Ampersand's Bespoke Cultural Tours: The Pearls of Punjab & Mumbai
Ampersand’s bespoke cultural tours with Cosmo Brockway was launched recently with a trip to India to visit the magical destinations of Punjab and Mumbai. An intimate group of ‘Ampersand-ites’, led by Cosmo and Ampersand’s owner James Jayasundera, embarked on a magic carpet ride through some of the lesser-known gems and cultural sights of the subcontinent.
Our first evening saw us arrive in the sacred city of Amritsar, home of the Golden Temple and the recently-opened Taj Swarna. The visionary Partition Museum, co-founded by Lady Kishwar Desai, invited us for a private tour of its moving exhibitions, which highlight the separation of India and Pakistan in 1947. We were joined by best-selling author and historian Peter Bance, who entertainingly shared anecdotes of the Sikh culture over a traditional Punjabi dinner.
The unforgettable sight of the gilded domes and holy pool of the Golden Temple greeted us the following morning. We experienced the pilgrims bathing on the marble banks, the flashing colours of the turbans and robes, and even tried our hand at rolling chapattis in the communal kitchens! India's frontier was our next destination. We travelled the short distance to witness the theatrics and music of the border closing between India and Pakistan at Wagah – this daily ritual is accompanied by exhilarating dances, marches and bravado on both sides – with Indian ladies in the crowds surging onto the gates for impromptu Bollywood dancing. Great fun all round, and a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between the countries.
The drums, flower petals and coloured powders of the joyful Hindu festival of spring, Holi, enveloped us the next day as we joined in with the celebrations of the Mehra family of boutique haveli, Ranjit's SVAASA. All presented with white cotton outfits, we were showered in petals and colours of every hue before being treated to a superb banquet lunch on the lawn.
The Maharaja of Kapurthala was our host the following day for lunch at his usually private country house. A tour of family treasures, including gifts from Haile Selassie and the Chrysanthemum court of Japan, was followed by a lavish lunch of his ancestral cuisine, and an honoured visit to the nearby astonishing Jagatjit palace built by the Maharaja's grandfather and modelled on Versailles.
Mumbai embraced us with its intoxicating landscape of colonial buildings, bustling markets and temples. Guests of the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel, we had privileged guided visits to museums, the 6th century rock-cut temples of Elephanta Island, 18th century synagogues and the recently restored Royal Opera House. Unique experiences came in the form of private lunches at a glorious beach villa (reached by speedboat and serenaded by dolphins), as well as convivial evenings at the beautiful homes of the MD of Sotheby’s India and royal author The Nawab of Surat.
A truly memorable and layered journey with a group of like-minded people, who began as fellow travellers and parted as firm friends. Pearls of Punjab & Mumbai gave us all a thousand memories to cherish and much excitement about planning the next cultural tour!
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