Day 1: Bhopal
Pilgrims fly to Bhopal and proceed to the serene Dhamma Pala Vipassana Centre. Between our check-in, orientation session and group meditations, pilgrims will have a chance to take walks in and around the centre, and socialize with their fellow travellers.
Day 2: Bhopal
To help orient the pilgrimage experience, we will attend a 1-day course at Dhamma Pala.
Day 3: Bhopal to Sanchi
We’ll start the day with an early breakfast and group sitting, followed by a three-hour journey by private coach to Sanchi. After checking in and eating a delicious lunch at the Gateway Retreat Hotel, we’ll explore and meditate at the impressive, yet rarely visited Satdhara, Sonari, and Andheri stūpas that once contained Arahant relics. From there, we’ll proceed to the Mahābodhi Chetiyagiri Temple which houses fantastic oil-on-canvas paintings of the Buddha’s life, and more importantly for meditators, the relics of the venerable bhikkhus Sāriputta and Moggallāna.
Day 4: Sanchi
Towering above the small town of Sanchi is the magnificent Great Stūpa—the focal point of Chetiyagiri, or the “Hill of Stūpas.” At Sanchi’s ancient monastic complex, we will not only admire the ornate, 16-metre high, masterpiece erected by Emperor Asoka, but contemplate and meditate at a number of other stūpas that once housed the corporeal relics of Buddha, Sāriputta, Mogallāna and other venerable Arahants. We’ll then continue onward to visit Sanchi’s archaeological museum that shelters various ancient stone statues, terracotta pots, and iron tools, as well as a photographic exhibition of the early Sanchi excavations.
Day 5: Sanchi to Igatpuri
Today we’ll travel by air and road from Sanchi to Igatpuri. The day will conclude with a group meditation at Dhamma Giri, and a delicious dinner and comfortable rest at the Manas Resort.
Day 6: Igatpuri
After a hearty breakfast at our hotel, we’ll re-energize with a 1-day course, followed by a tour of Dhamma Giri—the epicentre of S.N. Goenka’s Vipassana tradition. Pilgrims will spend the evening resting and enjoying the premises of the Manas Resort.
Day 7: Igatpuri to Ellora
After our last group sitting at Dhamma Giri, we’ll stop at the quiet Pandulena cave-temple complex, perched high-up on the Deccan hillside, where we’ll explore and meditate in the first century hand-hewn caves. These caves, as with others that we’ll visit during the pilgrimage, vary in shape and size. Some were used as private accommodations for meditating and sleeping, others were used as common prayer and meditation halls, and others as dining areas. We’ll spend the rest of the day travelling to Ellora, where the Kailas Resort awaits to take care of weary bodies.
Day 8: Ellora
Leaving our hotel after a sumptuous breakfast overlooking the Ellora complex, we’ll spend the day wandering around and meditating at various locations within the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike most of the other cave-temple complexes that were inhabited primarily by Theravāda monks, Ellora’s majestic architecture and sculptures have a different flavor as they draw inspiration from Vajrayana Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain traditions as well—demonstrating how the ancient ascetics lived together for over 800 years in religious harmony. Ellora’s rock-cut, multi-storied temples are some of the largest monolithic structures of the world. Contemplating how these structures were all carved by hand, rather than machine, will nourish our insights into the diverse ways in which devotion to the spiritual life may manifest.
Day 9: Pitalkhora
A mini-road trip to the remote and rarely visited caves of Pitalkora will certainly be a memorable experience. While the site may lack the grandeur of Ajaṇṭā and Ellora, the quiet and calm that the complex offers is well worth the journey. Also, the remoteness may offer some semblance to what the original resident meditators experienced over two thousand years ago.
Day 10: Ellora to Ajaṇṭā
To help us prepare for the next day’s escapade, today’s laid back schedule includes some easy travelling and relaxation at Ajaṇṭā’s MTDC Tourist Hotel.
Day 11: Ajaṇṭā to Aurangabad
With meditation and walking gear in hand, we will spend the day exploring the various Ajaṇṭā caves chiseled into a picturesque horse-shoe shaped canyon. These caves were not merely rugged places to live quietly and simply, but also shaped into aesthetic expressions of the spiritual life. The meticulously arched portals, ornate pillars, detailed sculptures, and wondrous fresco paintings that have miraculously survived the past two millennia leave all visitors with a sense of awe. Departing from Ajaṇṭā after a memorable day, we’ll drive to Aurangabad where we’ll have a good night’s rest before another day of discovering and travelling.
Day 12: Aurangabad to Global Vipassana Pagoda
After an early morning meditation at the 6th century Aurangabad cave-temple complex, we’ll embark on a long journey to the Global Vipassana Pagoda, a beacon of light symbolizing sīla, samādhi, and paññā.
Day 13: Global Vipassana Pagoda
To help integrate the pilgrimage experience, today will be dedicated to sitting a 1-day course at the Global Vipassana Pagoda. Following the course, a local guide will explain the history, symbolism, and architecture of the pagoda itself—which is the largest hollow dome in the world, as well as the surrounding monuments constructed in reverence of the Dhamma.
Day 14: Global Vipassana Pagoda to Kanheri
We’ll spend our last full day together at the Kanheri cave complex located in the massive Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Exploring and meditating in the hundred-plus hand-hewn caves and other rock-cut monuments amidst the lush forest is a wonderful opportunity to examine the impermanent and impersonal nature of reality. Following this escapade, we’ll check-in to the Ramakrishna Hotel in Ville Parle, a stone's throw from the airport. Pilgrims can then go for some last minute shopping or simply unwind before our divergent journeys home.
Day 15: Pilgrimage Ends
After our final morning meditation, we’ll enjoy one last breakfast together before being shuttled to the airport.
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