On 18th we flew from Goa to Delhi, the capital of India.
The airport is pretty amazing. I've swiped the above picture from tripsavvy. It's the view as you come down the escalator into arrivals. There's some information about the mudra design here.
We were met by our driver, Anand, who would stay with us for the rest of the trip. He drove us an hour into Delhi to find our hotel, Taj Princess. It was dark by the time we arrived as the traffic was absolutely astounding. My overriding impression of Delhi is just a wall of traffic, hardly moving. It has a population of nearly 20 million, and the roads can't cope.
When we finally arrived in the Karol Bagh area, Anand got a bit lost and we went down several back streets before finding the hotel - it's very well hidden. We had just enough energy for dinner in the restaurant before falling into bed.
The next day we were up and out for a sightseeing tour of the town. It began with a rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest markets in Old Delhi. We stopped to climb to the roof of a spice warehouse, overlooking a mosque on one side and workers' houses on the other.
The climb up to the top of the warehouse was hard going. Not because of the steps, but because workers were going past with huge sacks of chilies over their shoulders. We were coughing and spluttering, it felt like sandpaper to the lungs. How people work there every day is a mystery. Chilies are no laughing matter.
From there, we proceeded to Jama Masjid, a mosque built in the mid-1600s by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It's a beautiful mixture of red sandstone and white and black marble. It's a mixture of cultural styles, both Muslim and Hindu. The archways with peaked centres represent namaste (hello/welcome in Hindi) as it's the shape made when pressing your fingers together in greeting.
Next, it was on to Raj Ghat, a large memorial park where important people are cremated. We were there to see the cremation memorial of Mahatma Gandhi. He was cremated there in January 1948, the day after his assassination. The monument is built from black marble, which signifies sorrow.
Our next stop was India Gate war memorial, via parliament, which you can't stop outside of, so we took a picture from the car.
|Couldn't resist buying a flute.|
Continuing the tour, we made for the Bahá’í Lotus Temple. This was one of the most fascinating parts of the day for me. A few years back, I wrote a work of historical fiction based in Iran in the 1850s, touching on the events following the execution of the Báb, the founder of the Bahá’í faith. I knew quite a bit about that period in history and the genocide against the Bahá’í after they attempted to assassinate the Shah in retaliation. However, I didn't know anything about what happened to the Bahá’í after they were expelled from Iran, or the teachings of their faith.
The Lotus Temple opened in 1986 and is a place of worship for all religions. Apparently, Bahá’í is the only religion you can practise without giving up another faith or religion. So, you can be Bahá’í and Hindu, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist if you like. The temple itself is built out of white marble, which is very cool beneath the heat of the sun. There are no icons inside, and you have to remain silent. The idea is that they provide the space, and you fill it with your own thoughts and prayers.
I have scanned the information brochures from the temple, which you can download here if you're interested, and you can find out more at www.bahai.org.
|Percy Bunny Enjoying the Outing|
Truly incredible building. It was a busy day with lots of tourists and school trips visiting, shouting and commotion outside, but the moment you stepped inside it was silent, as though the world had fallen away.
We finished the day at the Qutub Minar. It was built between 1192-late 1300s by a dynasty, the Delhi Sultanate. Each story is a slightly different shape so that, when you look down from the top, it resembled a lotus flower. We were a bit too tired to go in, but it was an impressive end to an impressive day.
In the evening, Dad and I went in search of a bar. They're not so easy to find in some parts of India, as many people don't drink alcohol. I was reading in Peter Frankopan's The Silk Roads that this is not new. Even in the 700s:
India eschewed alcohol too. They did not do so for religious reasons, but because of their entirely reasonable vie that if drunk, 'how can someone run a kingdom properly?'
We eventually found a lovely little place called Boheme. Mood-lightingly lit with beer and cocktails. Having walked all the way around the block, it happened to be right next door, in the opposite direction.