What a contrast, like two different worlds. Our morning started meeting our guide Harish who will be with us for the next three days. The heavy smog started to slowly lift as we entered the morning Delhi rush hour traffic – similar to Kathmandu on steroids – headed for New Dehli and the first of two stops there. New Delhi was created out of vacant land by the British in the 1920’s who had decided to move the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. It is characterized by wide avenues, large buildings and is primarily the site of Embassies, Government offices and some palatial residences. Armed guards are everywhere. It also is the site of the Ghandi Museum and the site of his burial the Raj Ghat, in addition to the India Gate and Humayuns tomb. The last three were on the list to visit this morning.
Welcome to Delhi
Out first stop was Humayuns tomb a UNESCO world heritage site. This is the first of the Mogul tombs built in 1570, introducing a style of architecture which reached its zenith in the construction of the Taj Mahal from 1628-1658. The area also had some lesser tombs that were beautiful. The morning light was perfect for photography, as we explored the beautiful red stone and marble carvings that make up the buildings. Red sandstone from local quarries, white marble from farther north. Paintings and tile work of blue, green and red adorned the walls – all from natural pigments and still vibrant after 600 plus years.
Humayuns garden tomb was built by Persian and Indian craftsmen who produced a structure without parallel at that time.
Our next destination was Raj Ghat the cremation site of Mahatma Ghandi. This is an intensely spiritual site with a steady stream of visitors from all over the world. The green lawns around the site elicited the question about the source of the water from us. It turns out that all the water used to maintain the lawns and gardens around the Heritage sites in New Delhi is grey water recycled from government buildings. The smell was a confirmation that this is indeed the case.
Our vehicle edged its way into traffic as we headed into the centre of Old Delhi and the UNESCO heritage site of the Jama Masjid Mosque, one of the last monuments built by the Muhgal Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656. It is still in use today. After taking off our shoes and dressing in the required attire we entered the Mosque. Photo ops were everywhere!
Once through the Mosque we grabbed a rickshaw and headed deep into the streets of Old Delhi, exploring the markets and chaos of the streets and alley ways.
Our final stop heading back to the hotel was India Gate, a memorial to members of the Indian Army who died in WW1 and the Third Afghan War.
Although only a taste of Old and New Delhi it has been an amazing day. We leave for the Ashrams of Rishikesh at dawn tomorrow. Stay tuned!