We came to Delhi expecting a hectic, polluted city with crazy traffic and over population. We found all of that, but also found green parks and amazing historical buildings.
In the middle of this capital city of 25-million people, Old Delhi is where the craziness is at its peak. Roads were choc-a-bloc with auto-rickshaws and taxis incessantly honking, trying to pass when there are already 3 to a lane. In the middle of the traffic mayhem were ox-carts, cows and of course a lot of cow dung. The sidewalks were packed with people both locals and tourists rushing to get to their destinations. The noise level was very high with horns, people, hawkers all trying to be heard over the other. The air quality in Delhi was very poor when we were there. In the pictures you can tell that the sky is not quite blue even though there were no clouds.
Beside the sidewalks, small food stalls were cooking paranthas (roti stuffed with curried potatoes or veggies), deep fried dough and of course chai (tea). There are beggars everywhere in India, but so many more in Old Delhi. They reach for your leg or arm and plead for money. It’s difficult to see so many needy people, but you have to walk away, or you’d be giving money to everyone. Not to be missed were the ‘ear cleaners’ sticking long implements down their customers’ ears right in the middle of this chaos. The one pictured below also had his beard dyed bright orange. It seems to be very common for middle aged men in India to colour their hair and beards this shade of orange.
Just off the main street the red pillared Digambara Jain Temple towers above. Jain is an ancient religion that began in India around the same time as Buddhism. The temple houses an aviary veterinary clinic that will only treat vegetarian birds. You’ll read more about the interesting vegetarian Jain religion in coming blogs.
Most of the historical sites we visited in Delhi are from the 16th and 17th centuries, built in the Mughal Architectural Style. At the end of the main street in Old Delhi is the UNESCO World Heritage site, The Red Fort. Built by Mughal rulers in the 1600s, the massive complex is surrounded by an imposing red sandstone wall with large turrets. The main entrance, Lahore Gate, faces the Pakistani city of Lahore which was an important Mughal city. The outer wall is the most impressive part of the fort as the majority of buildings inside the walls were destroyed by conquerors over the years. The Hall of Public Audience is a red sandstone, open-aired room with arches on the ceiling and many large pillars while The Hall of Private Audience is obviously built for ‘more important’ people. It’s a beautiful building with large, white marble columns with intricately carved designs. The fort grounds also have pavilions with similar ceilings and a few more plain buildings but many of the buildings were destroyed over the years by different conquerors.
Down the street from the Red Fort is the stunning Jama Masjid (mosque). The mosque was built under the same Mughal shah as the Red Fort. The main gate with a large vaulted doorway leads to an impressive main building which is made of red sandstone with interesting white marble features. The 3 white onion-domes on the ceiling and 2 large minarets at each end add to its beauty. Inside the main building is a long prayer room with arched doorways between sections and a decorated ceiling. The mosque grounds are contained within a stone wall with 3 large red gates. In the centre of the grounds is a huaz (water tank) for worshipers to wash their hands, face and feet before entering the prayer room. The grounds were filled with locals eating their lunch in the shade of the wall.
Further south in Delhi are more Mughal ruins and a more serene environment. Lodi Gardens is a large park with grass lawns and many different types of trees. We saw and heard several beautiful green parakeets in the trees. There are a few Mughal tombs from the 14th and 15 centuries that are in quite good condition. This peaceful park with gorgeous old architecture was such a surprise.
Down the road from Lodi park is the most beautiful building in Delhi, Humayun’s Tomb. This UNESCO World Heritage site was built by one of his wives of a 16th century Mughal ruler. The building is made of red sandstone which is inlaid with white marble in gorgeous designs. Along the long, front building are many arched doorways. Behind it is the main tall, domed-roof building with 3 large arched doorways. It’s very impressive. On the same grounds were tombs for previous Mughal rulers as wells as for Humayun’s barber.
In the far south end of Delhi is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Qutab Minar Complex. Qutab Minar is an impressive 73m tall minaret built in 1193 when Sultans defeated the ruling Hindus to take over the land. It is composed of red sandstone bricks and was built in the Afghan architectural style. Around the minaret are a few remaining tombs and buildings from the 12th century. Most of the site however is the ruins of buildings from that time including tombs, monuments and a mosque. Some had intricate carvings on the walls. It was a nice surprise to see this well-tended site with manicured gardens and clean walkways.
To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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