About Us

Kamalan is a cultural agency that curates bespoke journeys for those who seek to discover the India of their imagination. Whether you are a chef in need of culinary inspiration, or a scholar seeking long lost knowledge for your research, or a designer sourcing material for your next collection, or an artist looking to capture a unique cultural perspective, or an art collector seeking ancient artefacts, or a storyteller looking for your next story, or a brand looking for the perfect location for your next campaign, or just a traveller seeking to immerse yourself in a new culture, the Indian travel craftsman curates a journey for you, at your own pace and rhythm.

With over four decades of expertise in travel, and an illustrious portfolio of collaborations with partners like Hermes, The New York Times, Louis Vuitton and The New Yorker, the Indian Travel Craftsman has access to a treasure trove of connections and experts to craft a journey as unique as you are. Our network of six offices stretch across the country, ranging from Leh in the Himalayas to Kochi in the south, along with our team of pathfinders who bring the local dexterity that is required to navigate this land of multiple realities.

In this age of standardisation we, at Kamalan, believe in craftsmanship. We strive to chisel your journey to India making sure it is just for you. We take your travel measures, choose the best fabrics and stitch a journey for you, day by day to fit your deepest desires, taking care of every detail to ensure that your journey to India fits you like a bespoke suit, made only for you.

On Top of the World

On Top of the World

Up there at 3500 meters above sea level, the rarefied air burned his lungs. With a rucksack full of dreams, Jan contemplated the mighty Himalayas.
It was the summer of 1977, and a friend had introduced him to Christian, a French man who wanted to bring mountain guides from Chamonix to the newly opened region of Ladakh.

And here, while walking on top of the world, he wondered what was to be of Tushita, the name a high-ranking Buddhist monk had given to his new endeavour. Tushita, the mythical realm where accomplished souls land before reaching Nirvana, annihilation in the divine.

And he took the step forward.

1977

A Soul of the High Ranges

A Soul of the High Ranges

The Rimpoche also drew a symbol to go with the name, a yak with flowers in its mouth. The yak occupied a significant place in the lives of nomadic populations of the Himalayas. For them, the yak was so valuable that they called it norbu, treasure, because it was capable of adapting to extreme cold while carrying heavy burdens. It is said that the soul of a yak never loses its way.

Together, Geraldine, Christian and Jan walked at times for thirteen hours a day, mapping possible trekking routes, their legs trembling even after they had stopped walking. But they were welcome everywhere, in people’s homes and in monasteries, where they often spent the night. Jan’s dedication to his idea of travel in Ladakh was evident in little things that he did for his clients.

Prosperous times followed, when many travellers and trekkers flocked to Ladakh and to Kashmir, eager to discover breathtaking landscapes, authentic cultures and mystical traditions. He was a thread that connected  travellers from around the world to the Dal Lake where the shikara men, rowing their frilly gondolas, would greet Jan loudly from across the waters.

1978

Dreams of the Maharajas

Dreams of the Maharajas

As it often happens, it was because of a setback that Tushita moved forward. When the going got tough in the Himalayas, Tushita moved to New Delhi to a small office with only a desk and two chairs, where three men worked relentlessly to welcome travellers to the land of the Maharajas, with Rajasthan at its heart.

In those times, Rajasthan was a melting pot of culture and traditions, but still a land prominently divided between the royals and the tribes. Faced with the difficulty of maintaining their sumptuous dwellings, many noblemen opened them up to paying guests, which allowed them to restore their heritage while employing locals. Tushita was there to bridge the cultural differences and promote the idea of authentic accommodation and cultural exchange between India and the West, contributing to making the dreams of the Maharajas come true.

1984

Only with Janak

Only with Janak

Such kind of passionate efforts were not only reserved for very important people; fulfilling every visitor’s request was looked at as an exciting challenge. When a message arrived that Monsieur and Madame Dupont were going to come back for their second trip to India, but would travel only with Janak, the driver they befriended the year before, the question was how to contact the young man who had gone home to a remote village in Himachal Pradesh. No mobile phone was available then, actually no phone at all.

It took Jan two days to travel by car first, and several kilometres on foot to find Janak sleeping. The man jumped up, incredulous, when he saw Jan standing by his bed and had no choice but to come back to Delhi with him, and be ready for Monsieur Dupont and his wife who became great lovers of India and kept coming back.

1985

L’ÂME du Voyage

L’ÂME du Voyage

Tushita’s consecration came when Jan got the opportunity to work on the creation of four advertising campaigns for Louis Vuitton. Jean Larivière, the photographer, and his team had carte blanche from the brand to capture l’âme du voyage, the soul of travel.
Working with a real artist brought very specific challenges. Jean Larivière, who defined himself “an eye and a heart”, needed time and concentration, and great reactivity to transform his visions into real images.

He saw books and trunks floating on the Dal lake, he sketched an elephant and his mahout on the rooftop of a fort, he envisioned dozens of camels crossing a sand dune; he needed the immaculate backdrop of snow covered Himalayan peaks and stark forts battered down by harsh weather. Tushita took him to Nepal, Kashmir, Ladakh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and created the conditions for him to make his magic, even going to the extent of appointing a team to fan him all night long when there was no other way to bring down the temperature in the middle of nowhere.

1986 - 1991

In the Land<br>of the Dravidians

In the Land
of the Dravidians

Chennai, formerly called Madras, was a grand old lady, a city steeped in the millenary Dravidian culture. It was the gateway to the spiritual home of Carnatic classical music and dance, yet had remained largely undiscovered until then. Tushita opened an office there and employed locals, as usual, to gain knowledge of the region to be shared with those who sought an immersion into India’s oldest traditions.

