Sacred Ganga Pilgrimage
New Year – New Beginnings
Yogic Wisdom is hosting an 18 day Sacred Pilgrimage from Varanasi to Uttarkashi. On this journey we will be meditating in various temples and at significant sacred natural locations.
To ensure all who join us are thoroughly supported along this spiritual journey, places are limited to 16 pilgrims.
The Pilgrimage departs from Sydney on the 27 December 2018 and we return on 13 January 2019. The trip includes all accommodation, breakfasts, internal transfers as well as all the guided spiritual teachings – which includes exploring the Upanishads.
All the places that we are planning to visit on this itinerary are overflowing with thousands of years of penance and devotion from saints and seekers from across India and the globe. Many of these places don’t seem like much to the external senses, but if you go within, there is an immense ocean of divine bliss and blessing that awaits you.
While India at times can feel like an attack on one’s external senses and crack at our facade of control, there is an amazing opportunity to let down your guard and let God flow. Your entire life course can change – if you allow it. Om Namah Shivaya! Jai Ganga Ma!
Leading the Yogic Wisdom team is Kym McDonald, who will be guiding the spiritual teachings, and Deepa Gupta, who has the logistics well in hand and is fluent in Hindi so will act as our translator when required.
We have taken our time to find a balance between being close to the Gunga while providing maximum comfort at secure hotels.
All internal transfers and group travel arrangements have been organised by the Yogic Wisdom support team to ensure you can enjoy your journey. International flights into Delhi are not included but can be booked via our travel agent, Kylie Amos from Itravel on 0448 386 875. We recommend Air India as it provides a direct flight from Sydney to Delhi and currently the price is $1500 return (this includes the internal flight from Delhi to Varanasi on 28 December). Kylie can assist you with booking this flight.
|Day||Day of week||Date||Sleep Location||Activity|
|1||Thursday||27/12/18||Delhi||Fly direct Sydney to Delhi via Air India
Stay overnight close to airport in Delhi
|2||Friday||28/12/18||Varanasi||Fly Delhi – Varanasi. Lunch, afternoon rest & evening walk/foot wash (our path), dinner|
|3||Saturday||29/12/18||Varanasi||Shiva temple morning, lunch, rest, evening aarti|
|4||Sunday||30/12/18||Varanasi||Tulsi ghat morning, lunch, rest, evening hanuman temple|
|5||Monday||31/12/18||Train||Morning Train Varanasi to Haridwar|
|6||Tuesday||1/1/19||Rishikesh||Arrive in Hardiwar morning & hand wash (service) / travel to Rishikesh, free day, evening aarti|
|7||Wednesday||2/1/19||Rishikesh||Morning Ganga Bless – afternoon free|
|8||Thursday||3/1/19||Rishikesh||Morning Vashishta Guha (cave) – afternoon free|
|9||Friday||4/1/19||Rishikesh||Morning Shiva pilgrimage to Neelkanth – afternoon free|
|11||Sunday||6/1/19||Uttarkashi||Bus Travel to Uttarkashi (7 hours)|
|12||Monday||7/1/19||Uttarkashi||Morning whole body wash & Kashi Viswanath temple – afternoon free|
|13||Tuesday||8/1/19||Uttarkashi||Day trip to Mukhba village- Ganga idol winter home|
|15||Thursday||10/1/19||Rishikesh||Bus Travel to Rishikesh (7h)|
|16||Friday||11/1/19||Rishikesh/Delhi||Day rest – evening train to Delhi|
|17||Saturday||12/1/19||Plane||Morning rest – lunch flight to Sydney|
|18||Sunday||13/1/19||Home||Arrive early morning Sydney 7am|
To book your place, or if you want more information, please call Kym on 0410 545502.
The cost of the retreat, including all accommodation, breakfasts and internal transfers, is $2990.
Payments via Direct Deposit
Retreat Deposit $990 by 31st July 2018
Remainder Payment $2000 by 27th September 2018
St George Bank
Account Name: Yogic Wisdom
BSB 112 879
Account 430 542 037
Payment and Refund Policy
Retreat fees (not including non-refundable deposit) will be refunded if you withdraw from the retreat up to one month prior to departure 27 November 2018. A refund of 50% of retreat fees will be considered up to two weeks prior to 12 December 2018, if your place in the retreat can be filled. All other payments are non-refundable after the retreat commencement date. In circumstances such as personal difficulties and illness, payment may be transferred to other Yogic Wisdom programs.
Greater Retreat Details
1. Travel from Sydney: 27th December
We will leave Sydney on the morning of 27th December flying to Delhi. We still stay for the night in a hotel close to the airport in Delhi leaving for Varanasi the following morning.
