Day 36: Jess is a Wanderer tramps around Old Delhi and takes the metro to the Baha’i Lotus Temple. A wonderful day in India’s capital city.
Heading north of yesterday’s monuments, we set off in search of the Red Fort, Jama Masijd – the most famous mosque in Delhi and the old market. It was another hot, sweaty and dusty adventure dodging tuk-tuks, motorbikes and animals galore through the streets and alleyways. If anyone’s been to Cairo’s Khan-el-Khalili market, the sights, smells and sounds were an exact mirror of the chaos that’s found there. And I loved it! We chose not to pay the 300RS to enter the mosque as it was so busy, being Friday and the Islamic Holy Day, we didn’t want to intrude on proceedings. Nearly lost our toes a couple of times whilst winding through the streets of Old Delhi and came close to being knocked over or crashed into by the various forms of transport!
Following the chaos of Old Delhi, we hopped on the metro and headed for the outskirts of Delhi in search of the famous Baha’i Lotus Temple. There are only seven temples around the world so it was a real privilege to get a look inside the biggest one. An odd experience, I can’t describe it any other way! We walked in through the gates, through the security check and then followed the winding path through the gardens to the great lotus. An unbelievable piece of architecture that almost has to be seen to be appreciated fully.
We joined the masses – and seriously, there were masses, even more visitors than at the Taj Mahal, and walked up to the giant structure, overlooking the pool of water. No one was really sure of what was going on until we got lined up in single-file, all ten thousand of us and were told to remove our shoes and put them in special linen bags. Whilst waiting in line, groups were taken off. It felt surreal, like we were being led to our deaths and this was some sort of sacrificial routine that we had just stumbled across.
Once it was our turn to ‘ascend’ the steps, we were split into three more single-file lines and some instructions were announced in Hindi and English: no talking, no phones, no photos… then we were invited inside the temple. Bahai’s do not have ‘services’ inside their temples. Rather, they are places where people are welcomed to pray. There were hundreds of marble/wood benches for visitors to sit and reflect upon quietly. There were no pictures or decorations other than the ‘Baha’i logo’ in the ceiling. It is a beautiful building inside and out. Pamphlets were provided for anyone wishing to know more and a very informative visitor centre was available with a comprehensive amount of information and some helpful Baha’i believers who were happy to answer my million questions. If you haven’t heard of Baha’i, it really is interesting so do have a Google. It’s also free to visit the temple and only 30RS on the metro from Delhi’s centre. Bargain!
Right now, we are looking at heading to the Himalayas for the week, from tomorrow. Buses and trains galore. Definitely in need of some cooler weather, relaxation, hiking and yoga after the drama of ‘the bag’ and the chaos of Delhi. By the way… my bag was delivered to the hotel tonight so all is well with the world once more! Stay tuned to find out where we actually end up tomorrow…