Gateway to Ganesha
- Ram Bihari Palace
- San Francisco, CA, USA
- Jan 14 - 24, 2019 (11 days)
This ten-day immersion gives you stunning sights, delicious food, luxurious accommodations, and a deep dive into sacred arts with world-class instructors. We invite you to be creative, relax, stretch, eat, and enjoy live entertainment at a historic palace in rural India.
If you’ve never been to India, this is a perfect introduction; you will be pampered. No worries about staying safe or navigating the many challenges of travel in this beautiful yet sometimes bewildering country. Beginner artists and the merely curious are welcome to join. Besides daily art classes, you are free to join us for optional daily yoga classes, field trips, hikes, dance lessons, and temple visits.
Together we will learn the secret language of sacred geometry, create intricate patterns (kolam) on the sandstone patio, construct a collage to invoke abundance, ornament yourself with henna tattoos (mehndi), and meditatively make a personalized prayer bead rosary (mālā) with a limited-edition silver Gaṇeśa charm.
Our three renowned instructors, Sonja, Krupa, and Ekabhumi each bring decades of experience as instructors, professional artists, and spiritual practitioners. Our event producer, Mukul, is highly experienced in hospitality and will ensure your needed are fulfilled. This will be a nourishing exploration of playful meditation, art as a way to see reality more vividly, art as a joyful expression of your own innermost wisdom.
Skill Levels: All skill levels welcome!
Languages: English and Hindi
Classes with Ekabhumi:
Ganesha Yantra (multiple day classes)
In this class we will learn one of the most powerful and esoteric of the sacred arts: how to make a yantra. Yantras often resemble Mandalas. They are spiritual devices that utilize lines, sacred geometry, symbolic color, and written mantras to focus, hold, and direct divine power. A deity yantra is a self-realization device that leads us from outer to inner, from diversity to unity, from gross to subtle. We will learn to make this beautiful icon in the traditional ritual manner. Yoga Asana (part of the early morning series) Traditionally, every day begins with an invocation of the illuminating power of the Sun. In this series of gentle asana classes, we will bring this light and warmth into our body, helping us to open, to stretch, and to digest the many new experiences and teachings of this retreat.
What Is A Deity? (evening presentation)
We’ll cover different historic, lineage, and cultural interpretations of what it is that we are invoking when we do ceremony for a deity. Are we calling on a self-aware non-physical person, a psychological archetype, or an inspirational cultural myth? These and several other valid interpretations will be addressed.
What Is A Yantra? (evening presentation)
Geometric shapes are understood and utilized differently in Tantric ritual diagrams (yantras and mandalas) than in European sacred geometry. We’ll go over the symbolism of basic shapes and symbols that appear commonly in ritual diagrams, the importance of ornamentation, as well as the symbolism of colors.
What Is A Mantra? (evening presentation)
The Vedic tradition is based on chanting. Each mantra is a specific invocation made of sounds keyed to distinct aspects of reality. Most mantras are related to a specific deity and are used to invoke a specific aspect of their power. We’ll learn more about Sanskrit, why pronunciation is important, and how they can be used to resolve specific challenges, goals, and problems.
What Is A Guru? (evening presentation)
Many scriptures praise the guru as being the key to success on the spiritual path. Yet there are so many stories (even in ancient times) of frauds, abusers, and greedy “holy men” who take advantage of their students. It’s essential to learn how to avoid spiritual traps. We’ll discuss some of the positive attributes to look for in a guru and some basic principles to remember when interacting with highly-realized beings.
Home Altar Basics (Daytime Class)
Learn the basics on building, maintaining, using, and dismantling a home altar. We’ll do a simple 5-offering invocation (puja) for Ganesha together.
Classes with Sonja:
Ganesha Mālā (multiple day classes)
The most fundamental and wide-spread tool used for Asian spiritual practitioners is the prayer bead rosary (mālā), used for counting mantras during meditation. In this in-depth class, we will learn how to string and knot the beads, how to infuse it with sacred mantra, and how to hold the mala correctly when meditating. Each will be finished with a unique limited-edition solid silver charm depicting Lord Ganesha. Each of us will get to keep the unique piece that we make.
Sri Collage (multiple day classes)
In this fun and playful class, we’ll create a work of art to hold our intention for abundance, beauty, and pleasure. Collage is when we cut out images printed on paper, arrange and glue them to a surface to make a multi-layered masterpiece. No artistic skill needed!
Creative Movement Flow (part of the early morning series)
Loosen up! Yoga Asana classes can be very disciplined, linear, and even uncomfortable. As an alternative to the asana classes, we invite you to join Sonja for some flowing movement practices. As a trained belly-dancer, she knows how to get your hips moving!
Classes with Krupa:
Kolam (morning series)
Experience the sacred art ritual of kolam from south India, while guided through a progression to understand the symbolic layers encoded in the patterns. Sessions will include introduction, context and drawing on paper, followed by guided instruction to lay the designs outside with rice powder as an impermanent offering to the earth.
