Delhi: Day 2

A spectacular Hindu temple, a Gandhi memorial, a mosque, a wild rickshaw ride, Indian food in a historic hotel, and some shopping filled our final day of touring in Delhi.

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We were originally scheduled to visit Delhi’s Red Fort, but as we will be seeing forts in both Agra and Jaipur, our guide instead took us to visit the truly incredible Swamidarayan Akshardam temple, the largest Hindu temple in the world. It is a very new temple: construction began in 2001 and finished in 2005 using over 7,000 skilled artisans. The intricacy and quality of the carving seen throughout the temple and grounds was nothing short of breathtaking – I don’t think any of us stopped gasping as we walked around and through the complex. The carvings also gave us an idea of how beautiful the original carvings of the Qutb Minat complex must have been in the past. (We were not allowed to bring cameras or cell phones on to the temple property; the photos above come from the Touching Hearts blog.)

The memorial and eternal flame at Gandhi’s cremation site.

Following our visit to the temple we made a short trip to view the memorial at the site where Gandhi was cremated. We did not walk down to the memorial (none of us felt like taking off our shoes) but viewed the simple black platform which is adorned daily with fresh floral wreaths, and an eternal flame, from a path above the memorial. Our visit was short, but inspired a lively discussion among us about Gandhi and his impact and how he would be viewed today.

The minaret of the Jama Masjid mosque. Worshippers are beginning to arrive for the Friday services.
Off we go! Check out the exterior electrical wiring – crazy!

Then it was on to Old Delhi to view the Jama Masjid mosque, the largest in Delhi, inaugurated in 1656 by Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Majal. We were not able to go in because it was Friday and people were arriving for services. Instead, our van dropped us off and we climbed into rickshaws for a wild but fascinating ride through the everyday traffic around the perimeter of the mosque and through the Chandni Chowk bazaar and neighborhood. The Muslim call to prayer began just after our rickshaw set off, and with the horns honking as we wove between trucks, tuktuks, and cars, we got an exciting but brief authentic Indian experience (the rickshaws are used by everyone; they’re not just for tourists).

The rickshaws have to compete for space with cars, tuktuks, motor scooters, cars and trucks but are able to easily weave through the traffic. Shops along the road sold just about anything you could think of.

I should point out now that the traffic we encountered today throughout Delhi was just plain awful. At times it felt like we were getting a tour of Delhi traffic jams more than anything else, and yet our long waits and the van’s inching along were also authentic Indian experiences – no one else was going any faster.

Walking through the Maidens Hotel was like being transported back to the time of the British Raj.
The original bar from when the hotel was built. They have updated things enough to allow a flat screen TV so customers can watch cricket matches.

Our lunch today was at the elegant Maidens Hotel, built in 1902 by J. Maiden, during the height of the British Raj. In the early 20th century it was considered the premier hotel in Delhi, and stepping into the hotel today was like stepping back in history. I was thrilled to finally find samosas on the menu and enjoyed those along with some lamb rogan josh (lamb curry) and garlic naan bread.

We were given a short demonstration on how Kashmir rugs are created and woven. The art is being lost as fewer and fewer young people choose to take up the long process of making the rugs.
A few of the beautiful Kashmir rugs we were shown today.

The final stop of the day was an artist’s atelier showcasing handmade Kashmir wool and silk rugs, jewelry, and other Kashmir textiles. We were served Kashmir tea (delicious!) and cookies and then given a demonstration on how the rugs were made. Next we were shown many different styles and sizes of rugs, each one unique and a work of art. Except for the fact that we are currently homeless, Brett and I saw one rug that we would have eagerly snapped up (free shipping to the U.S. was included in the price), but our travel partners did purchase an exceptionally beautiful rug for their home. I didn’t leave empty-handed though: Brett bought me a lovely pashmina shawl from the textile gallery and I’m very, very happy with that!

A last sunset in Delhi.

We were also supposed to visit Humayan’s tomb today, but the traffic really messed with the schedule, so we will go there first thing in the morning before setting off for Agra. We’ve had a wonderful time in Delhi, and will miss our fabulous hotel, but can’t see what awaits us next!

10 thoughts on “Delhi: Day 2

  1. Traffic in Bali was very similar – it’s like a very complicated dance. We told our driver that in the US, people would be out of their cars on the side of the road fighting if they were cut off like that. But everyone there is peaceful and it really is exciting and fun!

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    1. A dance is the perfect way to describe it! I think the four of us traveling in our tour have said we could NEVER drive here though – I’d end up frozen in the car, completely unsure of where to go next. The sound of the horns never stops once you’re in your car/van/scooter/etc.

      And these days, I don’t think many in the U.S. would make it to the side of the road. The’d be brawling right in the road!

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  2. Sounds like an amazing time so far! The Swamidarayan Akshardam temple is stunning! How do you like traveling in a group?

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    1. We are having an amazing time. We’re not really in a “group” either – only one other couple and us, so it’s more like a personal tour which is great (and we’re a good fit with the other couple). Our guide says that most groups have no more than eight people – the small size is one of the main reasons we chose this tour company (Easy Tours).

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  3. That temple is just stunning. And the electrical wiring…wow! Looks like a huge fire hazard to this safety kid. I suppose it’s all in what you’re used to.

    The hotel looks like something from a movie, and the food sounds wonderful. I spent a fair amount of my career in textiles, so that part would be fascinating to see. The rugs are so gorgeous…we have one such rug that is so hardy I’m shocked. When we have it cleaned it looks like new. And a pashmina sounds like the perfect souvenir.

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    1. Those wires were the most amazing thing – here we were in this busy, thriving, high-tech city and there were those wires hanging everywhere! People were oblivious to them too but they scared me to death.

      The hotels on this trip have been wonderful, five star all the way. There is a level of tour above ours, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what more they could be getting that we don’t because all of our hotels have been five star.

      We hit the jewelry market today in Jaipur (Sunday) and I did some damage there (with Brett’s help). Heaven help me at the textile market tomorrow!

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  4. Imagine if the walls of the hotel bar could talk! What tales they would tell.

    Love your photos and writing. An AMAZING trip 🙂

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    1. Thanks Libby! I worry sometimes that I am overdoing it with the photos.

      The Maidens Hotel was very special. Tour guests at Easy Tours’ “premium” level stay there (our tour is the lower “superior” level) – so the rooms and service must be out of this world. I wish we had had more time to see around the hotel – it’s a true historical site in Delhi.

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    1. Thanks, Sheri. Brett was just telling me this morning though that I take too many pictures! There is so much I want to remember though so I’m not going to stop.

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