Indian Pilgrimage Retreat
Sept 2 - 14 2022
India is the birthplace of yoga, the land of incredible mystery with thousands of years of sacred heritage. For seekers on the path of sādhana, the path of liberation, it has been a place of pilgrimage for millennia. Our India Sacred Pilgrimage Retreat is designed to offer seekers an intensive experience of India and Indian culture along with a profoundly deep spiritual practice immersion.
Harshada has been traveling to India since 1997 and has been leading group retreats to India since 2005. He has a vast network of connections there and an outstanding local team assisting with the pilgrimage. He has brought hundreds of seekers over the course of nearly 30 years and has honed the retreat into an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind offering.
This is not a tourist trip. We travel in a small, deeply oriented group - less than 15 people - and avoid typical tourist destinations. Harshada provides a mandatory in-depth cultural orientation for all participants so everyone knows how to be in synch with Indian culture and experience the “real India”, instead of the India that is put together for tourists. Typically, once we leave Mumbai, we don’t even see any other Westerners until we return to Mumbai.
Every day, we follow a retreat schedule, rising early in the morning for tea and meditation, then engaging in the daily activities of visiting temples, practicing in traditional “power spots”, and immersing ourselves in the sacred culture of India. We don’t do shopping, or site seeing, or go on any “tours”. We’re there on pilgrimage, on retreat, with silent mornings and evenings and a LOT of practice. We meditate every day, we do a lot of namasankirtana (chanting) practice, and are with Harshada the whole time learning, asking questions, and going deep into our process of awakening.
You’ll book your flight into Mumbai arriving on the evening of the 2nd. We’ll pick you up from the airport and bring you to our hotel in Mumbai. We begin the retreat on the morning of the 3rd. Don’t worry, Harshada knows how to get you ready and take care of your body and mind. He will provide guidance on avoiding jet lag and has a light schedule for the 3rd. On the 4th, we load up in the van and head into the adventure. Our van is a simple but comfortable air conditioned van with a first class, highly experienced professional driver.
We stay at a variety of Indian style hotels, retreat sites and dharmashallas (pilgrim guest accommodations) with a range of western-standard comfort levels. We begin and end the trip in Mumbai at a comfortable 4 star hotel, but also stay in very simple accommodations in some places. Everywhere we go has electricity, running water, and hot water on demand. Everywhere we stay has western, commode-style toilets. We will provide unlimited bottled drinking water and food of the highest quality and hygienic standards. We eat pure vegetarian (delicious) Indian food the whole time, breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is no meat, alcohol or smoking for the entire retreat. And you’ll have to sacrifice iced drinks and fancy coffees too, but in return you’ll get unlimited delicious fresh chai and the best Indian food you’ve every tasted. Every time we go people love the food as much as they do the spiritual dimension of the trip.
Along with the cultural orientation, Harshada will also provide an in-depth health orientation created by a tropical disease specialist that will teach you how to avoid falling ill from food borne illness or other unique tropical ailments like typhoid or malaria. India requires everyone to be vaccinated against Covid 19 and we also recommend inoculations against typhoid and hepatitis and also that participants take anti malarial medication. It is very typical for westerners to get sick in India. It is very rare for any our participants.
Our journey to India, in Sanskrit is called a yatra, meaning the spiritual practice of sacred pilgrimage. Unlike tourism, where the purpose of a trip is pleasure or entertainment, people go on yatra for the sake of spiritual goals. The yatrika, or pilgrim, journeys to a sacred place to practice in a particular energy field, or to have the darshana, or sacred viewing, of a holy place or deity or holy person. Yatra is an important practice for the faithful of nearly every religion.
In the Indian mystical tradition of yatrika, comfort is not the main concern. Sometimes, there are deliberate austerities included. A yatrika might observe vows during the yatra such as fasting, celibacy, or silence. They might choose particularly austere forms of travel such as walking without shoes or even crawling on hands and knees to the sacred destination. These added austerities often times help to prepare the yatrika's mind and body to receive the blessing or insight or transformation they are seeking through the yatra.
We don’t observe any of these kinds of intense austerities on our yatra. We do observe a pure vegetarian diet, abstain from drugs and alcohol, stay off our phones and practice periods of silence. But otherwise we travel in relative comfort. But there is an element of austerity. We have a great deal of comfort by Indian standards, but comfort is not our main concern. We are challenged. We’re challenged physically, mentally, culturally and spiritually. And we embrace the challenge as tapasya, sacred austerity.
As a group of westerners, we also avoid a great deal of unwanted attention by traveling as yatrikas. We wear Indian clothing and generally conduct ourselves as pilgrims as we move around. The contrast with typical western travelers is stark, and this way we avoid locals trying to constantly sell us knick-knacks, or camel rides, or take selfies with us. Locals know Harshada in the places where we go and know what he and his groups are about. Many of the local people we interact with are old beloved friends of Harshada. But even with strangers, when we approach the various places respectfully in the yatrika attitude, we are treated with great respect and love.
