has taken on different significances for the local population and Hindu devotees throughout India.
Day 12 (lodging: Hotel Chanakya BNR): After breakfast, we will travel by bus to the coastal city of Puri, the city of Lord Jagannath. While driving the roughly thirty kms south, we will see another side of India as compared to the region we’ve visited thus far on the pilgrimage, one filled with an abundance of water and wildlife.
En route, we will stop in two profound locations. First is the Chausati Yogini Temple, which features a shrine to the sixty-four yoginis. The legend of this potent space claims that the female deity, Darga assumed the appearance of the sixty-four yoginis to defeat a demon. As expressions of the vibrancy and dynamism of the feminine in Tantric Hindu rituals, the iconography in this space is truly earth-shattering. The second place is the Dhuali stupa, commemorating the battle field where King Ashoka dramatically converted to Buddhism after realizing the faults of his violent leadership. Perhaps the most important figure in early Indian history, the edifice commemorating this occasion is in Japanese-style and provides a calming energy. We will take our time at each of these locations allowing for the environment to impact our subjective experience.
Day 13 (lodging: Hotel Chanakya BNR): On our last full day in Odisha, we will get an early start and head out to the thirteenth-century Konark temple. Celebrating one of the oldest deities in the Hindu pantheon–Surya, the god of the sun–this temple is widely considered the largest from medieval India. This space is deeply moving and we will take time to reflect on the inclusion of the natural elements within the Hindu faith and our own lives.
In the afternoon, we will visit the home to Lord Jagannath. Constructed during the Ganga dynasty during the twelfth century, there are legends of an original temple constructed on this site from before the common era. The massive footprint of the temple houses numerous shrines to greater and lesser deities from the Hindu faith. This location has been visited by countless Hindu saints, adding to its potency and impact.
In the evening, after returning to our hotel, we will have some free time to visit and process.
Day 14: In the morning, after a leisurely breakfast and yoga session, we will return to Delhi. Upon arrival, we will spend the afternoon out in the city, exploring some of the remaining sites of interest. Afterwards, we will return to the hotel for a celebratory meal. Undoubtedly, strong bonds will be formed and the places we visit will touch our hearts. In turn, this time is intended to help acknowledge the magnitude of this sacred journey.
Day 15: The program will formally conclude after breakfast and Sacred Path staff will help get everyone situated either in the hotel or for onward travel.
The program fee is $5,750 (Early-bird discount: $5,250 if registered by November 28th, 2019!)
- Unless specified in the registration process, participants will be automatically paired with another participant throughout the program.
- Single supplements require an additional payment of $1150 (due with final payment)
- The program fee includes:
- Accommodation throughout the program (from November 28th – December 11th, 2020)
- All meals (beginning with dinner on November 28th and ending with lunch on December 11th, 2020)
- Transportation within India
- All site entrance fees
- All wages for international and local guides
- The program fee does not include:
- International airfare
- Visa for India
- Travel insurance (recommended – see below)
- Miscellaneous items, including, but not limited to: souvenirs, snacks, alcoholic beverages, etc.
- Donations to local organizations and/or individuals
Payments are to be made on the following schedule:
- Deposit: $1,000 due at registration
- Second payment: $2,000 due by June 1, 2020 (180 days prior to the start of the program)
- Third payment: remainder of $2,750 (or $2,250 if an early-bird registration) due by August 30, 2020 (90 days prior to the program
In the case of cancellation, payment will be refunded based on the following information:
- Cancellations made 180 days prior to the program will receive a full refund of any payment made to date, minus 50% of the deposit.
- Cancellations made between 179 – 120 days prior to the program will receive a full refund of any payment made to date, minus the deposit.
- Cancellations made between 119 – 60 days prior to the program will be subject to a penalty of 50% of the total course fee.
- Cancellations made on or after 59 prior to the program will not receive any refund.
The program will begin and end in Delhi, allowing for easy arrivals and departures in and out of Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL).
If you are interested in arriving early or extending your trip, there are plenty of add-ons that you can easily include. Once registered, please send us a note that you would like to discuss options and we will help you craft the ideal itinerary.
Please plan on arriving in Delhi by 2pm on November 28 and departing no earlier than 12pm on December 12, 2020.
Sacred Path highly recommends purchasing travel insurance that includes emergency medical coverage as well as evacuation and repatriation services.
The following companies can help you find coverage that best suits your particular needs:
Do I need a visa?
- All visitors to India (minus the immediately surrounding countries) are required to procure a visa. You may do so on arrival at the international airport or at any port of entry. We will send information about this once registered.
What will we eat? Is the water safe?
- Throughout the program, you will be provided nutritious and hygienic meals.
- Filtered and/or bottled water will be provided throughout the program.
Do I need vaccines? Will there be medical facilities available should I get sick?
- Sacred Path strongly recommends visiting a travel medical provider prior to the program. We cannot make medical recommendations of any kind.
- If you should have a medical emergency during the program, Sacred Path staff will provide access to the best medical treatment available and assist participants should they desire to return home early.
Where will we stay?
- Hotels and/or guest houses throughout the program will be high quality, safe places to rest. Sacred Path prides itself in the strong relationships it has with local businesses.
How many people will be on the program?
- As with all of our programs, we limit the teacher/guide to participant ratio to 8-1. This is in service of creating an intimate and supportive container to explore this inspirational place.
Can I keep in touch with my family and friends during the program? How can they get in touch with me in the case of an emergency?
- Sacred Path will provide contact information for participants to distribute to their loved ones to use in the case of emergencies.
- Most of the accommodations we stay in have wireless internet services that allow you to connect via mobile device.
How much money will I need?
- All food, lodging, and transportation (within the prescribed itinerary) is covered. In turn, you will not need much extra money. There will be ATMs available throughout the program to withdraw local currency. Credit cards are accepted at larger shops and hotels. We recommend contacting your bank to inform them of your travel plans so that your cards are not frozen.
Can I choose my roommate?
- Yes, we will do our best to match you with the person of your choosing. Please specify this in your registration questionnaire.
How can I offset my/our carbon footprint?