|X centuries of DElhi |
|Delhi is cream and heart of India. In 1857 sepoys (Indian soldiers in British service) who rebelled against British and captured Delhi ask King of Delhi for „patronage”. So high was the authority of old descendants of past glorious emperors, however in XIX century they had no money or power and the capital of British India was Calcuta. |
What is Delhi today? Interesting monuments, like 2000 yeras old Ashok Pillar, Qutub Minar, artefacts of Indus Valley Civilization in National Museum or ruins of old fortresses. Delhi means also densely populated substandard areas, but Delhi is also high class skyscrapers in Gurgaon (officially it is another state) with interesting architecture. One can find posh areas and slums, cycle rickshaws and Rolls-Royce’s saloon, traditional Spice Market (may be the last one of that type) in the world and modern shopping malls. There are holly cows (however less and less), plenty of temples of many faiths with numerous devotees, but also Delhi University or Indian Institute of Technology. There are different words, sometimes separate, but very often interpenetrating.
Even after 8 years in Delhi, the city is still fascinating. There are places described in guide books, but this city offer extensively more.
Sometimes you can see boys playing cricket or football among ancient tombs of forgotten rulers and dignitaries of forgotten empires. Do they feel any bond with builders or „tenants” of those places? Do they think about themselves as heirs of the great civilization or the whole their knowledge is handful of names of Bollywood stars? You can drive by traditional Tata bus, but you can use also very modern metro. Hindus, Muslims, Tibetan, North East people, Tibetans, it is difficult to tell if there is any race not represented.
Delhi is „India in pill”. As it is.
We start at India Gate, than by Raj Path (This is street of parades) to President Palace (Before 1947 it was Viceroy Palace. The last Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten commented it: „How wonderful is to be a viceroy in India) .
Than National Museum. There are especially worth of attention the artefacts of Indus Valley Civilisation (Harappan Civilisation). It was discovered in 30-ties of XX century, there was no time to bring the treasures to British Museum before WWII, than with the Indian independence in the offing, not possible. Museum is air conditioned, so it is nice relax, especially in a hot day.
There is nearby Humajum’s Tomb. Humayum was the second emperor from Mughal dynasty. This is tomb built (1564-1572) by wife for husband, opposite like Taj Mahal. When emperor Shahjahan ordered costruction of Taj Mahal, he decided, that its design should be based on Humajum’s Tomb. This tomb is called also “The necropolic of Timur’s dynasty, because here are graves of many people from Humajum’s family and his entourage.
If we are not under pressure of time, we can visit Muslim district Nizamuddin. Nizamuddin is a place of Sufi Islam, very gentle and tolerant.
Than through British New Delhi, or the Lutyens Delhi (the main architect of New Delhi) as the other say, we will go to Lodhi Garden. It is beautiful park with tombs of sultans from Lodhi dynasty. They were predecessors of Great Mughals, defeated by them. Near Lodhi Garden is nice shopping place called Khan Market. Most interesting shop is Fabindia (governmental textile shop with Indian westernized designs, good quality and reasonable prices) and some bookshops as well as restaurants.
In the evening we will go to Sikh temple called gurudwara, i.e. Bangla Sahib Gurudvara. It is very nice place. Everybody can get in gurudwara shelter and food, irrespective of faith, race and nationality. Evening chanting of Sikh hymns bring very special “climate”.
Probably you will be too exhasted to see anything more that day.
Day 2 – Old Delhi
Old Delhi is not so old. It is seventh city of Delhi, even not 400 years old.
First Red Fort. Personally I do recommend it, especially if you are lack of time. Agra Fort is much more interesting. But from this place at the midnight of 14/15.08.1947 Nehru told “At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
Than we will go (or ride by bicycle rickshaws) throuhg Chandni Chowk (this is probably the most Indian street, but for sure the most famous one) to Spice Market. Here you can really smell the East. Chilly, ginger, vanilla, pepper, etc., smell is so strong, that sometimes in hot days one has to cover mouths and nose by cloth. Everywhere jute sacks, cut and open, coolies dressed as century ago carry carry sacks, load two-wheel trolleys and pull them somewhere. Capacity of such trolley is incredible, may be licke small pick-up, but it is different story. The only signs of modernity are calculators, electronic weights and fans. Computers were not able to eradicate traditional bargaining.
Then we will go through wedding market, silver market, visit Jain Temple and finally reach Jama Masjid. It is the biggest mosque in India. Mosque has been built by Shah Jahan, the same, who built Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Old Delhi.
