For millennia, northern India was the battleground for a succession of external powers vying with local rulers. The most renowned and longest-lasting of these invaders was the Mughal dynasty, whose founder Babur overthrew the Lodi Dynasty and entered India in 1526. His successors ruled much of India until they were deposed by the British in the mid-nineteenth century. The Hindu Rajputs (‘sons of kings’) were forced into uneasy alliances with the Muslim Mughals in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, by giving their daughters in marriage and by accepting high ranks in the Mughal armies, but they nevertheless maintained their Hindu traditions at their great forts and palaces in what is now Rajasthan.
Some of the most spectacular textiles and carpets ever made were the product of the patronage of these Mughal and Rajput rulers. Many have since been dispersed into the world’s museums, but some royal palaces in India, notably those of Jaipur and Jodhpur, have retained many historic pieces, tents, carpets, furnishings and garments made for the courts. India is also home to two of the world’s greatest collections of historic Indian textiles built up in more recent times - the Calico Museum of Textiles in Ahmedabad and the TAPI collection in Surat – as well as the notable holdings of other museums such as the National Museum in New Delhi and the CSMVS (former Prince of Wales Museum) in Mumbai.
The Textile Arts of India HALI Tour focusses on Rajasthan and Gujarat in northwest India. Rajasthan is the heartland of Rajput culture, and the astonishing fortified palaces of Mehrangarh in Jodhpur and Amer outside Jaipur are the most spectacular manifestations of this rich hybrid tradition, blending Hindu and Islamic architectural and decorative styles. The City Palace in Jaipur, built when the new capital was founded in 1727, is now a museum displaying magnificent royal garments and furnishings, including a rare Mughal pashmina carpet of the seventeenth century.
Gujarat also came under Mughal rule – many of the finest silks and embroideries for the Mughal court were made in royal workshops in Ahmedabad – but some of its finest monuments date from the pre-Mughal period of Islamic rule. The ornately decorated fifteenth and sixteenth-century mosques of Ahmedabad with their sinuous tree patterns and geometric jali screens speak of a rich and complex tradition of architecture and design in the region.
Both Rajasthan and Gujarat are known for their rich local textile arts, especially of embroidery, block-printing and tie-dyeing, and these traditions are on view at the Shreyas Foundation in Ahmedabad and the Anokhi Museum of Hand Block-Printing at Amer. It is no exaggeration to say that the extraordinary richness and variety of textile collections in these two states make the region unique not only in India but in the world.
Delhi. Rooms are available at the hotel from 2.00pm on 8th February, allowing for an early check-in. The tour begins in Delhi, in the early afternoon, with a talk in the hotel before a visit to the National Museum. As well as the newly installed exhibition on Baluchari saris, the museum also displays India’s national collection of miniature paintings, decorative arts and sculpture. First of two nights in Delhi.
Delhi. In the morning visit designer Sanjay Garg, founder of Raw Mango, who has been a major force in revitalising the sari for the contemporary Indian market. Founded in 1978, the Sanskriti Kendra campus houses small individual museums of terracottas, everyday art and textiles. Based on the private collection of its founder O.P. Jain, the display provides an overview of India’s textile traditions. Overnight Delhi.
Delhi, Jodhpur. Fly from Delhi to Jodhpur (Jet Airways). Presiding over the capital of one of the largest Rajput states in western Rajasthan is the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort. Described by Kipling as the ‘work of angels, fairies and giants’, it has some of the most imposing fortifications in the world. The buildings of the lively Old City are painted in a variety of blues, originally the colour denoting the homes of Brahmins. First of two nights in Jodhpur.
Jodhpur. Morning excursion to a dhurrie-weaving (flat-weave) co-operative in the desert village of Salawas before returning to Jodhpur for the afternoon. Mehrangarh fort, founded in the mid-15th century and lived in by the royal family of Jodhpur-Marwar until the 20th century. It houses an important collection of paintings and textiles, including royal tents and garments dating back to the 17th century. Our after-hours visit is by special admission to the gallery led by the curator. Private dinner in the fort’s garden.
Jodhpur, Jaipur. Travel east by train from Jodhpur to Jaipur (c. 6 hours). There is some free time with some guided textile shopping opportunities. First of three nights in Jaipur.
Jaipur. The City Palace contains an unsurpassed collection of paintings and artefacts and the Jantar Mantar, a 1730s observatory with astonishingly accurate astronomical instruments. In the afternoon visit the Albert Hall Museum, purpose-built in flamboyant ‘Indo-Saracenic’ style, opened in 1887. Highlights are six 17th-cent. Mughal carpets and the renowned ‘Persian Garden Carpet’, formerly at Amer palace. Overnight Jaipur.
