Saturday, January 9, 2010

Delhi - Beginning of 3 Weeks in India

I met up with Carol, my main traveling partner for this trip, at the airport in Beijing to head to Delhi. Connections to another international school teacher made it possible for us to stay in an apartment at the American Embassy School for free so our trip began on the more frugal side. We arrived in Delhi in the wee hours of the morning and were happily surprised to see one of the drivers holding a sign with Carol's name on it. Our driver, Rattan, picked us up (4am) and took us to our home away from home at the AES. We caught a few hours of sleep before getting ready and meeting Rattan at noon.

Our first stop was to the Sansad Shavan, the Parliament House, which is a circular, colonnaded structure 171m in diameter. We also saw Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President's house. Completed in 1929, it has 320 rooms and once employed 50 boys just to chase the birds away in the gardens.

Down the street is the India Gate. This 42m high stone memorial arch pays tribute to the 90,000 Indian army soldiers who died in WWI, the Northwest Frontier operations at the same time, and the 1919 Afghan War.

Next, we headed over to the Red Fort. We were told that this one is not as good as the one in Agra, but we hadn't seen that one yet, so we were amazed. This was Emperor Shah Jahan's sandstone fort which was built between 1638 and 1648. It used to have wooden drawbridges to cross the moat, but they were replaced with stone in 1811. There hasn't been any water in the moat for nearly 200 years.

We took a rickshaw from the Red Fort to Jama Masjid. This is an easily walkable distance, but having a driver, we hadn't taken a cycle rickshaw in India yet, so we decided to have that experience. Fun, but be sure to keep your arms and legs inside. Failure to do so may give you an experience that you would prefer not to have.

At the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, we removed our shoes and donned bright pink with white polka dot robes to make us more presentable.

We seemed to attract quite a bit of attention and had followers, photographers, little kids asking the time, and starers the entire time we were there.
We were not allowed to climb the southern minaret, 40m high, until we found a male escort. Luckily, and by chance, we ran into another teacher who was also staying at the AES apartment. He traveled alone through India for the same time as us. From the top of the minaret, we were able to have a great view of the city.

They began construction on the Jama Masjid under Emperor Shah Jahan in 1644 and it was completed in 1658. It is made of bands of red sandstone and white marble. The courtyard can hold 25,000 people. In the courtyard was the small pool where people do their cleansing. This was a great people watching area - both for us and of us.

After the mosque, we visited Raj Ghat where black marble marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated after his assassination in 1948. Surrounding the marble are gardens.

Dinner of dosas satiated us before we headed back to the apartment.

More photos at flickr.

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