We traveled in India for 4 weeks this fall. The main part of our trip was a 3 week Road Scholar Tour. We toured some of India’s most popular sites, stayed in some lovely hotels, ate lots of Indian food and enjoyed meeting the friendly Indian people. The pictures I took are the memories of India that I want to keep and to share with you. I’m still recovering from the rest of India.
When talking with friends who have also traveled to India, the first question might be “What did you think of the Taj, the Amber Fort, or whatever..”, but the second question is always “What is with all the trash?” So much of India seems covered in litter. It is scattered on streets and walkways and swept into piles everywhere. It is “literally” the first thing you notice when you arrive.
Each gated compound (historic site, hotel, home) is an island in a sea of trash. Our Road Scholar guide explained that trash pick-up is a big problem all over India. Besides not having the money to accomplish a real clean up, “Keep India Beautiful” is not part of the culture…..luckily there are wandering cows to eat it!
To be honest, litter is the least of India’s problems. As a casual tourist with Western sensibilities I was often in over my head. In order to enjoy this trip I had to look past what I could not do anything about or could not understand.
I had to let India be India.
And so, our adventure began in Delhi. We arrived a few days prior to our tour to help overcome some of the jet lag (12 1/2 hour time difference!). Through our hotel, we arranged for a driver and guide to take us around before our tour started.
First Stop – The iconic India Gate. One of these couples is rebuilding the curbs. (It was a little disconcerting to see road workers wearing saris!)
A small military ceremony of some sort was going on. The feathered berets are a colorful touch!
The India Gate is at one end and a mile up this parkway (called the Raj Path) are the Government Buildings.
They have a “Keep New Delhi Clean & Green” Campaign going on around the Capital buildings. When our guide mentioned this I thought he was being facetious; …..everything is relative. It is actually pretty successful here.
You know you’re in India when there are elephants on the Parliament Building.
Later, we returned here with our tour group – different lighting, same smog.
We visited several temples.
Gurudwara is a Sikh temple known for its kitchen where workers and volunteers serve lunch everyday to anyone, regardless of race or religion. We did not see the kitchen but did go inside the temple. They covered our heads with scarves and we removed our shoes. Sorry, no pictures allowed inside.
Birla Mandir Temple
Birla Mandir is a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu. Again – no shoes, no pix. In fact, here you also had to check your camera and cell phone – no cheating. This temple complex is 7 1/2 acres. We visited just a few of the shrines at the front. You can’t tell from the photo but a busy divided street runs right in front. It’s hard to back up far enough to get a better picture.
Chhatarpur is the 2nd largest Hindu Temple in the world. It covers 60 acres and is made up of over 20 temples. This temple is also close to the busy street. We checked our shoes here but pictures were OK. There is a prayer tree at the entrance. Worshippers tie ribbons on it to signify their prayers.
These two pictures are from Wikipedia.
Akshardham is the largest Hindu Temple complex in the world. It opened in 2005. We left our car & driver way out in a parking lot, leaving all cameras and phones with him. We stood in lines (separate for women and men) to be patted down before entering the huge complex. (BTW, this is not unusual and all western hotels in India have now added security checkpoints since the 2008 bombing attacks in Mumbai.)
This whole complex is dedicated to Swaminarayan. There’s an IMAX movie, exhibits of his life and a boat ride through Indian/Hindu history (ala “It’s a Small World”). The temple is stunning with huge carved elephants in a frieze all around the base. We checked our shoes and hopped across the hot granite plaza to get to the cool white path of marble that leads up the steps and into the temple. There is also a Musical Fountain & Light show that was closed for repairs. For pictures click this: akshardham.com.
Though not a number 1 tourist attraction for Westerners, Akshardham is quite an experience and, understandably, very popular with Hindus.
But my favorite place in New Delhi was Lodi Gardens. The centerpiece of this park are several tombs and a mosque built in the 1400s. It was an especially nice place for a relaxing stroll on a hot afternoon.
Next post – we begin our Road Scholar Tour and spend two more days exploring Delhi.