Gone are the days, when the education used to be only study centric. An educational tour offers an opportunity for a rich immersive experience, and a tremendous way to facilitate learning. In an educational tour, students have the chance to experience a culture firsthand, connecting with the people and place on a much deeper level than they ever could in a classroom. A similar 9 days exotic trip was organized by Delhi University: an educational expedition by train journey accompanied by 52 colleges including 60 NCC students (overall 940 students) covering the tour route on Delhi-Kanpur-Varanasi-Bhopal-Ahmadabad-Delhi.
With the glorious sunrise on 11th March, the excitement and thrill filled my eyes to face a mesmerizing journey, for which I was waiting since long. On day 1, entering Safdurjung Railway station touched my heart with an Indian warm welcome from Shri Ashok Thakur, vice chancellor of MHRD by offering a tilak on forehead and rudraksh mala and wishing bon voyage for the journey. And there it was waiting for us: my mentor Gyanodaya expresses (college on wheels) for the next 9 days, flamboyant with fancy tinsels. A flabbergasted journey was about to begin. The train took off at 10:30 am from Delhi straight to our first astounding destination, Kanpur.
Day 2: Kanpur, situated on the bank of the Ganges River, known as Manchester of the East, was a beautiful city where we finally reached at 7 AM in the morning. Visiting the leather industry was a handful experience to know why Kanpur is known as leather city. It contains some of the largest and finest tanneries in the country and earns a lot of foreign exchange. Moving on from exports business to the renowned Kanpur IIT was another stupendous experience that carries out original research of significance and technology development at the cutting edge. The information gathered provides an all-round enriching education.
Day 3: We arrived at Varanasi (Kashi), the oldest living cities in the world at 5 am. To be in Varanasi is an experience in itself, an experience in self–discovery, an eternal oneness of the body and soul. It is also the seat of one of India’s biggest universities, the Banaras Hindu University, one of the pioneering institutions in the country to initiate teaching and research in Ancient Indian history and culture. The university holds painstaking explorations, excavations and historical archaeology material which were restored in the form of ancient museums, of which I got a chance not only to visit but to touch and feel as well. Next on our itinerary was a visit to Diesel Locomotive Works, one of the largest manufacture and production unit owned by Indian Railways in the country. After a mystifying experience of travelling for continuously 3 days, we were offered to stay at the Pratap Hotel in Varanasi for an overnight stay fully paid by Delhi University.
Day 4: The next morning was breathtaking with the early morning sun shimmering across the Ganges, the high-banks, the temples and shrines along the banks bathed in a golden hue soul stirring hymns and mantras along with the fragrance of incense filling the air. Soon after breakfast, we left for Sarnath, a small village in Uttar Pradesh, situated about 13 km north-east of holy city Varanasi. Formerly known as Isipatana, it is famous as the site where Gautama Buddha preached his first sermon. It is also the place where the original Sangha was formed. Hence, it is one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. Departing from the station at 18:00 hrs to reach our next destination, Gyanodaya express was delayed by 10 hrs during the journey and we all end up spending 24 hours in the train which turned out to be a big advantage for me. Sharing conversations, exchanging knowledge, playing games, cracking jokes proved to be fruitful.
Day 5: Here we reached to another exciting place, Bhopal (Sanchi railway station) at 18:00 hrs. Rushing from the station, we hurriedly got into our buses to head to Sanchi Stupa. The Stupa stands proud as an icon of Sanchi, a hemispherical brick structure, wheelchair accessible and having signage and information plaques in Braille, special tactile walkways, beepers and a Braille map that allows people with disabilities too to experience the splendor of the monuments. My renewed interest in the site arose from it being recently made completely barrier-free and disabled-friendly, thanks to the efforts of a Bhopal-based voluntary organization. A visit to Bhopal is incomplete if you have not visited Bharat Bhavan and its museums. The museum is said to be dedicated towards the diverse Indian art forms in the region, divided into four different segments, each hall representing four different forms of art. Sadly departing from the place, we headed to Abhinav hotel in the evening by bus located 50 kms away for overnight stay and rest.
Day 6: Early morning at 10:00 am, we started towards another adventurous expedition of Bhimbetka Caves, located near Bhopal at a distance of 46 km, are among the most fascinating and attention-grabbing tourist known for their huge archeological importance in India and possess a treasure of prehistoric art in the country. Executed mainly in red and white with the occasional use of green and yellow, with themes taken from the everyday events of eons ago, the scenes usually depicted hunting, dancing, music, horse and elephant riders, animals fighting, honey collection, decoration of bodies, disguises, masking and household scenes. We further headed to Lower Lake which added a little disappointment to the trip. The Lower Lake suffers from pollution due to drainage from sewage-filled nallahs, lack of fresh water source and commercial washing of clothes. The entire lake is atrophic, and its water is not suitable for drinking. After experiencing the whole adventuresome journey of Bhopal, departed from Habibganj Railway station at 18:30 hrs to reach our final destination, Ahmadabad.
Day 7: The land of smart businessman and remarkably down to earth people, Ahmadabad charms its visitors with delicious food, amazing hospitality and colorful culture. On reaching there, we straight got into our buses to reach Lothal, a place for history and archeology enthusiasts, to visit the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. The museum holds an artistic depiction as well as introductory write ups and maps, contains beads, terracotta ornaments, replicas of seal and sealing, shell and ivory objects, copper and bronze objects, animal and human figurines, weights, and painted potteries, etc. After a quick wrap up, our buses took a speedy turn towards Sabarmati Ashram. Clean and serene, calm and inspirational, the Sabarmati Ashram speaks its own language. Exhilarated with memories of the journey, check in to Hotel Inter Residency where in another great surprise of DJ night and delish dinner was awaiting on the auspicious occasion of Holi. The hospitality managed by the hotel was magnificent.
Day 8: Gratifying welcome by the DCP and the police force on arriving at Surat in the morning at 7am. After a fantastic Guajarati breakfast, our bus arrived at diamond industry (Dharmanandan Diamonds) wherein we were shown an inspirational presentation on the work side followed by a Guajarati lunch. The last thing on our mind was to visit the Surat municipal corporation, Surat city and shopping at Surat city.
Day 9: Finally an expeditious memorable trip came to an end when we reached Delhi, the next day at 11:30 pm at the Safdurjung Railway station. I, Chirag Gambhir, the only visual challenged student from Venkateswara College on this trip would like to convey my sincere gratitude to Lt. Parminder Sehgal, IRCTC staff, initiator of the tour-Prof. Dinesh Singh, vice chancellor of Delhi University and all other participants for making my recent encounter with India a “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious experience”. Experience of learning with new friends, exploring new cities, the only thing I can express in words is, ““We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”