Henna & Healing (workshop)
Explore the traditional art form of henna (mehndi) as a tool for self-awareness, discovering personal symbolism within a safe space. Each participant can connect to the body on various levels: through adornment, attention, self-care and potential healing of scars, injuries or stories carried in the physical form. Includes an introduction to the history and traditional context of henna use, a guided meditation, drawing, henna application and sharing. We will use a natural henna paste, which each participant will learn and practice by applying on themselves.
Art Journeys (evening presentation)
An introduction to art therapy, highlights of expressive arts in India, and applications of intentional, therapeutic and community art.
Art Link (Potential additional activity)
A simple collaborative art game exploring themes through a group expressive process - including drawing and writing.
- Daily art and creativity classes
- Daily yoga asana classes
- Live traditional music and dance
- You will make and utilize your own sacred mālā (prayer beads)
- You will learn how to decipher and make a mystical diagrams (yantras & kolams)
- You will learn how to make meaningful temporary tattoos with henna (mehndi)
- All art materials and tools included (feel free to bring your own favorites)
- 2 Field trips to visit local temples, waterfalls, and architectural wonders
- 3 meals a day featuring a wide variety of gourmet vegetarian food
- 8 nights in the Ram Bihari Palace- Sight-seeing and shopping in New Delhi (and tips on haggling)
- Airport transfer
Venue HighlightsThe Ram Bihari Palace is the sprouting of a new jewel in the crown of the princely kingdom of Alwar in Rajasthan. Nestled between the oldest fold mountain range in India - the Aravalis, it overlooks the picture perfect Siliserh Lake. The famous Sariska nature forest – a tiger habitat necklaces the resurrected three-hundred year old palace. We are placed between the golden triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur at Alwar, thus making us an accessible stop on the most travelled itinerary in India.
In 2016, the visionary Ram Bihari Kaushik, a hospitality professional turned hotelier, took it upon himself to retrieve the lost glory of this heritage haveli (local name for palace styled homes). An architectural marvel particularly in restoration, it boasts of the same aesthetics, construction dynamics and materials used during the time of its owners - the Rajput Kings.
The unpretentious luxury here is a treat to the senses appealing both to the indulgent and the recluse. A destination in its own right, the palace is an ideal nature getaway, a rural retreat, a celebratory stage or even a romantic venue to exchange wedding vows within the quintessentially Rajasthani countryside. Time appears to move slowly with a restorative calm as both nature and built environment conspire to create the perfect symphony.
- Air Conditioning in Rooms
- Free Wifi
- Free Parking
- Tour Assistance
ScheduleBrief Daily Schedule:
DAY 1 Delhi Sight-seeing
DAY 2 Delhi Shopping
DAY 3 Travel to Alwar, Orientation Meeting, Opening Ceremony
DAY 4 Art Classes at the Palace
DAY 5 Art Classes at the Palace
DAY 6 Half-Day Field Trip to Architectural Wonders & Classes
DAY 7 Art Classes at the Palace
DAY 8 Half-Day Field Trip to Sacred Waterfall & Classes
DAY 9 Art Classes at the Palace & Live Folk Entertainment
DAY 10 Art Classes & Closing Ceremony
DAY 11 Return to Delhi
SIGHTS (As time allows)
- Bala Quila (Massive Medieval Fort)
- Chand Baori in Abhaneri (Massive step-well used as backdrop in movies)
- Connaught Place –New Delhi (Shopping and dinner)
- Gharbaji Falls & Hanuman Temple (Sacred natural destination hike)
- Humayun’s Tomb –New Delhi (Stunning sandstone masterpiece)
- Jama Masjid –New Delhi (Enormous venerable mosque)
- Khan Market –New Delhi (Shopping and dinner)
- Lodi Gardens –New Delhi (Serene gardens with crumbling monuments)
- Lotus Temple –New Delhi (Spectacular modern Bahá'í temple)
- Ram Bihari Palace (Rustic yet luxurious re-built historic palace)
- Red Fort –New Delhi (Historic of major political events filled with impressive sights)
- Dairy Free
Menu/CuisineThe restaurant Akshaybatloi is the outlay of home-cooking brought to the guests table. We cook sumptous and healthy contemporary rajasthani cuisine with other gastronomy options available to suit every palette. Ram Bihari Palace also maintains a kitchen garden and is moving towards the farm-to-table concept. A rave review of our food from the guests bolsters our endeavor to become a conscious food destination whilst providing occasional indulgences.
AccommodationsThe tastefully appointed rooms incorporate design principles of vaastu (indian science of architecture) and demonstrate intelligent spatial awareness. A small boutique hotel by choice, the eleven keys showcase local artisanal excellence and motifs that subscribe to both Rajput and Mughal styles.
Unpretentious, classy décor and temperature control lend themselves to providing a great in-room experience. Their highly trained staff have worked in some of the leading hotels in India and overseas offering a contemporary interpretation of world-famous Rajasthani hospitality.
Great emphasis has also been placed on the art within the hotel with leading international artists gracing this place to both create and consume fine-art.
The beds are twin or double beds with thick mattresses. Bathrooms are huge in size and shared with your room partner.