Thumper…

January 8, 2017

India Day 12 – Delhi

Delhi – 12/10/16

Started off the day with a trip on the metro to the Chandni Chowk area. That was kind of cool and the fact that you can buy tickets at the window makes it a million times better than our metro rail system in Victoria.
Went to the old part of Delhi by metro and then jumped in a cycle rickshaw. Got pedalled through the chaos to the place called the Friday Mosque, or Jama Masjid in Delhi. (Jama Masjid just refers to the main mosque of a town, city or town.) I always feel a little bad making these guys pedal around with us on the back when I’m quite capable of walking, but at least they’re earning some money to live on rather than begging, which is always a good thing.

Peddle Harder!

Peddle Harder!

This place was completed in 1655 and is undergoing renovations in places. The steep steps provide a glimpse of Indian contrasts. We have the hustle and bustle of people trying to sell you things, bus loads of tourists following the little flag on the stick while trying to avoid climbing the steps (you can’t), locals hassling the tourists for photos, locals trying to avoid all of the commotion and get to their mosque just to worship, some just sitting there taking in the view and yet others, who call the steps home and just wanting to continue sleeping. The mosque is free to enter, with a 300 rupee charge for taking photos – and they do search you for phones and cameras. You also get to wear these brightly coloured daggy gowns (sorry, I didn’t take any photos!) as the commotion of the steps continues to the entrance where they dress all the women up in the gowns that look like something your great grandmother wore as a nightie! Once inside the crowds disperse and some kind of reverence returns to this muslim place of worship. The hot steps of the mosque also provide views of the impressive red fort.

Entrance, Jama Masjid, Delhi

Entrance, Jama Masjid, Delhi

Directly out the gate of the mosque is fire cracker lane. Unfortunately our tour leader led us so fast down this lane and the others that we didn’t have any chance to stop and take a closer look. It looked interesting as we dodged shops that overflowed on to the footpath, people sitting around and fire buckets in case there were some unexpected fireworks… All the while keeping our wits about us, trying to watch where we were going, what we were walking on and all while avoiding walking into anyone or anything.

Fireworks, Old Delhi

Fireworks, Old Delhi

Around the corner to the Sikh temple, Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib in Chandni Chowk. In all my travels, I hadn’t been in a sikh temple before, so this was a new experience for me. We met in a little room nearby, where we covered our heads with a scarf (even the men) and took off our shoes. They assured us we didn’t have to walk far with no shoes – I don’t think any of us were concerned about the distance, more so what we had to walk on to get there… Getting there was fine – via a shaded marble footpath that was part of the temple, to the actual temple entrance where everyone washed their feet and hands.

Ready for the Sikh Temple, Chandni Chowk

Ready for the Sikh Temple, Chandni Chowk

Inside the temple it was a mix of old and new. The building was hundreds of years old, but the musicians were using ipads and iphones and the words to the songs were displayed on big screen tv’s around the place. It looked like a continual service rather than a set time. The musicians looked like they’d been there a while and most people seemed to just come and go, rather than take up a permanent position (all kneeling, no seats) for the duration. It gave the place a busyness that perhaps you wouldn’t expect at a place of prayer within the temple – certainly in our Christian church services we would lose an element of reverence and intimacy with God if there was a continual flow like that. On the other hand, if we still had set service times, which the Sikhs may even do, and allowed people to come and go during the other times, perhaps it would give many people’s faith a new life. The Sikhs don’t cut their hair and the men wear a turban. They also believe that everyone’s equal – no caste system and should be allowed freedom to practise their own religons.

The offering bins at the front were always available and out the back they were counting these offerings. Piles and piles of notes, with more than a dozen people counting.

Counting the money, Sikh Temple, Chandni Chowk

Counting the money, Sikh Temple, Chandni Chowk

The kitchen was another fascinating place. Pots big enough for me to stand in cooked up a free meal for anyone and everyone. Really, there should be no excuse for anybody being hungry or begging for food with a sikh temple nearby. We had the option of eating here or getting something nearby. Without hesitation all of us said something nearby…

Big pots, Sikh Temple, Chandni Chowk

Big pots, Sikh Temple, Chandni Chowk

Leaving the temple was a little interesting – we walked back down the crowded street to get our shoes. I’m sure we were getting some funny looks from locals. Nobody walks along those streets with no shoes. Everything happens on those streets… you know like, spilling food, dogs, spitting… and more but let’s not go any further! That’s where we wished we could’ve washed our feet, then put our shoes back on.

From there we had lunch, left our guide, and a few of us went to the Red Fort, built in the 1600’s, where we were the exhibits, with everyone wanting a picture with us or English lessons from us.

It’s staggering to think that these buildings were built nearly 400 years ago, no machines and all done by hand when you look at the materials, detail and architectural structures. They sure made buildings to last back then.

Red Fort Delhi (ruined by a finger, sorry!)

Red Fort Delhi (ruined by a finger, sorry!)

To get to the fort you walk past the old traditional market area, Chhatta Chowk, where you can shop and bargain for no doubt overly priced items, then through the gates and the undercover Meena Bazzar on the western side. Some parts of the fort are currently being restored in places. The immaculate gardens are great to relax in (until we ran out of patience with the locals asking us for pictures) and would be even better if there was water running in some areas that were originally built for that. It would really give the place a bit of extra life. I remember the gardens and palaces in St Petersburg had water running through them and it brought so much more life. Guess they have a few less people and a little more water to spare! Interesting though, the water served a functioning purpose, where it flowed through the channels as a form of air conditioning, keeping the place cool.

Diwan-i-khas, Red Fort, Delhi

Diwan-i-khas, Red Fort, Delhi

In the gardens they have big open concert type pavillions. I’d love to give a concert in them, but perhaps I’d have to settle for just watching one. Not sure how the acoustics would be, but it’s a lovely setting!

Bhadon Pavillion, Red Fort Delhi

Bhadon Pavillion, Red Fort Delhi

Another thing to note in India – I’d say 90% of India’s tourist attractions charge foreigners extra to get in – not just a little extra, but 5-10 times more. The privilege that comes with that is that we either get to go to the front of the queue, or we get a special queue. That is a benefit worth paying for in most cases, as the queues can be enormous to get in. Of course once you’re in you still have to fight the crowds, but you can’t win everywhere I guess.

After the Fort, we headed back toward the hotel via the metro, which of course brings yet another unique Indian story… We’d queued, along with lots of locals, for quite a while to get tickets to get on – took around 20-25 minutes to get near the front of the queue. When we got near the front, we find all these others just pushing in to get their tickets. Not unusual, but not appreciated. One of us “politely” told them off (yelled at them), grabbed our tickets, then we all formed a bit of a barrier so that the other locals who’d queued with us for quite a while could grab theirs too. Was kind of funny, but sometimes we need to get a bit angry in these situations or we’d still be there.

Tonight was an overnight train journey, so we grabbed some subway for tea on the train and then went to the station and boarded the train. The train brings more fun and stories, but maybe they can wait til tomorrow!

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