Jewish Pilgrimage Tour in India

  • Jewish Synagouge in Kerala - Jewish Pilgrimage Tour in India
  • Chinese Fishing Nets in Kochi, Kerala
  • Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • Victoria Memorial in Kolkatta, West Bengal

From ancient times, people from all over the world have been drawn to India. First laid claim by the Indus Valley civilization, the Greeks, Persians, Turks, Mughals, and Europeans have each added their influence threads that have collectively enhanced the rich cultural fabric that is today’s India. India is a country where hospitality is a way of life. A land where history is alive in music and dance, and the culture is steeped in tradition. It is a vast country where ancient traditions, rituals and cuisines still reflect the social, religious and geographical diversity born of centuries of social integration. The Jewish influence can also be seen throughout this vast land. Tracing its roots more than 2000 years, you will learn and explore the dynamic Jewish history of India. From the active communities in Bombay and Delhi to the ancient Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin, you will marvel at the stories of one of the oldest Jewish communities that began at the time of King Solomon. On this program you will experience the mysteries of India in unparalleled comfort and luxury. Few destinations offer as much excitement and diversity as does India!

Destination Covered:

Mumbai – Cochin – Kolkata – Imphal – Aizwal

Jewish Pilgrimage Tour in India Itinerary

Day 01: Arrive Mumbai

Arrive Mumbai. Meeting and assistance on arrival and transfer to your hotel.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 02: Mumbai

During the religious persecutions in Israel in the time of King Antiochus 2,200 years ago, some Jews escaped to India and were shipwrecked off the coast of Bombay. The few survivors came ashore, kept the faith, lived in interior villages, and were unknown to the Jewish world until they were discovered in the 1700s. They were known as the Bene Israel or "Sabbath oil pressers". We will visit the original landing site at Navgoan, Visit a 2000 year old Jewish cemetery to see the historic monument, visit a primitive Bene Israel village and meet with the remaining Bene Israel Jews. We will have the chance to photograph a historic and unusually picturesque synagogue at Alibag. In the evening, we'll meet distinguished members of the Jewish community, who will describe Jewish life in India.

Overnight at Hotel.

Day 03: Mumbai

Optional 630 am service at Gate of Mercy Synagogue (B'nai Israel Jews) also called Juni Masji, established in 1896. For those who observe Shabbat: independent morning. Full day tour for those who do not observe Shabbat: we visit the Prince of Wales Museum which is Indo Saracenic architecture in keeping with the Gateway, but the dome of glazed tiles gives it a very Persian and Central Asian flavor. At the museum we will be walk through the excellent archeological section which has a well displayed section on the Indus Valley civilization, a sophisticated and advanced people who inhabited the Indus Valley from 8500BC to 3500BC. In 2000 BC the main city of Mohenjo Daro was deserted and within the next 250 years the entire civilization disappeared. The museum also houses an excellent collection or jade and silver jewelry and Indian miniature paintings. On the way to the Hanging Gardens we will pass the Victorian Gothic buildings of the city, stopping at the most remarkable of them all, the Victoria Terminus built in 1878. The frontage is symmetrical with a large central dome flanked by two wings. The dome is capped by a 4m high statue of Progress. The booking hall with its arcades, stained glass and glazed tiles was inspired by London's St Pancreas station. The Hanging Gardens offer a panoramic view of the harbor and a glimpse of the Towers of Silence, the rather unusual crematorium of the Parsi community. We stop for pictures at the Dhobi Ghat a sight unique to Mumbai and end at Mani Bhavan. This is a private home where Mahatma Gandhi used to stay and today is a museum dedicated to him and his achievements.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 04: Mumbai

A full day excursion south of Mumbai to the rocky outcrop, where the legend of the Bnei Yisrael started. The story is that 7 men and 7 women survived a shipwreck in the time of Solomon. They became oil pressers and remained in the area. There are a few shuls there and still Jews doing oil pressing today. The area is also considered to be the holiest shrine for the Bene Israelies of Mumbai. This is where it is believed the prophet Elijah arrived on his chariot and the mark can be seen on the rock. Carry packed lunch.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 05: Mumbai

Visit to ORT with Kosher lunch. We visit two Jewish schools operated by ORT. We first go to the Mazgaon School, which we tour and then meet with the school administrators. Our next stop is the ORT school in Worli. Here also we get a brief introduction to the school, and have lunch. Afterwards visit several other synagogues time permitting.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 06: Mumbai Cochin

Transfer to airport to connect flight to Cochin. Assistance on arrival and transfer to your hotel. An ancient harbor town, Cochin reflects the influence of the many foreign traders who visited the city. After check-in, we walk in the heritage zone, which has preserved the original architecture of the city. We visit St Francis's Church and the Chinese fishing nets, which line the mouth of Cochin harbor. In the evening we attend a Kathakali performance. Kathakali is a classical dance form that has its origins in Theyyam a ritual tribal dance of north Kerala and Kalaripayyattu the martial arts which goes back 1000 years. The dancers use dramatic costumes and exaggerated facial make up, and to accompaniment of drums and cymbals, use stylized movements to relate episodes from the Mahabharat and Ramayan. We arrive early at the theatre to watch the dancers apply the elaborate make-up and prepare for their performance.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 07: Cochin

