If you’ve been following my travels through India, you will have seen where I’ve been, but I thought I’d put together a traveblog with some new photographs and perspectives as a response to the several requests I’ve had for more. And a warning: this is a very media heavy post and also very long.
Our first stop was the Taj Mahal, and once near the gates in Agra (about 3 hours from Delhi), there are a number of choices of transport to actually get to the Taj: Camel drawn cart, auto rickshaw, bicycle rickshaw, or Shank’s pony (aka walking).
We walked, which turned out to be quite hazardous as the footpaths had many deep holes in them.
As with everywhere in India, security was really tight. Women get separated from the men and are quite thoroughly patted down. The only things allowed to be taken inside are cameras and wallets. Food is forbidden as they are trying to eliminate litter.
This is a view of the Taj from the river side. There are four towers surrounding it and they are built with a 3° angle so that if they fall down or are destroyed by warfare, they will fall away from the building. The angle is clear here but it actually looks as though it’s pointing towards the Taj. This is an optical illusion caused by where I was standing.
Although the Taj looks like it is solid marble, it is actually marble clad. Its main structure is brick. The British were going to demolish it for the marble but when they took out the first piece they realised that it wasn’t as thick as they thought, so they didn’t bother. Thank goodness! The architects were Turkish and I am awed by their brilliance, not just in the design but in the way it is constructed.
On the way back to Delhi we saw the Akshardham Temple, which is a Hindu Temple but also contains a museum and much, much, more.
The next part of my post is dedicated to Jagoda of fitnotofit as she has wanted to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar since childhood and asked me to put up more photos. This is for you Jagoda!
The official name of the Golden Temple is Harmandir Sahib, and the little publicised outside is nearly as beautiful as the inside. This is another marble building and it is massive. The building was completed in 1604, although I think the gold was added at a later date.
We visited on a Sunday so the Temple was extremely busy. I read somewhere that 100,000 people visit the Temple every day. It is completely staffed by volunteers and, unlike the Taj, entry is free. Although the Temple is the holiest of places for the Sikhs, it welcomes people of any cast, creed, or race. It has four entrances which are supposed to signify that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you will still be welcome. What a wonderful philosophy!
From a distance you can see the marble exterior and the golden interior together
Can you see that long queue leading into the Temple? We were in that queue for more than an hour and a half. There are separate lines for men and women, but I didn’t want to be separated from Mark and Krishna so I joined the men’s line (there were other women in the line so I didn’t feel too out of place). Guess what? I understand why there are separate lines! We were like sardines in a tin. I had men actually leaning on me, and eventually Mark had to protect me a bit. The queue jumping is rife, with men just basically elbowing me out of the way. In the end I had to get quite assertive with my position in the line. Krishna was much more polite and we found that he was about 20 people behind us quite quickly.
It was quite fascinating being in the line though. There are overhead televisions and the prayers are displayed on them in several languages, including English. As we got closer to the Temple, the line began chanting the prayers.
Finally it was our turn to go into the Temple. The Holy book is brought in each day and this is where it is displayed. You can see the number of people surrounding the rather small area. Yes, the inside of the Temple is as golden as the outside.
Here is the ceiling, and yes, it’s gold!
I wanted to be unobtrusive with my photography, although phone cameras were everywhere.
One we were back outside we circumnavigated the Temple. It is on what looks like a pontoon in the middle of the lake, and the waters are also considered holy. There are separate bathing areas for men and women, although from what I could see, people did not immerse themselves, but rather were doused in the water.
Having just experienced the wonderful inclusivity and spirituality of the Golden Temple, we walked outside to the site of the British massacre of 20,000 Indian people who were holding a peaceful demonstration. I do have photographs but find the whole concept so shocking and upsetting that I have decided to not include them. The site is now a commemorative garden and is very beautiful.
From Amritsar we travelled to Ahmedabad where we visited Gandhi’s Ashram and I went to the Step Well in Gujarat whilst Mark and Krishna went to work (seems fair but I was sorry they missed the wonders of this well. We then moved on to Mumbai.
This is the Taj Hotel which was the site of an attack in 2008. The architecture of this hotel is stunning and attracts tourists like all the other famous sites in India.
Adjacent to the Taj Hotel is the Gateway to India, another tourist attraction. I am walking with Krishna’s mother
Krishna haggling for some enormous balloons. It took about 30 minutes to save $3!
The museum in Mumbai is well worth a visit. I took a gazillion photos but thought followers of this blog might like the fabrics
The auto rickshaws are much used and should take 3 passengers. This one had 8 people inside (incl the driver, who you can just see at the very front leaning forward) and a man perched on the outside!
I was intrigued by the home of the richest man in India. It is 27 storeys and has 600 people to look after it. It has a restaurant, a movie theatre and a water park. Nothing exceeds like excess I guess…
And finally, the view of the Mumbai airport from the plane. It is a stunning airport and apparently it glows gold at nighttime.