I hope this link to my slideshows works and that youtube dos not remove it because it violates one of their policies.
To get to Delhi we (my colleague Piet and I) first made a stopover in Karachi, Pakistan. We had some time to see a bit of the city. Due to all the construction going on the streets were a bit of a mess with mud pools every. Large and small decorated busses were splashing through the pools. We did not have time to see the town center, instead we first went to the mausoleum of the country’s first president Jinnah. After the breakup of the British Indian Empire the country was divided in 1 primarily Hindu part (now India) and 2 Muslim parts (now Pakistan and Bangladesh) and 2 Buddhist parts (now Burma/Myanmar and Sri Lanka). Unfortunately, the splitting of the old colony resulted in violence and deportation of people based on religion to their assigned country.
After the mausoleum we wondered the streets to get a feel of the place. Life was a bit primitive. Making concrete and poring the floor of a house was still done by hand. The workers were mixing the concrete with their feet. The meat market did not feel clean. Meat hanging on hooks covered with flies. In the dry section of the market, we were surprised by the smell of all the spices. They were stored in enormous bags.
Delhi (India) was a lot busier. The town has an old and a new section. The old one has small narrow streets with few cars but lots of rikshaws. Most of these are motorized. The holly cow wanders in-between the traffic eating gras/leftovers where he can and of course shitting where he wants. In the new section of town, the streets are wider and there are more cars. Large apartment blocks are under construction. The scaffolding is made of bamboo which, in the rainy season, starts to bend. I assume construction is stopped then. We stayed in a small tourist hotel, which consisted of several huts and a covered breakfast place around a garden. We took the motor rickshaw to the different tourist sites.
The large Red Fort, built by the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan when he moved his capital from Agra to Delhi in 1638, shows off the wealth of the ruling dynasty. A large 2.4 km 33 m high wall surrounds the many imperial pavilions. These are connected by a water channel providing some cooling in the hot summer. You enter the complex through a gate flanked by 2 live size elephant statues. The large audience room is on one side open and on the other side, in the center, is a large marble throne. The nearby mosque is also made of decorated white marble. The floor has patterns of inlaid flowers.
Across the street from the fort, Shah Jahn built the Jana (Friday) Mosque (1658) for the residents of his new capital. It can hold 25,000 worshipers during the Friday prayers.
Further away is the 72 m high Qutab minaret. Construction started in 1199. Over the years more stories were built. The surrounding buildings are constructed with carved stones of the previous 27 Hindu and Jaina temples which were destroyed during the conquest of the city. A strange 7 m high iron pillar was moved to this site. It was made in 415 AD and does not rust due to its high phosphate content. It was erected for one of the Gupta kings and in scripted with a eulogy of his life’s achievements.
The large Laxminarayan temple (1939) was the first Hindu temple we visited. It is a bit of a confusing construction with high colored pointy domes. Spread out over the 3 stories are various large and small rooms with shrines depicting Vishnu’s as the preserver and his wife Lakshmi and on the sides are smaller temples dedicated to Shiva, Krishna and Buddha.
From Delhi we took the train north to Jammu and from there the bus to Srinagar. This was a summer retreat during colonial time. It lies in the Kashmir valley. At a height of 1585 m it is very cool. The English were not allowed to live on the land by the ruler. Therefore, they lived in beautifully decorated houseboats on the lake. Together with some other tourist we met on the bus we rented one of these houseboats. The lake is also a sewer for the houseboats. So, it was not very attractive to swim in the water. Around the lake are various Moghul gardens with natural fountains as well has floating gardens of vegetables. The city is also well known for its carpet industry. In one shop I fell in love with a beautiful silk carpet. I have never seen a silk carpet before. The density of the knots is very high. Therefore, the pattern can be very detailed. The surface has a shine over it. I could borrow the carpet overnight to admire it. Unfortunately, the pattern was not completely symmetric. When weaving “upside down” the details were not so well done. I was afraid this would irritate me over time, therefore I decided not to buy it. This may have been a blessing in disguise. On the way back to Delhi, in the night train, I was robbed of my camera equipment. They had sliced open my rucksack. If the carpet had been there it would have been cut. What was worse was the fact that on the camera I had pictures of a wedding ceremony. The owner of the carpet shop had invited us to attend. He collected us at sunset by boat from our houseboat and we traveled over the lake with the bridegroom to the house of the bride on the other side of them lake. Because I was the wedding photographer I was allowed into the women’s quarters. I hope they had more people taking pictures.
Instead of stopping in Delhi we went straight on to Agra, which lies some 234 km south of Delhi. Several Mughal emperors had their capital there and also built a large Red Fort (1573). The most famous building is however the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan had this large white marble mausoleum built for his wife. From his residency in the Red Fort, he could see it lying on the other side of the Yamuna river. For his own tomb he had planned a black marble mausoleum. This was however never built. In India there are various tombs similar to the Taj Mahal but none of them are as well built and decorated.
After 2 weeks of traveling Piet was running out of clean cloths. He decided to have them washed over night. Unfortunately, he did not remember where that was. It was a panic the next day. He drove around town in a rickshaw searching for his cloths, which he eventually found. In Agra we bought an Agfa Clack II box camera. They only had black and white film rolls. From this point on we had to live with postcards, poor quality B&W pictures and some colored photographs the English tourist from Srinagar sent us later.
38 km outside Agra lies the abandoned capital Fatehpur Sikri. Shah Akbar had it built from 1571 to 1585. Due to a lack of water the idea of moving the capital there was abandoned.
We traveled further south by train and bus to the famous erotic temple of Khajuraho. On the way the bus broke down. Contrary to what I had experienced in Afrika, there are more busses in India. You simple walked a bit further down the road and catch the next one. The 22 temples were built between 950 – 1050 AD. Because the city was abandoned and forgotten it was never destroyed. It was rediscovered in the 19th century. The temples have erotic carvings on the outside showing some of the athletic positions of the Kamasutra.
The next stop on this trip was the holy city of Hindu Varanasi (Benares) on the banks of the Ganges. Large numbers of pilgrims come to the city to bath in the Ganges river. Steps (Ghat’s) are made to descend into the water for a purification bath. Some of the gats are reserved for cremations. The rapidly rising water interrupted some of the cremations. We therefore saw some wrapped up bodies floating down the river during our boat tour.
It is 1530 km from Varanasi to Bombay where we would catch the flight back to Amsterdam. From fellow travelers we heard about the Elora and Ajanta caves. They are situated off the train line some 430 km east of Bombay. We decided to make the detour. It became the highlight of our trip. The caves are a bit off the beaten track and therefore less busy. You do not know what to expect. The Ajanta caves are carved out temples and monasteries in the walls of a bend in the river gorge. The caves and statues are carved out of the rock between 300 BC and 600 AD by monks. The walls are covered with paintings out of the life of Prince Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
Further down are the Elora caves. They are a bit younger (600 – 1000 AD). Here a mountain side was cut away to reveal the temples hidden inside. How they were ever able to cut away the mountain and leave a temple standing complete with elephant statues, pillars, bridges and balconies remains a mystery. They were obviously a lot more sophisticated than we were in Europe at the time. Also, they had more laborers to do the work.
Nearby is the fortified citadel of Daulatabad. The slopes of the 200 m high rock were cut away over a height of 50 m to create a mote with crocodiles. There was only 1 narrow bridge. Around the central citadel is a 4.4 km wall with 3 defense lines in-between. Briefly this was the capital of the “Mad King” of Delhi. He moved his household here in 1328 but not for long. The climate was too arid and dry so after a few years he moved back.
The last stop on this trip was Bombay. The city has several historical colonial buildings. O.A. the train station, the university with its Art Deco clock tower and the city hall. The Gate of India was created in commemorate the visit of King George V in 1911.