Construction in New Delhi began in 1911 under British rule. It is small enclave within the entire area of Delhi and is completely opposite from Old Delhi which was established by the Mughals centuries ago. Wide boulevards and gardens characterize New Delhi which houses embassies, government and military buildings, temples, the presidents house and some hotels. It is not a residential area and other than some monkeys and the few Pi dogs along the road, street life is largely non-existent. One could be in any European or North American city.
My New Delhi experience began with my driver and guide arguing over the route to take with resulting chaos accompanied by a disembodied voice from the Google maps app instructing us to “when possible make a legal u turn”. As very little of what I have seen of driving techniques on Delhi streets could in any form be called legal it was like an episode from the keystone cops. My seat belt went on pretty early in the trip.
Once the directional challenges were overcome, the day turned out well. The first stop was the Gurudwara Bangladesh Sahib Sikh temple with a healing lake – known as the Sarvovar next to it. Apparently there was a small pox epidemic in the 17th century – which was supposedly healed with water from the lake. Made for some good photo ops in any case.
We also toured the immense temple kitchen where meals are made to serve to anyone who wants to eat every day.
Following a few more u turns in the middle of traffic and a few short cuts over traffic medians we reached the step well – Agrasen ki Baoli which is a protected monument in India. It is 60 meters long and 15 meters wide and is thought to have been built in the 14th century. Step wells were developed to deal with seasonal fluctuations in the water table which are common in India.
As carrying water is often women’s work step wells were also traditionally associated with women. Was a wonderful site.
Back into the car 🙁 seat belt tight and off we went. Our next destination was the newly constructed Akshardham Hindu temple. Due to security cameras are not allowed inside – which is a shame, however I got a photo from the surrounding motorway. Interesting to show the outlines of the temple – which was stunning inside and out – also the extent of the pollution in Delhi is readily visible from the photo.
It is the third largest Hindu temple in the world. There are ten gateways to allow the passage of any of the 30 million Hindu Gods, incredible carvings in marble and sandstone. A visit to the toilet at the complex was an experience. It had just been power washed out with soapy water from ceiling to floor – I don’t think I was supposed to be in there as a couple of ladies got very vocal when I was leaving and demanded money – my best deer in the headlights look greeted them as I speedily exited 🙂
OK – back to the car… Seat belt on and away we go. The India gate was next on the Agenda and rapidly appeared….. The Gate is a war memorial dedicated to 70,000 Indian military who have died in 1914-21 – with all the names of the fallen inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe style gate designed by Edwin Lutyens. A black plinth with four eternal flames seven as the tomb of the unknown soldier at the base of the Gate.
There’s that car again…….. Last stop was the the Ghandi Smriti where Ghandi spent the last few months of his life and where he was assassinated. This was a place that I had really wanted to visit. The room were Ghandi slept and ate is perfectly preserved, the events leading up to his death, his writings, his philosophies, photos, and newspaper clippings providing a detailed look at the man, his beliefs and legacy. A short walk in his footsteps (outlined in wood) to the place of his assassination – now covered with a small structure referred to as the Martyrs column – completed a very moving visit.
The ride back to the hotel was (surprise!!!) a short one – there will be fingernail marks in the back of the seat in front of me for a while………
I fly home tomorrow, into winter again. This has been an outstanding trip, exhausting, stimulating, thought provoking and unlike anything I have ever encountered. It will take a while to assimilate it. Parts of India have certainly provided a snap shot of where the world is heading if we keep barreling along the same route. This was my first National Geographic G Adventures trip and definitely will not be my last. The upgrades in the trip style over the old classic level of service have been much appreciated particularly in this part of the world. Our CEO was excellent, as were the local guides along the way. A great group of sympatico people on the trip was the icing on the cake – A+ all around.
Until next time — Namaste!