Geographers and Philosophy & Religion students spent an enriching half term exploring India.
Fourteen students arrived in New Delhi and the adventure immediately began with a visit to Qutab Minar, the highest tower in India: standing at 73 metres, it marks the defeat of the last Hindu king and celebrates Muslim dominance in Delhi. Next was Jama Masjid, the great mosque of Old Delhi, to view the extravagant architecture of emperor Shan Jahan. Later, the girls visited Bangla Sahib, a Sikh Temple, where they saw how the communal kitchen fed thousands of local people and took part in a chapatti-making workshop. Another highlight was the rickshaw ride to get a sense of local life, discovering the winding streets of Old Delhi and its colourful bazaars. Delhi was brought to an emotional close by a visit to India Gate, built to commemorate the death of Indian soldiers who died in World War I, and the Gandhi Smriti, where Gandhi lived for a time and was sadly assassinated.
From Delhi, the group travelled by coach to the city of Agra. On the journey, the guide explained the Hindu Caste system, arranged marriages and employment, while taking questions throughout. On arrival, the girls relaxed and unwound with a yoga lesson, before putting on a talent show. Later that evening, they attended a Bollywood show based on the love story of the Taj Mahal – a dazzling display of costumes and lively dance routines. The following day, the visit to the Taj Mahal was breath-taking: the grand building set in white marble and surrounded by serene gardens was a moment to be remembered. The guide explained the story and construction of the UNESCO World Heritage site and took them to explore the mausoleum. Next on the list was the Agra Fort, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, built during the Mughal Empire. After dinner in a local restaurant, sampling delicious cuisine, the group embarked on an overnight train journey to Varanasi – an adventure which, despite some initial reservations, was a resounding success.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities to Hindus as it is the home of the River Ganges. Here they took a boat ride to observe evening arti being performed, using light, fire and chanting to worship their gods. Cremations were also taking place on the riverbanks as the guide explained what Hindus believe happens after death, in terms of soul and reincarnation. Earlier in the day, was a visit to Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon on enlightenment to the five disciples.
To conclude the trip, there was a visit to a saree-making colony. A local man called Dada led a fascinating tour of all the production areas. Students asked plenty of questions about this traditional trade, passed down through families, and saw first-hand the living and working conditions. At the end of the tour, students purchased some of the finished products that caught their eye. The flight back from Varanasi to Delhi was swift and the departure the next day back to Heathrow left everyone reflecting on a whirlwind of a truly memorable trip, loved by all.
Each year, we offer a diverse range of stimulating residential visits to help open doors, hearts and minds – both in the UK and further afield – including sports tours, fieldwork, Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, language exchanges, academic trips and enrichment-focused adventures.