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Published: February 4th 2018
Jama Masjid Mosque
Impressive inner courtyard and entrance.
My trip to India started in Delhi, and went on to Jaipur and Agra, or as it is otherwise known "The Golden Triangle."
As I realized at the end of my trip, I had grossly underestimated the fascination of the country, and I regret not having extended my trip to cover more areas. For one thing, this territory was totally overwhelmed by the Mughal invasion, and ancient Hindu sites were mostly destroyed by the Muslin religious zeal. Nevertheless, the architectural sites I did visit were unforgettable in scale and beauty, as some of my photos will show.
I only spent a full day in Delhi, which again was too short, but it set the tone for the remainder of the trip. I arrived in the latter part of the evening after a 14 hour direct flight from New Jersey. The drive from the airport to the hotel was my first experience with traffic conditions that were nerve wrecking, to say the least. If we were on a three lane avenue, there were usually at least six lanes of traffic, all constantly merging and changing lanes with a deafening array of horns to signal their next move. Millions of motorcycles
Jama Masjid Mosque
Trying to keep our shoeless feet from the hot flood, wearing the required robes to enter the mosque.
and scooters, some conveying families of five (father with the eldest kid in front of him, the mother in the back with the youngest in her arms, and another kid between them) were not an uncommon site. It is a culture shock to be exposed to such immense population, and the extreme poverty surrounding a large number of that population. However, one thing that I will remember from this trip was the attitude I encountered. Even passing through areas with obvious homeless problems, they were an smiling people. I returned home a little ashamed of my general discontent, when comparing my possessions to theirs.
Our hotel was situated within a couple of blocks of Connaught Circle, which was a very happy location. Connaught innermost circle is full of upscale shops, restaurants, and several fun and sophisticated western style bars, whereas the outwards circle has the atmosphere of an outdoors market with many stalls.
I have to admit that I was a total tourist cliché as far as avoiding to drink the water. So, my alcoholic beverages consisted of local beers and wines. Yes, wines. Did you know India produces some wines? I didn't, but I found them palatable
View from the street.
if not memorable.
The beers, at least all the ones I tries, were ales and very decent.
My day in Delhi comprised visiting some of the best known sites in the City, Jama Masjid Mosque, Gurudwara Shri Bangla Sahi (The Sikh Temple), Ghandi Smriti, and a complex of Mughal tombs containing Humayun's Tomb, one of the inspirations for the Taj Mahal.
Each site was a good representation of its kind. Jama Masjid Mosque is an open air mosque, and one of the largest in India. To enter, we had to wear robes with long sleeves and high necks, and take off our shoes. One fun event during this visit was the large number of visitors to the mosque who were taking photos of us, as we were trying to take photos of the mosque. It was something we eventually got used to, because it happened everywhere we went from then on. Situated in the heart of Old Delhi, the visit to the mosque was followed by a totally mad rickshaw ride through Chandi Chowk a royal avenue at the time of the Mughal rule and now a labyrinth of narrow alleyways filled to the last inch with
every kind of shop, people, and colors.
The Sikh Temple was another impressive structure. Here, the requirement was that we had to cover our hair with scarves, and also discard our shoes to enter. We arrived during prayer time, and were able to observe. The immense kitchens of the temple are manned by volunteers all through the day and night, and produce enough bread and simple food to feed up to 30,000 daily. Much to my surprise, the back of the building enclosed an enormous pool for bathing and purifying. It was a good example to examine up close to commitment of the Sikhs to being of service to others.
Ghandi Smitri was inspirational. I had forgotten a lot of this selfless man's actions and it was moving to be in the same place where he lived and died. The house is now a museum and his room and modest possessions are kept intact, with all other rooms dedicated to keeping alive his memory and all his works.
Footprints on the garden path represented his last walk to the place where he was shot, and an open pavilion illustrated all the events in his life, which was
impressive to see.
The visit to Humayun's Tomb was a prime example of the Mughal style of architecture. The compound, a UNESCO site situated within stunning gardens, contained various tombs through this particular dynasty's rule. Some elaborate and enclosed, some older or more simple, each was a masterpiece leading to the main exhibit, and the first example of the inclusion of Hindi motifs being incorporated in the buildings, the first to employ Hindi artisans in its construction.
Just driving around Delhi was a memorable experience. The contrast between the Old Delhi and New Delhi were extraordinary. The shaded avenues lined by large houses in New Delhi were startling when compared to the older, overcrowded and ramshackle older parts of Old Delhi.
The last sight we saw in Delhi we were not able to visit in depth but, unfortunately, only passing. Qutub Minar, A UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an impressive 239 feet tall tower which includes 379 steps. Construction on this masterpiece started in 1192 with consecutive storeys built at later periods. It was an impressive site at an important complex that also contains the first mosque built in India and I will make a point to
visit if I'm lucky enough to go back to Delhi. It does inspire sadness to know that the materials used came from 27 demolished Hindu Temples, but it's still one of the finest monuments in India.
One aspect that we were warned while we visited Delhi was to be cautious of friendly strangers who will engage you in conversation and convince you to follow them with tempting offers of great buys. Not that they would harm us, but we would find ourselves diverted to shops of relatives and friends from where we would find difficult to extricate ourselves without spending a lot of money. One such person approached us as we left the hotel to walk to Connaught Circle. He claimed to recognize us because he worked at the hotel and, as anticipated, tried to talk us out of going to Connaught Circle and going to another shopping area that was much cheaper. Already warned, we declined and eventually freed ourselves of his company, not without some effort.
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