Commencing from Mumbai, this wonderful 16-day journey takes you off the well-worn path to discover the cultural beauty and fabulous textile treasures of North India.
Explore the villages of West Bengal and see some of the region’s best embroidery and fabric creations. Take a guided tour of the historic cities of Kolkata, Mumbai, Mandu and Maheshwar, enjoying ancient sights and exquisite textile displays.
Step back in time as we follow the muslin trail into quaint villages and ancient lands strewn with magnificent palaces, tombs and monuments. Enjoy some wonderful shopping opportunities, fascinating sights and delicious food throughout the journey.
This amazing tour will delight and enchant you!
Arrive in Mumbai any time today and transfer to our lovely hotel for a rest and some free time.
After a group meeting, we head to an inner city block printing unit where the Khatri family work with natural dyes and use traditional Ajrakh as well as contemporary blocks to create beautiful prints in silk and wool. In the afternoon we will visit the Chatrapati Shivaji Museum and a few important landmarks of South Mumbai.
Today we have a short flight to the city of Indore followed by a drive to Maheshwar. Enjoy some free time to stroll around this ancient holy city.
This morning we start with a tour of Maheshwar, a captivating place situated on the banks of the great river Narmada and packed with spiritual significance. This town is mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, India’s two major epic sagas and still draws sadhus and pilgrims to its ancient ghats and temples.
Although Maheshwar has had a weaving tradition since the 5th century, the credit for the birth of the famous Maheshwari silk and cotton handloom sarees goes to the pious Queen Ahilyabai, who in the 18th century settled a number of skilled weavers here to weave the 9 yard sarees for the royal household and visiting dignitaries.
Included in our weaving trail today is a visit to Rehwa, a co-op that has revived and made the Maheshwari craft more contemporary. We also walk through the streets of the weavers colonies where almost every home has a wooden loom.
Today we have a guided tour of Mandu, a lovely historical town with a wealth of monuments. The buildings are a mix of Hindu and Afghan style of architecture.
Mandu is a celebration in stone, of life and joy, of the love of the poet-prince Baz Bahadur for his beautiful consort, Rani Roopmati. See the stunning Jahaaz Mahal, Rani Roopmati’s Pavillion and other heritage sights. Drive to Dhar for overnight.
Enjoy the rural scenery as we drive through a remote region of Madya Pradesh to the small town of Bagh, renowned for its hand block printing. The people of the Khatri community in this region make use of a limited colour palette of black and red alternating on white backgrounds, featuring geometrical and floral compositions.
Watch the different stages in the process of creating these amazing textiles. Also visit Bagh Caves, a group of rock cut Buddhist monuments outside the town. Return to Dhar.
Enjoy a leisurely morning before we transfer to the airport for our flight to Kolkata.
After breakfast we have a guided tour of Kolkata, capital of India under the British Raj from 1772 to 1911. The city abounds in colonial architecture, art galleries and cultural festivals.
We take an historical walk around the city’s cultural monuments and colonial buildings and tour the main sights. A visit to the Potter’s enclave where they make intricate idols of Hindu deities in all sizes with clay gives us a peek into the religious traditions of West Bengal.
Today, we head north on our Muslin Trail into the rural areas of West Bengal. Heading for Berhampur, we stop en route at villages that specialise in cotton and silk handwoven sarees, dhotis, jacquard and jamdani muslin weaves of superfine texture.
Over these two days we visit a large silk production cooperative where we see the fascinating process of extraction, reeling and spinning of different kinds of silk as well as enjoying a guided tour of the beautiful Hazarduari Palace and Katra Mosque in Murshidabad.
After breakfast we drive to Santiniketan. Here we will visit Visva Bharati University which has evolved from the vision of Rabindranath Tagore the revered poet, writer, playwright, musician and painter who was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
In 1901 Rabindranath laid the foundation of a system of education based on the ancient Vedic pattern of study where connection with nature and freedom of spirit was most important. We will have a guided tour of the campus with its unique structures and outdoor works of art and visit the poet laureate’s residential quarters.
The craft demonstrations you will see in and around Santiniketan include kantha embroidery, batik printing, tussar silk weaving, embossed leather works and hand-made jewellery.