Jaipur, Amer. Brigitte Singh produces the highest-quality hand-block printing in India. We visit her workshop to see printing being done as well as blocks being carved. Athwart a natural ridge, with magnificent yellow walls, Amer (or Amber) Fort was the capital of the Kachhwaha Rajputs before the foundation of Jaipur in 1727. Overnight Jaipur.
Jaipur, Ahmedabad. Fly from Jaipur to Ahmedabad in the morning (IndiGo). Visit a local artist’s textile collection. Particularly strong are the pichhwais (textiles for Krishna shrines). First of two nights in Ahmedabad.
Ahmedabad. The morning is dedicated to the Calico Museum, the world’s greatest collection of Indian textiles. Highlights include a wealth of 17th-century Mughal textiles, a unique Mughal dhurrie, folk embroideries, trade cloths and courtly garments. There is an afternoon visit to the Shreyas Foundation and Lokaytan Folk Museum. Overnight Ahmedabad.
Ahmedabad, Vadodara (Baroda). A morning walk takes in the many teak havelis in the maze of lanes or pols. After lunch, drive to Lukshmi Vilas Palace at Vadodara (Baroda), an extravagant 19th-cent. building of the Indo-Saracenic school and still the private residence of the Baroda Royal family. The Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum houses Royal Maratha textiles. Overnight Baroda.
Baroda, Surat. A morning visit to the Baroda Museum & Art Gallery, built in 1894 to resemble the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, for its collection of Indian miniatures and bronzes. The afternoon is spent driving to Surat. First of two nights in Surat.
Surat. The day is dedicated to a curator-led visit of the private TAPI Collection, assembled by textile manufacturers Praful and Shilpa Shah, now one of the world’s most important holdings of Indian textiles. Highlights include unique 14th- and 15th-century textiles traded to Indonesia and Mughal textiles including tent-hangings and early Kashmir shawls. Overnight Surat.
Surat, Mumbai. Train from Surat to Mumbai (c. 4 hours). After lunch, visit CSMVS (formerly Prince of Wales Museum). It houses important collections of sculpture, paintings and decorative arts, including a newly opened textile gallery. Overnight Mumbai.
Mumbai. Tour ends. Car transfers to Mumbai Airport can be arranged.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £6,980. Single occupancy: £8,390.
Domestic flights with Jet Airways: Delhi to Jodhpur and with IndiGo Airlines: Jaipur to Ahmedabad; travel by private air-conditioned coach and two journeys by train from Jodhpur to Jaipur and Surat to Mumbai (in the best class available); accommodation and meals as described below, all admissions; all tips; the services of the lecturers, tour manager and local guides.
Breakfasts, 9 lunches and 10 dinnerswith wine or beer (where available), water and coffee.
International flights to and from India are not included in the price of the tour. We ask that you make your own flight reservation to join this tour. Please advise us of the details for the arrangement of your airport transfers. We will send the recommended flight options from London for 2019 when they come into range (by March 2018).
Domestic flights with Jet Airways: Delhi to Jodhpur and with IndiGo Airlines: Jaipur to Ahmedabad, are included in the price of the tour.
Required for most foreign nationals, and not included in the tour price. We will advise all participants of the process.
The Imperial, New Delhi: 5-star luxury hotel, in an iconic 1930s building, centrally located.Hotel Raas, Jodhpur: boutique hotel within the walled city. Jai Mahal, Jaipur: 5-star hotel in the Indo-Saracenic archiectural style. House of MG, Ahmedabad: boutique hotel in the centre of Ahmedabad. The Gateway Hotel Akota, Vadodara: business hotel, the most comfortable option in the city.Taj Gateway, Surat: a comfortable 4-star hotel.Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai: Centrally located, iconic landmark. Impeccible service.
A good level of fitness is essential. Unless you enjoy entirely unimpaired mobility, cope with everyday walking and stair-climbing without difficulty and are reliably sure-footed, this tour is not for you. A rough indication of the minimum level of fitness required is that you ought to be able to walk briskly at about 3 miles per hour for at least half an hour, and undertake a walk at a more leisurely pace for an hour or two unaided. Uneven ground and irregular paving are standard. There are a few fairly steep ascents to hilltop forts. There are two 4-hour coach journeys, and two train journeys of 6 and 4 hours, during which facilities are limited and may be of poor quality. Most sites have some shade but the Indian sun is strong, even in the cooler seasons. Average distance by coach per day: 32 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.fco.gov.uk.
Combining this tour with Essential India (23 February–8 March 2019)
If you would like to combine this tour with Essential India, we can organise a flight between Mumbai and Delhi on 22nd February for an additional cost of c. £100 per person (subject to confirmation at time of request). We recommend flight 9W 351 leaving Mumbai 14.00, arriving Delhi 16.15. Airport transfers will be included free of charge. Contact us to make an enquiry.