Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri are the Mughal Empire’s princely capitals. Agra’s Red Fort, Shah Jahan’s exquisite Taj Mahal, and Akbar the Great’s Fatehpur Sikri fuse Hindu and Islamic forms. Grand Mughal mosques include Delhi’s ancient Qutub Minar. There are brilliant red or white royal tombs like Agra’s Tomb of I’tmãd Ud Daulah. Rajput fortress cities and palaces – Jaipur, Bijapur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner – match Mughal architectural opulence and grandeur. From their powerful walls, brilliant glass-walled staterooms, exquisite garden courts and lustrous pavilions, Rajputs dominated populous cities and teeming bazaars. From Chitor, the grand deserted fortress, opium-crazed Rajput cavalry charged Muslim forces whilst their women committed ritual suicide. In Lake Pichola, Udaipur, the matchless Lake Palace’s white walls reflect in sparkling waters. Jaisalmer and Bikaner have fine merchant houses with intricately carved window screens. Ajmer has its great Sufi shrine. Vast, richly decorated Jain Temples enliven Ranakpur and Jaisalmer. Rajasthan also includes fascinating villages and famous stepped wells. Many of its luxury hotels are former palaces.
Southern and Central India’s epic history encompasses ancient small kingdoms and great Hindu, Muslim and British empires. Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, and Islamic monuments proliferate. At Mahabalipuram, ancient port of the Pallava kings, is the famous Shore Temple and unique rock-carved temples, the ‘Five Rathas’. The Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Brihadeshwara Temple of Thanjavur have brilliant Chola architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting. Chennai’s and Thanjavur’s museums hold priceless Chola bronzes. Thanjavur’s Saraswathi Mahal Library displays rare palm leaf manuscripts. The Hoysala Dynasty Chennakeshava Temple, Belur, and Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebid, have intricate carvings of gods, celestial beings, and humans. Vijayanagara (Hampi), capital of a magnificent Hindu Kingdom, includes forts, palaces, temples, shrines, gateways and stables. In North Karnataka the finest Chalukyan art and architecture includes the Temple of Virupaksha and the rock-cut cave temples of Badami. Srirangapatna has Tipu Sultan’s fabulous palace and mosque and Mysore the Wodeyar Maharajas’ florid palace, blending Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic elements. Cochin’s fascinating mix of East and West includes St. Francis’ Church, Fort Cochin, and the 16th-c. Portuguese Mattancherry Palace. Hyderabad and Golconda have masterpieces of Islamic architecture.
Prof. Bernard Hoffert leads this tour visiting three magnificent capitals of the Mughal Empire – Delhi, Agra & Fatehpur Sikri – and a number of great Rajput fortress cities of Rajasthan. Read more