Venture on to Bishnupur stopping en route at Bikna a village where we will see the ancient craft of non – ferrous metal casting using the lost wax process known as dokra. After lunch, we visit the amazing terracotta temples that Bishnupur is famous for.
This morning includes a trip to a potter’s village that specialises in making terracotta horses known as Bankura. Also see the handloom weaving of the prized Baluchari silk sarees depicting detailed scenes from Indian mythology.
In the afternoon, drive to Kolkata with a brief stop to see fine grass mat weaving done by the Mahishyas community of Midnapore.
Today is our last day, which we have kept free for shopping, including a visit to the state Government emporia complex and other local markets.
After dinner, we transfer to Kolkata airport for flights home, concluding our magical journey!
Your 16-day experience includes air-conditioned travel, all accommodation, internal flights, all excursions, entrance fees, local guides, guide tips and some meals.
The tour is lead by a local textile and village industry expert.
Price $4370aud (approx £2330) per person twin share
(Single supplement $960aud – approx £510)
Dates – 2nd to 17th December 2019
Maximum group size – 9 people
Born in Mumbai, Sunita grew up in Bhopal, a historical city of lakes in the heart of the country. She was exposed to the wonderful craft of Bagh textile block printing at a young age and has had a great interest in creative embroidery, textiles and history since early in life.
Sunita has been a teacher of history and is passionate about sustaining and promoting the traditional textile heritage of India. Presently she is associated at the grass root level with a group of women in rural Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and craftspeople in Kutch and Andhra Pradesh in designing and producing beautiful hand embroidered and hand block printed and painted garments in natural fibres.
A joyful cook and a self confessed foodie she is very proud of and knowledgeable about the textiles, handicrafts, culture, traditions, languages, cuisines and other idiosyncrasies of her land. Commitment to the ancient tradition of Indian hospitality is the driving force for her to ensure that participants on her tours have a multifaceted exposure to the spirit of the country.
She is able to cross the cultural boundaries of India and the western world effortlessly as she lives in both Mumbai and Melbourne and forms a perfect bridge between Australia (and the West) and India as the textile expert and facilitator on the textile tours of Touch of Spirit Tours.
The itinerary may be subject to change depending on altered circumstances
I would highly recommend anyone with varying degrees of passion for Textiles, to go on The Muslin Trail. What a feast! I was the least knowledgeable about textiles, but learned heaps from the places and people we visited.
People were very generous in telling / showing us their art, and the opportunities to purchase material was excellent and so well priced. It is a really different experience from Beauty Unwound, as the places visited extend knowledge and experience even further in seeing the creation of a variety of wonderful fabrics, using silks and cottons, in villages way off the tourist track.
Intertwined is visiting many wonderful historic sites, many of which help in the understanding of the history of the variety of crafts other than textiles, that we see. The balance between “sight-seeing” and the textiles was excellent.
The Muslin Trail is a tour of life in India, where the people are seen from subsistence level to those who have prospered. If you love India and want to further experience the beauty of its people and culture, go on the Muslin Trail with Sunita, it’s superb leader.
We certainly had a most enjoyable Tour and were delighted to be reacquainted with Sunita and India.
I enjoyed again the opportunity to see block printing particularly in a different part of the country, in different climatic conditions and both in the urban environment and rural settings. I think it is a great privilege to go into remote villages and communicate with craftsmen, designers and workers and see the humble buildings in which such beautiful fabric is woven and embroidered. I felt we were welcomed at every stop and the variety of techniques and settings was wonderful.
Stops such as the local market, the hand beaten metal work, pottery, museums, temples and the Visva Bharati University added another dimension to the trip. Other highlights for me were the visit to the home of the music teacher at the University to see Kantha work (I wish I’d spent more money there) and the prayer ceremony on the Narmada River.
I admire Sunita’s dedication to support the natural dyeing and hand weaving processes and her ability to act as a conduit between locals and tourists. Her unfailing attention to the group’s and each individual’s needs and wish lists makes your tours something very special and again being in such a small group even better.
Thank you again Mela and Sunita for a wonderful opportunity to see Incredible India in such intimate detail. For those interested in natural dyeing processes, hand weaving of beautiful silks and the finest of cottons and muslin in addition to cultural and historic sights this is a small group tour not to be missed.