2. Varanasi: 28th-30th December
We will begin our journey in Varanasi, also known as Benares, or Kashi. Varanasi is an ancient city on the banks of the Ganga River that has been inhabited for almost 4000 years.
We are very blessed to begin our journey here, as Varanasi has been a sacred place of confluence for many religions, saints and seekers of all persuasions. The Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BCE when he gave his first sermon. In the 8th century, the famous Adi Shankara established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi. Varanasi remained the centre of activity for intellectuals and theologians during the Middle Ages and the Mughal rule continuing to thrive in its reputation as a cultural centre of religion and education. Several major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including the Hindu poet Goswami Tulsidas; Kabir, the sufi saint, who was born here in 1389 CE, and Ravidas, a 15th-century socio-religious reformer, mystic, poet, and spiritual figure.
Guru Nanak visited Varanasi in 1507 CE, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism.
Varanasi’s unique history make it a significant place of pilgrimage for hundreds of millions of people from all over the world to this day.
Kashi Vishwanath temple (Varanasi)
The Kashi Vishwanath temple is soaked with Divine energy and devotion. Many incredible saints, including Adi Sankaracharya, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda, Bamakhyapa, Goswami Tulsidas, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Sathya Sai Baba and Gurunanak have prayed at the temple, as have hundreds of millions of devotees for over a thousands years.
A visit to the temple and a bath in the Ganga River in Varanasi is one of many methods believed to lead one on a path to Moksha (liberation). Thus, Hindus from all over the world try to visit the place at least once in their lifetime. There is also a tradition that one should give up at least one desire after a pilgrimage to the temple. Many legends record that the true devotee achieves freedom from death and saṃsāra by the worship of Shiva.
Tulsi Ghat is a peaceful, unassuming spot along the bank of the Ganga, and is named after the great Hindu poet of the 16th century, Tulsidas who lived here and composed the great Indian epic, the Ramcharitmanas and the Hanuman Chalisa. Legend has it that Hanuman himself visited Tulsidas every day in the form of an old man to listen to the stories of his beloved Lord Ram under the Peepal tree which is still there today. Tulsi Ghat is home to an old temple where many of the relics of Tulsi Das are preserved — his samadhi, wooden clogs, pillow and the idol of Hanuman, which Tulsi worshipped. If you are a lover of Hanuman and the Ramayana, this is a place not to miss!
Ganga Aarti is a daily ritual that has been performed for thousands of years. It is a prayer to thank and praise the Ganga river which has given so much to the body and the spirit. At sunset Dashashwamedh Ghat fills up with lamps, colour and deep devotion to this sacred river considered a Holy Mother, where bhakti flows from the hearts of devotees, like the river flows towards the ocean.
The Diamond Hotel
We will be staying at the Diamond Hotel – a budget luxury hotel located in downtown Varanasi. It is a 10min walk from the Ghats of Varanasi, and a short rickshaw ride away from the revered temples of the holy city, Dashashwamedh Ghat, Assi Ghat and the Banarsi Saree market.
3. Travel from Varanasi to Haridwar: 31st December
With over 20 million passengers daily, train is the most popular form of cross-country travel in India. We too will travel from Varanasi to Haridwar by train, enjoying our journey Indian style with the amazing scenery, games, snacks and snoozing.
4. Haridwar: 1st January
We will start the new year in the holy city of Haridwar. Haridwar is an ancient city where the River Ganga, after flowing for 253 kilometres from its source at the edge of the Gangotri Glacier, enters the Indo-Gangetic Plains of North India for the first time at Haridwar. Haridwar has been an abode of the weary in body, mind and spirit for thousands of years. It has also been a centre of attraction for learning various arts, science, and culture. The city has a long-standing position as a great source of Ayurvedic medicines and herbal remedies and is home to the unique Gurukul system (school of traditional Indian education).
Har ki Pauri
We will begin our trip at the foothill of the Himalayas at the auspicious Har Ki Pauri, a ghat built in 1st century BCE on the banks of the Ganga River in Haridwar which means “the steps of Lord Shiva”. Every day, famous Har Ki Pauri ghat witnesses thousands taking a dip in water of the Ganges. Legend says that Har ki Pauri was the spot where the drops of Amritam (divine nectar) fell over from the sky, while being carried in a pitcher by the celestial bird, Garuda after the Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean).
5. Rishikesh: 1st-4th January
Rishikesh is 43km upstream from Haridwar and is sometimes nicknamed “Yoga Capital of the World”. Rishikesh has an exquisite setting with a fast-flowing Ganga, surrounded by forested hills conducive to meditation and mind expansion. It is believed that meditation in Rishikesh brings one closer to attainment of moksha, as does a dip in the holy river that flows through it. In the evening, an almost spiritual breeze blows down the valley, setting temple bells ringing as sadhus (‘holy’ men), pilgrims and tourists prepare for the nightly ganga aarti (river worship ceremony). This town is filled with monkeys, markets, massages and much more!
