Friday, July 25, 2008

Touring Delhi-- continued...

I looked around for a taxi, but my guide said he had a taxi. I learned that this meant that he had a friend who had a taxi. He took me over to a rickshaw driven by a man I thought to be about 60. He was smoking and had a horrible cough. Once I got into his rickshaw I knew I’d made a mistake. While the other rickshaws and cars moved quickly along the road, mine puttered along seemingly on its last legs. Nevertheless, we got to the Temple gate safely

While I was there I asked a man who was taking photos of his family if he would take a picture of me with my camera. He said yes, and took a few. While I was posing, his family moved in and wanted to be in my pictures! Of course I said it was fine. Then the man took some pictures of his family and me with his camera. I guess they were really fascinated by me, but I don’t know why. After the pictures one of the older women in the group asked me where I was from and if I was single. I said yes, I’m single and from America. She elbowed one of the younger men in the group saying “she single, she single”, and laughing….

I thought I was in for a marriage proposal. We all laughed and I said goodbye and went on my way. Next stop--- India Gate!

When we arrived at the India Gate I was enthralled. Here was the same icon I saw on the internet weeks ago. I couldn’t believe I was actually here! Once there I met some girls from Minnesota, who took some pictures for me. Even though I’ve been in India for 4 weeks, I couldn’t help but pause and think about the fact that here I was in INDIA, at the India Gate. I looked around a bit more as saw some boys “swimming” in the fountain near the gate memorial. The boys were in their underwear. No girls of course. I was surprised that since this was a government square that no one told them to get out of the fountain. I took a few more “snaps” (the word they use here to mean photos or pictures) then it was on to the next attraction— It was getting late, and I was soaked in sweat. I was tired and wanted to get back to the flat, but I knew I had to keep going and see as much as I could since this was my last day in Delhi. Next destination, Purana Qila.

We puttered over to the next monument, and on the way I took many pictures of the people on the streets. It was very interesting. India is full of sights, sounds, and smells that I’ve never experienced before. Then we arrived at Purana Qila.

· Purana Qila, literally 'old fort' stands on an ancient mound. Excavations near its eastern wall reveal that the site has been continuously occupied since 1000 BC. It is also believed to be the place where Indraprastha, the Pandava capital mentioned in the epic Mahabharata, once stood. Purana Qila and its environs flourished as the sixth city of Delhi. It was here that Humayun, the second Mughal emperor began to construct his city, Dinpanah (Asylum of Faith), four years after his father Babur established the Mughal dynasty in 1526. However, Humayun's reign was short-lived and, in 1540 he was dispossessed of his fledgling empire by the Afghan chieftain, Sher Shah Suri who ruled from 1540 to 1545. When Sher Shah took possession of the citadel, he strengthened its fortifications, added several new structures and renamed it Shergarh. After his death, his successors were defeated by Humayun who recaptured his domains in 1555. Today, of the many palaces, barracks and houses that once existed only Sher Shah's mosque and the building said to be Humayun's library remain. The Yamuna once flowed on the fort's eastern side and formed a natural moat. The present entrance, an imposing red sandstone gate on the western wall called the Bara Darwaza (Main Gate) is one of the three principal gates of Shergarh. Its double-story facade, surmounted by chhatris and approached by a steep ramp, still displays traces of tiles and carved foliage. Humayun's Gate, on the southern wall, has an inscription bearing Sher Shah's name and the date 950 AH (1543-4 AD). To the north, the Taliqi Darwaza (Forbidden Gate) has carved reliefs and across the road is the red sandstone Lal Darwaza (Red Gate) or Sher Shah Gate, one of the entrances to the township that grew around the fort.

At this place I also met and talked with several people. I talked to Indian families traveling on holiday, people from Ireland, Germany, England, the U.S., and many other places. I felt at once like a part of a global community. I even met some other volunteers from the U.S. who were volunteering with another organization. The whole time I was alone because the “clique” of volunteers I came with ordered their own taxi and made their plans for touring the city and didn’t invite me. By this point I didn’t care. I was actually enjoying doing this on my own. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I would want to travel around like this with more than one or two other people. A big group is cumbersome and there are too many questions of who wants to do what. 3, or at the most, 4, is a good number. I have to admit, I stopped at one point and thought to myself “here I am traveling around Delhi, alone, and having a great time! I’m enjoying my own company and meeting new people. I don’t have to argue with anyone or apologize when I have to stop and find a toilet. Maybe I can travel the world alone.” I felt so confident and sure of myself. It felt good. I felt a wholeness that I cannot describe.

