Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Delhi - blend of Modernity and culture- Finest structures and homestays



On my way to Uttarakhand I went to Delhi. Though I had travelled to Delhi almost 40 times before for business purpose; I could not spend anytime for sight seeing. The only monuments I had seen was India Gate from windows of my car and once I had visited Rajghat.

This time I decided to visit Delhi only for sight seeing purpose. I spent two days only as I had to move ahead to Uttarakhand. This is therefore not an article in detail; which I normally write; rather this is highlights or in better words essence of Delhi. This is also my understanding of this city its culture and people. I am also listing here some special issues about our capital which are not known to many.

Delhi is probably the only city in India where size of anything is BIG; may it be Roads, Flyovers, Forts, Homes, Parathas, kathi rolls or even people. As soon as you get out of station heat, dust and noise hits your senses hard. Added to it is honking and lane cutting by autos and the usual response by car drivers with punctuation marks (bc /mc/ch*#@ ) typical to northern India.

I stayed with my friend in south delhi and thus started with Qutub Minar for sight seeing. It would be interesting for readers to know that town centre of Delhi; kept on shifting around with different rulers. While you travel from South Extension to Mehrauli and then to Qutub, you cross capitals of five different dynasties. Starting from Siri Fort (Khilji Dynasty (AD 1290 to 1320)- mostly known for Mohammad Khilji) then to Quila Rai Pithora (Prithviraj Chauhan-AD 1000) to Mehrauli (Ghori - AD 1190 to 1206) and also Aibaks (1206 to 1290).

The most interesting part to observe is the change in architecture over this period. You would see construction of walls with uncut stones to neatly cut sand stones and finally with carving. The ultimate however comes out as Qutub Minar. The sheer size of the structure is baffling(see the picture below and compare height with electricity pole).

In my opinon there were two reasons why emperors created this monuments 1) To promote construction and hence create jobs; it is impressive to see the vision and efforts of artisan in the days when JCBs and poclains were not available. 2) The sense of achievement every king used to feel after conquering this city. This was capital of the then richest nation on earth and once that treasury was in your hand every king wanted to make statement of this strength. Thus most of the mega structures are around Delhi.

While I was meeting people; one of them told me that Salary of Akbar's Kotwal (guarding delhi) was more than the income of many european kings. I don't know whether it is correct or not; so more informed souls pleas comment.


Buildings is Qutub Complex
The next day I visited central Delhi. While you travel towards Central delhi, plan to go via Nizamuddin. Here you can visit Durgah and also tomb of Rahim Khankhana( he was prime minister to 3 kings and to my utter surprise urdu poet "Rahim").

The Lotus Temple of Bahai Faith

Tomb of Rahim Khan Khana

While you visit central Delhi from here , you would pass along capitals of 6 different dynasties a) Firozabad ( Tughlaqs, sayyids, lodhis and mughals). When Humayun lost his kingdom to Sher Shah Suri he made capital at Shergarh (Puran Quila) and then Shahjahan shifted capital to present day Old Delhi (also known as Shahjehanabad). I visited red fort, whatever I write to describe the beauty and magnamity of Red Fort would be less and also most of us know that.

Chaotic Streets of Delhi

However, it is important to mention that I found true spirit of Delhi in Old Delhi area. The temples and Jama Masjid and Sisganj Gurudwara all are so close to each other. Cuisine of every community in its original form in retained here- where Paratha galli or seekh kababs or Rabari. And the chaos on the streets is worth experiencing, I had previously experienced such chaos only in lanes of Benaras.

Sisganj Gurudwara

While I know that most you would have seen Red Fort; I do recommend to see Humayun's Tomb in detail. Before I start with it, one more advice " do not miss the light and sound show in the evening at Red Fort".

Red Fort

Humayun's Tomb probably was the greatest structure made before Taj Mahal was constructed. A glimpse of Taj can be seen in every buidling here. It was also for the first time Persian and Hindu arcutecture of combined to created magnificient combination of Minarets, curves and Hindu motif. There is brilliant work of glazed tiles along with combination of Marble and Sandstone.

This was preemble to Taj, which was constructed with Marble alone. There are around 100 graves of Mughal family and it looks like a big family get together.








Humayun's Tomb

Graves of Mughals inside Humayun's Tomb
Isa Khan Niyazi's Tomb (See influence of Hindu Architecture)

Intricate work inner side of dome

Intricate Jaali in Sand Stone
It is also worthwhile to mention that now network of Metro is in place and hence do not waste money in hiring cabs unless absolutely necessary. It would save you time and you would be able to get essence of real Delhi by foot.

From here I moved to Lutyen's Delhi which was built by British and houses our democracy. Though buildings are nice, there was so much of security that I preferred to see Rashtrapati Bhavan from a distance and them made final visit to India Gate to pay my respect to unknown soldiers who gave their life to make us safe.

Rashtrapati Bhavan
India Gate
Finally the most important monument of India - Amar Jawan Jyoti

I stayed with my friend but I met a lot of people while surveying for Homestays. It is very interesting to know that people from all linguistic background run homestays here right from Punjabi, Jain, Marwari, Bengali to south Indians. Delhi as a city is melting pot of cultures if you wish to really enjoy staying in Delhi, stay in homestays. You would experience their big decorated homes, home cooked food, gardens around and would learn a lot more about culture.

The homestays come at all price points but they are not as cheap as the Pahargunj hotels. However the ambience and service is so nice that you would find worth for your money. To know about homestays in Delhi follow this link www.mygreatstay.com.

One pretty disturbing issue that I found on visit to Delhi was about auto-rikshaw drivers. I asked one of th drivers that why do they charge more while in no other city it happens - especially Mumbai. The answer was very interesting - he said in Delhi autos are owned by Fleet Owners and not drivers. The permits are controlled and hence are so expensive that to get one Auto on road it takes Rs 4.00 lacs min. So how does one recover that money. If this is true then this is probably the worst government has done to tourism. Normally permits are given to local youths to earn their livelyhood and not to mafia cartels. If any of you know more on this issue do comment and on every forum possible raise this issue; so some day govt changes it's mind. Which is really difficult given the fact the our great democracy has peoples representatives as central part and people themselves(for them, of them and by them..........)

Thanks for reading ...coming up next ..............journey from Mumbai to Leh and back by Car........


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