Lonely Planet Writer

Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth with a customised tour in India

October 2, 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian activist who led the country’s movement for independence against British colonial rule using methods of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. He was so inspirational and crucial to India’s development as a free nation that his birthday is now of one of three national holidays, the festival of Gandhi Jayanti. (In 2007 the date was also declared as an International Day of Nonviolence by the United Nations General Assembly.)

Mahatma Ghandi enjoys a laugh with his two granddaughters Ava and Manu at Birla House in New Delhi. Photo by: Bettmann/Getty Images

Audley Travel, a UK-based company specializing in customised journeys, is curating tours that will take visitors to places the activist and spiritual leader frequented. This will be a one-of-a-kind experience, according to India Specialist Leigh Herzik. “Throughout your time you can expect to be swept up in the magical chaos of spice markets, bustling streets and craft bazaars,” she says. “All of your senses will be active, from the amazing sights to the boisterous sounds and the delicious smells.”

Banks of the Ganges. Photo by: Shrey Khurana @shreykhurana for Unsplash.jpg

The company recommends beginning your experiential journey at the National Gandhi Museum in Delhi as a starting point to get a framework for understanding India’s cultural past and how British rule influenced their identify. Then work with the Audley Travel specialist to turn your specific interests and their historical knowledge for a meaningful trip. “Audley will introduce you to the sites and locations that inspired the life of such a profoundly influential man while still creating the exact experience that you are looking for in India,” including perhaps the spiritual capital of Varanasi as well as Ahmedabad, where Gandhi established Gujarat University and the Navajivan Publishing House.

The holy city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges. Photo by: Thomas Young @tryoung for Unsplash.jpg

Visitors will immerse themselves in the two distinctly different sides of one city. Time in Old Delhi allows the chance to discover rich history, religion and culture amongst its labyrinth of streets. Take a cycle rickshaw to see vendors selling all kinds of wares in the Chandni Chowk Bazaar and tour the historic Red Fort, a Unesco World Heritage built by the creator of the Taj Mahal. See the Friday Mosque, the second-largest one in the subcontinent; built between 1644 and 1658 it’s a seamless blend of serenity and socializing. Pay respects at Raj Ghat, the site of Gandhi’s funeral pyre after his assassination in 1948, where members of his family have also been cremated. The lush avenues of New Delhi, on the other hand, prove how the vibrant capital city continues to evolve. “Travelers want to experience and see a side of India that others have not,” Herzik says. In order to get off the beaten track and to marvel at sights rarely seen these hyper curated experiences are a must.”

A view of Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial on his 149th birth anniversary, at Raj Ghat, on 2 October 2018 in New Delhi, India. Photo by: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The itineraries will truly help guests understand how India’s colonial past has shaped its identity and the vital role that Gandhi played. “Any traveller with a desire to understand, immerse and experience a new culture, especially one vastly different than they are used to” will enjoy this trip, she says. “Also, adventurers who want to travel to a region a bit more complex in regards to routing arrangement and local difficulties,” including challenges with navigation and language barriers.

For more information and to book your Gandhi immersive trip, head to Audley Travel’s website.