Delhi in a day

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
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Trip End Oct 08, 2008


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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

We spent the day touring Delhi, having decided that hiring a car would be the easiest way to see everything.  The driver assured us that he would take us everywhere we needed to be. 

Our first stop was at what I believe was Lakshmi Narayan Temple.  It was glorious - a Hindu temple with a couple Krishnas, beautiful carvings, and still more beautiful paintings, both inside and outside the bustling temple.  It also had lots of English signs answering all our questions (such as what the swastikas were all about...as usual, they have nothing to do with hate and everything to do with good thoughts...stupid Nazis), so we learned a lot.  The guidebook says hardly anything about the temple, which is surprising considering its towering presence and beauty.  We weren't allowed to take photos inside.  Very sad. 

I believe we next attempted to see the President's House, but the view was short because the guards wouldn't let the car in, so the driver just turned around.  I got 3 very bad photos.  Down the avenue was the India Gate, but our driver didn't go that way, much to Emily's dismay. 

So then we came to Gandhi Smirti, where Gandhi lived for his last months and was assassinated.  There are footsteps leading down the path where Gandhi walked for the last time,a nd a small shrine with a pillar is where the footsteps end, and where Gandhi was killed.  He was shot three times, and his last words were "Hoy, Rama!" or "Oh, God!" 

Along a sheltered path next to the adjoining retreat center was a long narrative of the history of the quest for Indian independence.  Forgive my snobbery, but I decided that I would rather not read an abbreviated version of events, so I opted to see what was inside the little building next to where Gandhi was shot.  What this building originally was, I do not know.  It may very well have been the place where Gandhi was going to pray when he was killed.  Now it houses a rather astonishing and colorful mural that depicts scenes from Gandhi's life (and perhaps from British Raj in general) all around the walls.  I was glad I went exploring.

As if the storyboards outdoors weren't enough, there was his house, which didn't have enough artifacts to fill more than the three rooms he used, so the rest of the house is also filled with storyboards.  Here you can probably learn everything you ever wanted to know about Gandhi.  Possibly more.  I also found a couple statues after getting dragged away from Emily and Travis by overly persistent docents.  I then rediscovered my companions in a room filled with Gandhi dioramas.

We finally escaped the maze and returned to our driver.  I was charmed by a magnetic snake charmer toy, but didn't buy.  We drove on to the Lotus Temple.

The Lotus Temple is a Baha'i House of Worship, remarkable for its highly distinctive shape, which was really not a bad idea, because people come from everywhere to see it and then get pamphlets that talk about the Baha'i faith, which is, in the grand scheme of things, quite a new faith.  The temple itself was quite arresting with its structure consisting wholly of 27 petals surrounded by 9 pools of water.  (Baha'i temples are always nine-sided because it's the greatest single digit integer and represents unity.)  In case you were curious, I will tell you a couple things I learned about Baha'i-ness (Baha'i-ism?).  The only words that are really meant to be spoken in the house are readings from the Baha'i books of faith.  I mean, people whisper to each other, but while we were there no one really talked aloud, and the house is definitely not used for lectures and the like.  Also, the Baha'i espouse all admirable human rights causes, and they do seem to be working toward them.  As I read about them I thought some may not be feasible, but they were admirable.  Anyway, it was a very nice (and edifying) temple. 

The next stop resulted in a rather lengthy exploration of what turned out to be a tomb complex.  The main event is Humayun's Tomb - an enormous edifice evoking thoughts of the Taj Mahal.  It's fitting - this Mughal emperor was, I think, great-grandfather to Shah Jahan (I think because there may be another great or two...we've really had everyone after Akbar hammered into our brains, but this guy was before Akbar.  He was second, after the first Mughal emperor invader Babar...now you know). 

But that was the last part of our exploration.  First we found the octagonal tomb of perhaps Isa Khan set in a walled but peaceful and picturesque garden.  It had an accompanying mosque.  And a hornets' nest.  As we walked further we saw parrots and squirrels flitting around another octagonal tomb with complementary mosque.  Octagons seem popular. 

After exploring these grounds we arrived at Humayun's Tomb and goggled at its grandeur before setting out to explore its extensive but simple gardens.  In the back of the complex was a small garden courtyard with a single great tree in it.  I thought it especially inviting and picturesque.  Apparently so did the couple inhabiting its bench. 
We next stopped at the India Gate where I got royally scammed with no help from my companions.  It still makes me angry.  Just don't 1) depend on your friends to get you out of a tight spot because you're confuzzled, and 2) accept the validity of any "good cause."  Leave your good cause feelings at home, because the world is full of lying liars.  See?  Angry.  Oh, and if you're a resident of some locale in which scams are present, it's helpful to inform the woman throwing away her money that it's a scam BEFORE she throws away her money.  I don't blame Emily and Travis, just so you know.  It was my own fault, but it would have been nice to get an out from one of them.  After this delightful encounter I was shamelessly hounded by a man selling flying toys.  So pretty much I didn't see or enjoy the India Gate, and you shouldn't believe Lonely Planet when it says that it's a peaceful place for you to get away from the crowds.  Just don't talk to anyone. 

The day was almost over.  We persuaded our driver to take us to Jama Masjid, the largest Mosque in India.  I think it was a little disappointing to us all; it wasn't very pretty, but it was certainly quite large.  We wandered around and watched people and pigeons and the sunset before returning to our driver.  On our way out we refused to tip the shoe man.  In our defense there was no sign and we were really tired of being harassed for money all day.  But we committed a faux pas - we later read in Lonely Planet that it's commonly accepted to give the shoe watcher 2-3 rupees per pair.  Oops. 

We made a quick stop outside the Red Fort to take a photo before heading back to the hotel, completely exhausted from our busy day.  And we didn't have time for a sit-down meal because we had to scurry to catch our late train.  Oh well.  It was a good day when all was said and done, even if it was probably too much running around. 

Erin
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