Those were times of great discoveries, and Chettinad was one of those. About 300 kilometres south of Chennai, it was an aery place inhabited by few souls but filled with the most magnificent mansions that only came alive for sumptuous weddings of the wealthy Chettiar diaspora. At one such wedding, Tushita’s long-standing engagement with local culture allowed it to build a bridge between travel writers from the West and the royals of the East, together experiencing a weeklong celebration with 5000 other guests.

1995

The Yak Moves on Surefooted,<br> A Stream of Anecdotes

The Yak Moves on Surefooted,
A Stream of Anecdotes

It seems funny to imagine the yak walking down from the Himalayan heights and strolling amidst the ancient temples of Mahabalipuram, venturing into the spice gardens and the tea plantations of Kerala and even going for an ayurvedic cure. In reality the yak only brought a vision, an idea of travel as cultural enrichment and authentic human interaction. It built a home in which diversity would thrive under the banner of passion and dedication.

Countless stories and anecdotes were woven during those times. The immersion in the ancient tradition of brocade weaving in Benares, for a textile expert who discovered that Muslim artisans produce the vibrant ceremonial fabrics used in Buddhist rituals; the chartering of a train from Delhi to Jaipur for three hundred people who experienced travel in colonial India just the way it was; the recreation of a fishermen’s village on the beach of Marari under a starry sky when the songs and the full moon made all the participants cry; a mistress of spices opening her house for the first time to an Italian family who learned an alchemy of flavours in her kitchen; coming face to face with the Karmapa, the humbling experience a skeptic was looking for; a shower of fragrant rose petals for the couple from Canada who came to the village of Samode to celebrate their wedding in Hindu tradition; relishing a freshly made caramel custard 4500 meters above sea level while gazing at the Tzomoriri lake. All this and so much more.

1995 - 2005

The Taste of India

The Taste of India

It was a case of a creative block; a chef came to us hoping to overcome the painful feeling that nothing new could be done with food. We took him to flamboyant markets and mothers’ kitchens, to spice gardens and gastronomic restaurants. We introduced him to the perfumed cuisine of Kashmir and the sweet-sour choices of Gujarat, the irresistible dosas of the South and the refined fish curries of Bengal.

His senses were submitted to a thunderstorm and he seemed very confused at first. Then he abandoned the obsessive desire to understand, and let himself be carried away by the triumphant melody of tastes he was in no way familiar with. The moment of epiphany came when the chief of a village invited him to sit down on the stark floor of his humble dwelling and served him a colourful meal on a banana leaf. Handling his food with his right hand, creating numberless combinations with the palette of offerings before him, the chef felt a great excitement overcome him.

The taste of India was a symphony played by an exotic orchestra, and our culinary artist took home as many instruments as he could, all sorts of spices and herbs, to compose the many melodies he heard playing on his palate and in his heart.

2006

Tales of the Monsoon

Tales of the Monsoon

Jean-Claude Ellena, the chief nose at Hermes, had created the perfume Un Jardin Après la Mousson and wished to launch it in Kerala, where he had spent time preparing this fragrance.

Tushita was appointed to organize the launch which meant finding ideas and locations while managing logistics for a hundred journalists coming from the world over in turns, for two weeks.

A professor entertained them with a passionate lecture about the Monsoon. A poet, with the beautiful voice that she used to lend to the national radio, recited a moving fairy tale about the sun and the clouds and the gift of the rains. Garden parties were organized worthy of the colonial Raj, elegant tables were laid out, a feast for both the eyes and the palate, but the highlight of the event was the actual disclosure of the perfume. Late at night, under the starlit canopy of an indigo sky, a silent rice boat was paddled offshore carrying the small group of writers. The humid air was thick with anticipation, until Jean-Claude gave each one of the participants a vial they were all to open simultaneously.

Cradled by the gentle waves of the backwaters, lulled by the nostalgic notes of the Indian flute, each of them discovered the effect Ellena’s creation had on their emotional chords. And it was unforgettable.

2008

A New Dawn, Kamalan

2010

A New Dawn, Kamalan

kamalan means born from the lotus. The strongest symbol of purity in Eastern traditions, it happened as miraculously as a new dawn, like an evidence.

Moved by the compelling desire to reach out to those who were ready to fall in love with India and willing to share our intimate knowledge without filter, we embarked on a journey that has given us so far immense pleasure.

If India is the mother of history and the grandmother of legend, like Mark Twain once said, kamalan is a master storyteller, a collector of tales from every nook and corner of this vast land for travellers to find the journey of their dreams. Diving in our river of stories you will encounter people and places, traditions and celebrations, ascetics and kings, megalopolis and humble villages, the timeless and the now.

Our team will insist on getting to know you to be able to advice, suggest, discourage and ultimately craft a transforming and authentic experience, a meeting with remarkable India.

We believe that travel should nourish your soul and your senses, and our intention is to ensure that when you’ll go back home, you will notice in you an imperceptible change.

So far, kamalan has been reaching out, building bridges and collecting precious memories.

Discerning travellers have chosen to enter the labyrinth that India can be, holding the Ariadne’s thread that kamalan wove for each of them in different colours, and became friends.

And the Indian travels craftsman keeps collecting the precious memories his guests have entrusted him with. By now the kamalan community has grown exponentially, a community of likeminded wanderers of mother India’s physical and metaphorical body.