In the morning, we visit the Jewish Community and the beautiful Pardesi Synagogue. This Synagogue was built by Samuel Castiel, David Belila, Ephrahim Sala and stands on the grounds of the Maharaja of Cochin's residence. It is the first synagogue in India, and one of the oldest in the world. Near the synagogue is an interesting market selling spices, and antiques, bursting with activity and variety. We spend time in the markets and walk to the Mattancherry Palace, which was commissioned by the Portuguese for the raja of Kochi in exchange for trading rights. The palace is two storeys high and is built in the traditional Kerala style known as nalukattu (four buildings). The palace exhibits memorabilia from the raja of Kochi' collection, but it is best known for its outstanding murals painted on the wooden walls. The royal bedroom has ceilings and walls covered with forty-five 16th century paintings illustrating the Ramayana. Afternoon sunset cruise on the backwaters of Kerala.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 08: Cochin Mumbai Kolkata

Transfer to airport to board flight from Mumbai. Lunch at the Airport Hotel and assistance to connect flight to Calcutta. On arrival transfer to your hotel.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 09: Kolkata

The City Of Joy, Kolkatta, it is the capital of West Bengal. At one time, Kolkatta was the proud intellectual and cultural capital of India. Its inhabitants made outstanding contributions to art, medicine, science and social reform. After a relaxed orientation over brunch with member from the Jewish Council of Calcutta, we first visit the Neveh Shalome Synagogue, established in 1825, the first Synagogue in Kolkatta. Our next stop is the Magen David Synagogue, built by Mr. Elias David Joseph Esra in memory of his father Mr. David Joseph Esra. It is a charming walk to this synagogue. Today we have lunch with some of the Jewish people of Kolkatta. After lunch, we stop by the Nahoum Bakery, owned by a Jewish family. Evening service at Magen David Synagogue.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 10: Kolkata

Optional morning services at synagogue. Afterwards socialize with the members of the synagogue. Return to the hotel for lunch. For those observing Shabbat: afternoon discussions with Stephen For those not observing Shabbat: visits to Indian cultural sights of interest including the Dakshineswar Kali temple built in 1847. It has 12 smaller temples in the courtyard dedicated to Shiva, Radha and Krishna; south of the temple is Kumartuli, the home of the kumars or potters who all year round preparing clay images for pujas and festivals. Kali, the patron goddess of Calcutta, usually seen in her blood thirsty form, garlanded with skulls; from this bastion of Hinduism we head to the bastion of colonialism and visit the Victoria Memorial, the white marble monument to Queen Victoria. Designed in Italian Renaissance Mughal style; St Paul's Cathedral is the original metropolitan church of British India completed in 1847; and Sishu Bhavan, one of Mother Theresa's many homes for the underprivileged.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 11: Kolkata Imphal

Transfer to airport to connect flight to Imphal. Assistance on arrival and transfer to your Hotel . Imphal, in the state of in Manipur, lies in the heart of an oval shaped valley, and is very picturesque. After check-in and lunch, we set out to visit the lone Synagogue in Imphal, located in the heart of the city where we have an opportunity to talk to the members of the Jewish community and stay for afternoon prayers. Some of the members of the Bnei Menashe Jews live in the synagogue building. The prayers are held everyday between 0700 and 0900, and again, 1500 and 1600.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 12: Imphal

Morning prayers at the synagogue; return to hotel for breakfast & relax. In the afternoon, we visit Langthaband Palace, the historical palace, with its ceremonial houses and temples. It stands on the hills among formally planted pine and jackfruit trees on the Indo-Burma road. We then go to the Shri Govindaji Temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna. This Vaishnavite center with shrines to Vishnu, Balaram, Krishna and Jagannath has regular performances of ceremonial dancing. If time permits we can visit the Khwairamband Bazaar, probably the largest women's bazaar in the country. It is an excellent place for handicrafts and handloom goods.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 13: Imphal- Aizwal

Transfer to airport to connect flight to Aizwal. Assistance on arrival and transfer to your hotel. We arrive in the capital of Mizoram, Aizwal, the residency of a small group of people who have been practicing Judaism for more than 25 years. They have not taken on a "new" religion. These people in fact have returned to the religion of their ancestors and call themselves Benei Menashe, or the descendents of the Tribe of Menashe, one of the lost tribes. Today you will be introduced to members of the Jewish community so that you may learn more, first hand, about their practices. Evening is left to stroll in the Bara Bazaar and admire the handicrafts of Aizwal and the vibrant colored fabric that they weave.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 14: Aizwal

Today we visit the two synagogues in Aizwal and talk to the elders of the Jewish community there.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 15: Aizwal Kolkata

Transfer to airport to connect flight to Kolkatta. Assistance on arrival and transfer to your hotel. . Evening service.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 16: Depart Kolkata

In time transfer to airport to connect onward international flight.

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