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Published: November 20th 2008
Although leaving Dharamsala was a bit sad, and definitely more emotional than I thought it would be, I left excited for the travels ahead of me. My journey to Delhi was safe and uneventful, and I was greeted warmly with open arms into my aunt and uncle’s gorgeous house. It’s nice to have a peaceful, clean place to call home in the middle of the chaos outside.
On Friday, my aunt took me to the school where she teaches. A couple high school students gave me a tour during the morning periods and I actually had a chance to talk with a student from Canada who moved here a few months ago. From talking to these students, it was clear that the standard of education is higher. Students seem to start studying advanced subjects such as physics and chemistry a full year before we do. It was interesting to compare what they said with my memories of grade school in Canada.
We visited Akshardham on Sunday, which is the largest Hindu temple in the world. It was like nothing I have ever seen before. The entire complex covers a 100-acre area, with beautiful gardens surrounding each building. The detailed
carvings and sculptures are truly mind-blowing. It took 11,000 artisans, volunteers, and sadhus (holy men) 5 years to design and carve the 300,000 red stones that make up the Akshardham complex. It is almost impossible to believe all the work is done by hand. Cameras were not allowed in the complex so this explains the single photo of the temple from a distance.
After a full month in India, I think it is natural to miss certain things about home. Therefore, to satisfy my nostalgia for North American culture and food, a short trip to the mall was surprisingly satisfying. After stepping inside, it was like leaving India. It was one of the nicest and cleanest malls I have seen, a shocking contrast from the environment outside. Since coming to Delhi, my stomach has had to be reintroduced to Indian food and it was giving me a few more problems that I would have liked. It is ironic that when I saw McDonald’s, I knew it would be safe, “healthy” food for my stomach. 200 hundred rupees later (approximately $2.50) I was filled and satisfied with my McChicken meal.
Tuesday brought a 5:30 am wake-up and an early
morning drive to the bus station where we bought tickets for the trip to Jaipur. As our bus pulled up, it suddenly stalled right before we were to board. The driver tried to start it up again as I heard the engine turn over a few times, but nothing happened. He turned the key again … nothing.
The driver then got out, opened the cover to the engine, and poured a bottle of water over it. He tried to start it once more … and after a few nervous moments, with a bang and a puff of black smoke, the engine started again. Dad and I looked at each other rather nervously, shrugged it off, shared a good laugh, and hopped on the bus. The most expensive ticket had bought us the shadiest looking bus at the station.
Tuesday evening we visited Choki Dani, which is sort of a mock village to show tourists the typical lifestyle in the desert province of Rajasthan. They had food, camel rides, elephant rides, a small market area, and many performers. The next day we entered the oldest section of the city. During the planning of Jaipur, the king ordered his men to
Our Bus to Jaipur
My uncle (far left) is meeting/inspecting the driver.
encompass the city with a stonewall. Many years later, in 1876, the respective king decided to paint the walls pink for the Prince of Wales’ visit; pink because it symbolizes hospitality. This is how Jaipur became known as the “Pink City”.
We took a guide through the Amber Palace, which used to be the city’s main protection from invaders. The palace took two generations to complete and was built entirely of stone from the nearby mountains.
Next, we took a quick tour of the City Palace, which is located down the mountain from the Amber Palace, sitting within the pink walls. This is where the king stayed when he was in the city. We also drove by the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), which has numerous tiny windows that overlook one of the main streets of Jaipur. The windows were designed to allow the women of the palace to watch the royal processions on the street without being seen. The last site we saw in Jaipur was the Jal Mahal, another palace for the king to stay. It sits directly in the middle of an artificial lake and is considered the king’s summer home.
Today we toured
some of Delhi’s big attractions. We visited the Bahai Temple, Qutub Minar, and drove past the president’s house, the Indian Gate, and the Parliament building. Muslims built the Qutub Minar as a symbol of victory over the Hindus in 1193. There is a 2000-year-old iron pillar that rests in the middle of the complex. Sanskrit inscriptions on the pillar indicate that it once sat outside of a temple worshipping one of the Hindu gods. It is probably safe to assume that the Muslims destroyed the temple and built a mosque over the ruins.
The Bahai Temple was definitely a huge highlight for me. Shaped like a lotus flower, it is the most beautiful building I have ever seen. It was built for the Bahai faith in 1986 and looks like it is hardly a day old. The inside of the temple was peaceful and even more beautiful, with hundreds of benches made of white marble.
Tomorrow we have an early departure to Meerut, where my Dad grew up. After visiting family and seeing the village, we will move on to where a cousin is getting married (I forget the name of the city). We will stay for the
The Entrance to Amber Palace
It wouldn't be India without someone playing for a cobra.
ceremony on Saturday evening and then come back home Sunday to get ready for our trip to the southern province of Kerala. I can’t believe it has been a full week since I left Dharamsala. It scares me when I think about how quickly the time is going. Only 11 days left! 😞
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