Our pilgrimage happens in the ancient land of Maharashtra, on the central-west coast of India. Mahārashtra has a rich cultural and spiritual history and is a great melding pot of both northern and southern Indian traditions, cuisines, and people. We begin the amazing city of Mumbai and travel all together in a van to a number of different powerful locations in the sacred Maharashtran outback.
Also known as Bombay, Mumbai is a city like no other. It is a humming, super fun, dynamic massive city on the Indian Ocean with people from all over India. We start and end the trip there enjoying the food and colors and using it’s unique energy to orient us into the vibration of the land. On the first day, we make one shopping trip to get some Indian clothes. If you want to stay for the shopping day, we spend another whole day there enjoying the flavors and doing some limited retail therapy.
Nasik is an ancient city on the banks of the holy Godavari river. Arriving into the old city of Nasik is like landing into another world. It has very old temples and is said to be the place where Rama and Sita lived while they were exiled in the forest. In Nasik visit its holy places, eat delicious Maharashtran Thali meals, roam the ancient streets of the old city, and spend one morning practicing in some exquisite 7th century Buddhist caves.
From Nasik we visit the sacred valley of Trymbakeshwar, one of the holiest places in India. It is the site of a very prestigious and powerful Shiva temple, as well as the origin point of the river Godavari. One of the masters of Harshada’s spiritual lineage has his tomb there, and it is also the legendary birthplace of the Monkey-god Hanuman. We spend 3 days and 2 unforgettable nights in Trymbakeshwar where we hike to the top of Hanuman’s mountain, and also take part in a traditional yagna or fire sacrifice.
After the rattle of Mumbai and Nasik, and the fire of Trymbakeshwar, we’re then ready for some deep quiet and assimilation. For this, we spend a few days in silence at a sweet, small Ayurvedic plant nursery and farm-stay called Madhuban. This is always a highlight for participants. We practice silence and have luxurious sessions of yoga and meditation in the outdoor meeting space listening to the many birds and inhaling the magical herb scented air of the farm. We eat incredible food at Madhuban prepared just for us from local produce and go deep into our inner practice. While we're at Madhuban we do make one day trip to a VERY powerful and ancient Goddess temple known as Saptashringi.
From Madhuban Nursery, we get back in the van and travel a distance south to a small village near the city of Pune called Alandi. Alandi, on the banks of the holy Indriyani river was the home of Jnaneshwar Maharaj, a 13th century master in Harshada’s lineage who is considered to be one of the most powerful siddha masters ever. His tomb-temple is there which is an incredibly powerful vortex of spiritual energy. Alandi is a humming cauldron of kundalini shakti. There truly is no place like Alandi. After our days there, you really will never experience mediation and the inner path the same way.
To maintain the spiritual focus of the pilgrimage, we don't do any shopping during our journey. If you want to do some Indian Retail Therapy, we have a whole day for it! Participants can choose to stay an extra day in Mumbai which is dedicated for shopping and enjoyment. We visit the famous Chowpatti Beach the night before and spend the day romping in Mumbai. If you don't want to do Shopping Day, you can depart on the evening of 13th instead of the 14th.
Not For Everybody, But Maybe For You
Literally it’s not for everybody because we only bring a small group. We limit the group to 12 participants and 3-4 retreat team members. Traveling in a small group allows us to be somewhat incognito and minimize the splash we make as go into the very authentic local restaurants, temples, and other sacred places. And the small group is with Harshada the whole time. There are many formal teaching sessions, but lots of informal teaching and lots of care.
Also, the retreat is intense. By far, this is the most intense offering Harshada does. Traveling in India is always intense to begin with, and in our case, it’s more intense because of the spiritual dimension. We follow a retreat discipline for the whole time with minimal chit-chat, no distractions from social media, and a lot of practice. Our awareness and sensitivity is heightened and everyone in the group is transforming.
More so than in any of his other offerings, there is a deep surrender required for this retreat. We have an application process to help you get clear about the requirements and your readiness to join the retreat. Some people come again and again. Some people come just once but their life is never the same. For sure, if you are a sādhaka, a spiritual aspirant, the retreat is a deep initiation into the spiritual land where so many mystical traditions were born.
How to Join
After your application is accepted, you'll be required to make a deposit to hold your space. Deposits are only partly refundable if trip is cancelled due to Covid (unlikely).
The basic retreat fee starts at $5400 (USD)*.
*This is based on one time payment and other conditions.
Payment Plans and partial scholarships are available on a case by case basis.
This includes orientation sessions, all retreat activities, all local transportation, food and shared accommodation.
Semi-private rooms in some locations are available for additional fees.
India Pilgrimage Retreat Application
Use a computer (not a phone) to fill out the application below. The questions are designed to help you get clear, and give us a sense of who you are and where you're coming from. We will get back to you and let you know the next steps. Harshada may want to have a conversation with you. If you have questions for him, please indicate them in the field below. *note the complete application only loads on a laptop or desktop.