The name, Jama Masjid, means the "congregational mosque" and refers to the weekly Friday noon congregation prayers of Muslims (Jummah). For this prayer the whole community gathered in the mosque, so that mosque should be the biggest in the city. The courtyard of the mosque can hold up to twenty-five thousand worshippers. To enable assembly to repeat gestures of imam, special kiosks were built, in which sat persons gesturing like imam, visible on the whole courtyard.
Nearby you can have lunch or dinner in one of the most famous restaurants in India – Karim. Food is delicious and prices reasonable.
From Old Delhi we will go to Tibetan Village. Here live Tibetan refugees, which left Tibet after bloody suppression of Tibetan Uprising in 1959. But please remember, that there is a third generation of Tibetans living there, so not much Tibet left. People of Tibetan race, however youth is dressed in western fashion, two Buddhist temples at the main market, traditional windows, flags. Most of goods in shops in “Made in China”.
On our way back we will visit very nice park on Ridge with picturesque colony of monkeys, and see Ashokan Pillar. The pillars of Ashoka are stone columns erected or at least inscribed with edicts by the Mauryan emperor Aashoka during his reign in the III c. BC. Originally, there must have been many pillars dispersed throughout his empire in the northern India, but only 19 survived with inscriptions. This one in the Ridge was brought in XIV c. from Meeruth, showing great interest of Muslim rulers in monuments.
A bit further there is Mutiny Memorial, erected to commemorate the British, Sikh, Muslim and Hindu soldiers killed during fight for Delhi in 1857 during The Great Mutiny. Independent India didn’t copy Europe and didn’t demolish the monument. In the place of the monument was the battery, which demolished city walls near Kashmiry Gate, where British troops entered city.
And the main contributor of the victory Brigadier-General John Nicholson (11 December 1822 – 23 September 1857), mortally wounded by sniper, found his eternal rest nearby at the foots of the ridge on Nicholsons cemetery. Here we can see, how fragile was the life of British in India – no antibiotics, unknown diseases, limited hygene, horrible clothing – please look how many tombs of children are there and the age of the deceased. May be those people were heaven born (so were called members of the British Indian Civil Services), but their pensions were not big burden for the exchequer.
If there will be something interesting in the evening we will see performance of Indian classical dance or listen music in Indian Habitat Centre.
May be shopping on Jan Path and Connaugt Place.
Day 3. – South Delhi
Through British New Delhi and diplomatic district we are going to Hindu temples Birla Mandir or Malay Mandir. New Delhi is the idea of British India – for British. Wide streets, huge lawns, beautiful white bungalows, no fences (now they are), everything in the shadow of magnificent trees (during British time probably they were not so magnificent). And no public transport. What for? English used cars, their servants lived here and strangers shouldn’t come here.
So from “eighth” city of Delhi we are going to the first one. Its landmark is a big tower called Qutub Minar. It is minaret of the mosque complex built in the beginning of XIII c. But here began story of Delhi as capital of India. Delhi is not an old city according to standards of Indian history. Established in XII c., ruled by local maharaja. In 1192 Qila Rai Pithora (so was called the city) was captured by muslims invaders, which established here in 1206 the Sultanate of Delhi. Since then till 1857 Delhi was Muslim city. Ruled by several dynasties, which from here controlled bigger or smaller parts of India. Nobody was able to unify that country, but some empires covered area from Deccan plateau to Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The tower was a minaret but also watchtower and monument of victory.
There is nearby Mehrauli Archeological Park with some tombs and interesting steepwell, so called baoli. Nearby is also an office where in weekdays we can see famous bureaucracy.
But Delhi and India is not only the history. It is also XXI c. with skyscrapers, steel, glass and sorry slums. This is also Delhi what we will see that day. In Gurgaon, which officially is even different state is more IT than probably in many European states. Here we can see modern India and living standards of at least upper middle class. But not far away are slums, which is very sad story.
One can see Akshardham temple, but it is very modern and gardens will be beautiful, but after 30 years. Nevertheless it is fabulous construction with interesting exhibitions. It is interesting that there is no concrete or metal in the construction.
There is small chance, that we will have enough time to visit Tughlaqabad. Torists come here quite rarely. During construction of the fort (it was XIV c. and expanse of the construction was enormous) all other construction activities were prohibited, but the workers wanted to help one dervish to build the pond. Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughlaq, was irritated and reprimanded them. So dervish told that his city will be inhabited only by jackals, snakes and dacoits. I haven seen there neither snake, jackal or dacoit, so place is safe, although inhabited.
There are much more places to see in Delhi, but you don’t have whole holidays.