India Part 1: Delhi


Over the years, January and February have typically been quieter months in terms of workload so I usually plan a trip and escape the damp, grey humdrum of the London winter. For some unknown reason, 2016 kicked off in an unusually busy fashion so my scheduled 12 days of travel in India came as a welcome respite. It's the first time I've visited India and despite speaking to friends and doing the usual online research, it was difficult to decide exactly where to explore in such a vast, culturally diverse country in a short space of time. As is often the case, wildlife was a big focus of the trip, being the passion that originally got me into photography when I was younger. I will be posting a few more blogs from the second and third legs of my trip in Kaziranga National Park and the Sundarbans but this initial one takes a look at Delhi, the first stage of my trip.

Delhi is India's capital city and brimming with rich, cultural heritage. It wasn't originally on my travel itinerary but it seemed ridiculous to spend 8 hours in a plane and not spend at least a little bit of time exploring. I had a day witha guide and driver booked so tried to smash out some of the main sights - not really enough time to do the city justice but here goes anyway...

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid is India's largest mosque and was built between 1644 and 1656 by Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (with the help of 5000 of his mates). I'm an atheist (because that's what God intended) but I'm always fascinated by places of worship like this and the centuries of culture that just ooze from every crevice of the red standstone. If only walls could talk (or wail?)...

(Click on images to enlarge)

One thing really marked me when I arrived in Delhi; the ridiculous amount of traffic accompanied by a seemingly perpetual soundtrack of car horns. Taking a taxi was genuinely nerve-racking as we swerved in and out of overflowing tuk-tuks, lavishly decorated lorries on the wrong side of the road and random seemingly suicidal cows, stationary and oblivious in the middle lane. One driver told us that, in order to drive in India, you need 3 things: good brakes, a good horn and good luck! Later in the trip, we were offered some hollow reassurance from another driver who said: "Do not worry - only the body dies". This is a picture from the tower of Jama Masjid which shows a little bit of rickshaw chaos on one of the "quieter" streets...

The skies of Delhi are awash with black kites - menancing looking birds of prey that circle the city, searching for food to scavenge. They have some competition though - in this case from a carrion crow...

(click to enlarge)

India Gate

Our tour guide was very proud to tell us: "Do you know the Arc de Triomphe in Paris? We have the same". India Gate was originally called the All India War Memorial and commemorates the 82,000 Indian lives lost during the First World War (there are over 13,000 names inscribed into the stone).

In 1971, a plinth with a helmet-capped rifle and an eternal flame were added - the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier....

(click to enlarge)

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

The next stop on our cultural tour was Delhi's most prominent Sikh temple, constructed in 1783...

Despite often playing hide the Sikh when I was young (I think that's what it was called), I knew very little about the religion. My impression was one of tolerance and harmony, exemplified by the fact that the temple feeds thousands of people every day for free, regardless of their religious background. I had the opportunity to go into the kitchen and watch the volunteers making chapatis...

(click image to enlarge)

Humayan's Tomb

I was taken to a few other places of interest, notably Gandhi's cemetary, but no real photo opportunities presented themselves. However this changed when I reached Humayan's Tomb, the final stop-off for the day. The Tomb is a vast structure built in honour of Humayan, the Mughal emperor, by his son Akbar. It was finished in 1570, pre-dating the Taj Mahal by 60 years, and was declared an Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993. With its beautiful red sandstone, ornate chambers and lush green surroundings atypical of Delhi, it's easy to see why it is a popular tourist destination...

(click image to enlarge)

Despite the expected tiredness from the long flight, I found Delhi truly fascinating. One day simply isn't enough to do it take in even a glimmer of what the city has to offer. Hopefully, I will have another opportunity to explore this beautiful place and all its eccentricities in more depth in the future.

If you've enjoyed this blog, please share it and feel free to leave me a comment. The next installment will feature rhinos, elephants and all manner of birds from the 2nd leg of my trip which explores Kaziranga National park in East India.

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Alavida (goodbye),

Robin


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Click on main image to enlarge.                                                                                                                 All images and content copyright of Robin Boot 2018