The ruins at Purana Qila were, like all the monuments thus far, incredible. Like in Peru, I touched the stones of the buildings and wondered who cut and placed them there so many, many, years ago. Who were they? What were they like? Did they have families?, hopes?, dreams? I pondered this for a bit and then realized I had just seen something I haven’t seen in a while, a palm tree. Part of the monument had a lane of palms leading to the main building. It was a trace of home and I began to think of all the things I missed about Florida. Soon I would be home and this whole adventure would feel like a dream.

On to the next stop, Humayun’s Tomb….

· This tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal. The construction of Humayun's tomb was taken up by the grief-stricken wife of Humayun, Hamida Banu, also known as Bega Begam in 1565. Legend has it that the design of the Taj was inspired from this tomb's. In pure architectural sense, this building is probably superior and much more beautiful that the stunning Taj. Sacrilege? But really, the only thing this building lacks is the showy marble.
The complex took nine years to complete and the tomb itself is a dazzling landmark in the evolution of Mughal architecture in India. Hamida Begum is said to have spent one and a half million rupees on it and you just have to see it to know that every penny was worth it. The plan of the building is simply brilliant and very mathematical. The tomb is set bang in the middle of large square-patterned typically imperial Mughal-style garden which is neatly divided into sub-squares by paved lanes. There fourth side of the tomb is not walled; simply because the river was supposed to make up for the wall, but it flows there no more. The high arches and double dome that became so associated with Mughal architecture make their debut here. The place is studded with fountains which were extremely popular in those days – a Mughal might have been poor in many things, but never in fountains. The intricate and delicately beautiful latticework on the tomb remained the trademark of Mughal architecture down through the ages.

This complex was incredible. Sad that such a beautiful structure was just a place for bones to be stored. This would have made a beautiful palace in my opinion, or even a village or market or temple, or something useful. I took many pictures.

It was close to 6pm when we made our way to the last stop, the Lotus Temple.

  • The Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi, India, popularly known as the Lotus Temple, is a Bahá'í House of Worship and also a prominent attraction in Delhi. It was completed in 1986 and serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent. It has won numerous architectural awards and been featured in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. Inspired by the lotus flower, its design is composed of 27 free-standing marble clad "petals" arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. The architect was an Iranian, who now lives in Canada, named Fariborz Sahba. The major part of the funds needed to buy this land was donated by Ardishír Rustampúr of Hyderabad, who gave his entire life savings for this purpose in 1953. Nine doors open onto a central hall, capable of holding up to 2,500 people. Slightly more than 40 meters tall[3], its surface shining white marble, the temple at times seems to float above its 26 acre (105,000 m²; 10.5 ha) nine surrounding ponds. The site is in the village of Bahapur, in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Since its inauguration to public worship in December 1986, the Bahá'í House of Worship in New Delhi has, as of late 2002, attracted more than 50 million visitors, making it one of the most visited buildings in the world. [4] Its numbers of visitors during those years surpassed those of the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal. On Hindu holy days, it has drawn as many as 150,000 people; it welcomes four million visitors each year (about 13,000 every day or 9 every minute).

This temple is a modern structure built by the Bahia faith. It is a beautiful and elegant modern work of architecture. In reading some of the information in the museum, I found that this faith is interested in finding common ground for all religions. It proclaims unity and compassion for all people of all races. I like that. The more I learn about religions of the world, the more I realize what we have in common rather than what separates us. Peace for all humanity—imagine that! Inside the temple it was peaceful and quiet. No crosses, no statues, nothing but a small podium where a speaker talks during worship services, and wooden benches, simple, yet elegant. I paused for a moment and prayed. I felt at peace….. now it was time to go….

I got back to the flat, and the cook had prepared dinner for me. It was delicious. I felt a bit guilty that he had to cook for me alone, but I was paying for this after all, and it is his job. I ate, took a cold shower, and went to sleep. Tomorrow I go to Agra to see one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal !

No comments: