Monday, 22 February 2010

New Delhi

Karl and Haley had hired a car and a driver for the day and asked whether I’d like to join them: I was more than willing!

We were heading into New Delhi. New Delhi bears little resemblance to what I would call Delhi proper. This is where the other half lives – a place of towering mansions, lush gardens, shopping centres and five-star hotels.

Our first stop was Lakshmi’s temple. Lakshmi is Vishnu’s consort and, as the goddess of wealth, she is a firm favourite of many Hindus who come bearing offerings in the hope of future wealth or success in business. The temple was grand with numerous statues of Vishnu and Lakshmi in various guises, all emblazoned in gold and draped with flower garlands.

Leaving Lakshmi and Vishnu behind, we headed towards the area that housed all the parliamentary buildings. Like stately buildings all over the world, these buildings were an uncharismatic, ostentatious display of wealth far removed from the reality in which the majority of the populace it represents exits. The main parliamentary building bore an uncanny resemblance to Washington DC's Capitol Building, and at the end of the wide boulevard that led up to it was a pseudo Arc de Triomphe. We stopped for the obligatory photos then moved swiftly on to Humayun’s tomb.

Unlike the bland parliamentary buildings, Humayan’s tomb is not only a work or art but a work of love. This Mughal masterpiece preceded the Taj and was commissioned by a woman out of love for her dead husband. The building is a stunning example of Mughal architecture built out of marble with fantastically intricate carving covering the beautiful domed ceiling. It was breathtakingly beautiful and yet is deemed infinitely inferior to the Taj itself.

After lunch in an over-priced, upmarket restaurant riddled with tourists, our final stop of the day was Qutb Minar. Here a giant minaret stands tall surrounded by a complex of historic mosques and grassy areas. Qutb Minar was built in 1193 to celebrate the onset of Islamic rule after the defeat of the last Hindu kingdom in Delhi. The complex of well-kept ruins is great to wander round but is marred by the amount of litter strewn across the lawns. Unlike most of the sites I’ve visited, which are generally very well maintained, at Qutb Minar it seemed that they'd neglected to install dustbins or employ someone to pick up the rubbish. It was a real shame given both the importance and popularity of the complex.

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