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple
The temple is a revered holy shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, surrounded by forests and is adjacent to the mountain ranges of Nar-Narayan. According to Hindu mythology, the place where the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple currently stands is the sacred location where Lord Shiva consumed the poison that originated from the sea when Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) churned the ocean in order to obtain Amrita (divine nectar). This poison that emanated during the Samudramanthan (churning of ocean) made his throat blue in color. Thus, Lord Shiva is also known as Neelkanth, literally meaning The Blue Throated One. As we undertake this ancient pilgrimage, be prepared for your own poison to come out, a process that is necessary before we receive the divine nectar.
‘Guha’ means cave, and according to Hindu mythology, Vashishta is one of the 7 immortal saints (‘Saptarishi’s’). He along with his wife did tapasya (penance) at this location for several years. Since then many great beings have come here to perform their Sadhana, and most people who meditate in this cave feel a profound sense of peace. This is also the place where Sri M and his Guru Maheswarnath Babaji are said to have met Nagaraj, the King of the Serpents
6. Uttarkashi:5th-8th January
The ancient town of Uttarkashi is must much like Kashi (Varanasi) of the planes. The town is located on the banks of the Bhagirathi (aka Ganga) at the at the altitude of 1165 m above sea level, here the river is quite cold as it is only 80 km from its glacial source, Gangotri. Uttarkashi is the home of many sadhus, ashram’s, and a destination for many spiritual seekers, having hosted Saints and Rishis for millennia. Filled with divine vibrations, the town is surrounded by rich flora and fauna in the Himalayan Mountains which include many kinds of medicinal herbs, and during the winter sees intermittent snow.
Kashi Vishwanath temple (Uttarkashi)
The Kashi Vishwanath temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is said to have initially been built by the Sage Parshuram thousands of years ago. Lord Shiva is manifest here immersed in deep meditation, showering his blessings upon all humanity. Opposite the Shivalingam that is a Shakti temple with a huge trident, said to have belonged to Goddess Durga who threw it at the demons. This trident is said to be over 1500 years old and is regarded as one of the oldest known relics of Uttarakhand. It has Tibetan inscriptions that indicate Indo Tibetan cultural exchange during ancient times, it also has inscriptions about the Naga dynasty.
This temple has very special vibrations, further enhanced by it’s enchanting location near the Ganga surrounded by the Himalayas.
Mukhimath temple, Mukhba village
This is a small village on the banks of the Bhagirathi. The Mukhimath Temple in Mukhba village is the winter abode of Goddess Ganga as her summer home is snowed under during India’s winter months. For devotees going on Ganga pilgrimage during the winter, this is the final destination to pray for their beloved Mother Ganga.
Shivalayaa Yoga Shaala
We will be staying at the Shivalayaa Yoga Shaala, created as a beautiful abode for practitioners to enhance their journey on the spiritual path. It is a simple, dormitory style accomodation nestled in the beautiful Himalayas in the village of Netala, away from hustle and bustle, giving an opportunity for the mind to quieten.
Our journey back: 9-12th January
We will begin our descent back all the down to Sydney, staying for a night in Rishikesh, a night in Delhi, and hopping on a plane overnight to be back home on Saturday morning 12th of January.
India tourist visa from Australia – apply
You will need to supply the first hotel address in India and a jpeg version of a photograph which you can obtain from the Post Office, see the visa website for the required dimensions, they are a different size to passport photos. You will also need a colour copy of the first page of your passport. Apply approx 6 weeks prior to travel. Fee is around $100 AUD Travel Money
Money is easy to withdraw from ATM or take cash to exchange at hotel lobbies, you can also change money at Delhi airport on arrival. It is difficult to obtain Indian currency in Australia at a good rate, Travelex are the only ones providing it at present.
There will be a safe is all the hotels to store your money and passport
Medical Considerations and Vaccinations
● Some students have a general antibiotics script filled to take with in case of need
● Diarrhoea medication is another medication some people take with them
Ask your GP about their suggestions from the table below, some GP’s specialise in travel medicine Vaccinations
Recommended Vaccines for India from Australian Health Authorities
Typhoid – Contaminated Food or Water
Japanese Encephalitis – Mosquito-borne (we are travelling in winter so less likely to be infected)
Hepatitis A – Contaminated Food or Water
Rabies – Rabies Infected Animals
Polio – Contaminated Food or Water
Influenza – Airborne Droplets