Raj Ghat, Delhi is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi that marks the spot of his cremation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Our third day in Delhi was devoted to a full day’s sightseeing, with guide and driver. It had rained quite heavily over night which had cleared the fog but it made the uneven streets in the Old City especially slippery.
Our first stop was the Jama Masjid, the principal mosque of Old Delhi in India, completed in 1656 AD – it is the largest and best-known mosque in India. It was commissioned by same Mughal Emperor who built the Taj Mahal. The mosque is located right in the center of Old Delhi, on the busy main street, called Chawri Bazar Road. We had to remove our shoes and purchased special throwaway slippers but they were not much help in the many puddles! We wandered around the mosque and took some photos against the grey sky. Tens of thousands of worshipers come here for prayers and women are allowed inside as long as there is enough room for the men, however if it fills, then the women have to pray from outside irrespective of the weather. It is still a beautiful construction, with its very symmetrical hand carved arches, beautiful domes carved pillars and marble floor.
Afterwards, we visited Raj Ghat where Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation was cremated, following his assassination in 1948. Here an eternal flame glows and beautiful gardens and trees have been planted to honor his memory. Next we stopped to view the famous Red Fort but could not enter because of renovations.
Our final stop in the Old City included some time wandering around the ancient streets. We enjoyed another rickshaw ride and again visited the wholesale spice market. We watched as monkeys jumped the high wires across the narrow streets, and eagles flew slow overhead; most of all we listened to the buzz of the people going about their daily business – we have some wonderful photos which we plan to share in due course.
In the afternoon, we focused on New Delhi. New Delhi was built by the British and Old Delhi had a long Mughal history. There is a very clear division between the walled Old City, which is largely Muslim, and New Delhi which is predominantly Hindu. Here, in New Delhi, we saw modern shops and offices on tree-lined boulevards, it is hard to imagine the contrast in the two areas and the vast variation in life style and culture.
The tour also includes a drive past the imposing India Gate, the Parliament building and the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President’s residence.
Next, we stopped to view the Qutab Minar, which is the tallest stone tower in India. The Qutab Minar was started in 1199 AD. The building is 72.5 m high and has 379 steps from the bottom to the top. The Minar is tapering with the diameter of the base is 14.3 m while at the top floor it is 2.7 m. The Qutab Minar is still the highest stone tower as well as one of the finest Islamic structures ever raised in India. Somebody had the job of climbing to the top five time a day and performing the call for prayer – just imagine?
The final viewing for the day was the Lotus Temple in New Delhi. It’s a Bahá’í House of Worship completed in 1986 in Expressionist architecture. It is notable for its lotus shape, it serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent and has become a prominent attraction in the city. It is beautifully built in marble. Bahai’s are a minority and are made up of various nationalities, including Iranians who are not allowed to practice in Iran.
During the course of the day, we had time to discuss with our guide our experiences the previous day; he was very embarrassed but he did confirm that Old Delhi was not safe for women on their own at night. Given that it was still cold and a foggy night was descending, we settled for another delightful Indian meal in our hotel. Our room was really comfortable, so we were happy to return and put our tired feet up for few hours and reflect on the very interesting day that we had had. We were by then looking forward to our second day of sightseeing Delhi. We were also putting aside our warmest clothes for our next stop, Kashmir, in India’s extreme north-west, where night time temperatures are -7 degrees Celsius – it’s an hour and a half flight from Delhi.
So please stay with us – whilst we’re heading into the cold, the story is just warming…