Archive for September, 2017

Humayum’s Tomb

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Humayum was the last mohgul leader and his wife built this tomb in red sandstone and marble. It has the same architectural elements of the Taj Mahal and other tombs. I think there are about 100 people buried here.

This is our day on the tour and, as it goes, I get pretty saturated. The history is long and the names are unfamiliar and it gets hard to keep track of all the details. And then there’s the heat, which by 2 or 3 in the afternoon is quite hot. The humidity seems to be a little less or maybe I am acclimating?

Our last few stops weren’t stops but drive bys. We saw India Gate, a war memorial dedicated to all those in wars from 1914-1921, the Presidential home and the house of parliament along with a couple of other governmental buildings.

Delhi is huge. In New Delhi the streets are wide and it has a modern feel. Old Delhi has narrow streets and a more old world feel. Both have masses of people, honking traffic, homelessness, beggars and hawkers.

Gate 1 Travel trips always end with a farewell dinner. The buffet in this hotel was exceptionally tasty with lots of choices and some variety. The desserts were also quite delicious. We said our last goodbyes to our tour manager and fellow travelers, all departing throughout the night for flights back to their homes.

Sikh Place of Worship

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

The second highlight of the day was learning about the Sikh religion. There are five “Ks” in this practice.

Kesh, which is long hair. These people never cut their hair, shave or wax any part of their body. They often wear a turban with all their hair in a bun under the turban.

Kachh, cotton underwear, worn because in early times they believed it was easy to move in so warriors could be nimble.

Kara, a metal bracelet worn on the left wrist

Kangha, a small comb

Katar, a small, blunt knife

We witnessed many people in this place of worship with these characteristics (well, not the underwear – just taking that on faith) along with being able to walk through the place where they were chanting. It was lively and upbeat, with some of the men shaking small rectangular tambourines. On our way into the complex we stopped at a small store where Mansi, our tour manager, bought triangular orange scarves for us to cover our heads.

The two elements of these places of worship are a tall pointed orange flag welcoming everyone who needs respite. The second is a community kitchen where the in kind donations are made into meals served to anyone who desires one. The labor for making the meal is volunteer labor. On our way in we saw a table of men peeling potatoes. We had the opportunity to sit and roll out dough that was made into bread. It was such a privilege to be able to sit and work side by side other people working for the benefit of others. I got lost in my task, not realizing how hot and sweaty I was, happy to be working with my hands, helping others, and cooking (which I miss) until Mansi, our tour manager called for us.

Definitely a highlight of the day.

Rickshaw ride, the highlight of the day

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Each morning once our group boards the coach our tour manager, Mansi, reviews the agenda for the day.linig up the schedule she told us there would be two highlights of the day. The first, a rickshaw ride through the market.

The streets are chaos, especially as they narrow. Buses, four wheelers, two wheelers, rickshaws, autorickshaws, carts, donkeys, bikes, motorcycles and pedestrians all jockey for position, honk, and eventually move through the snarl of traffic.

Two by two we jumped in rickshaws and the driver pedaled a one speed bike through the streets, moved to narrower and narrower streets where there are closet sized shops seeking food, clothing or shaves and haircuts. Mansi clued us in, saying we should look at the tangle of wires, commenting that India must have fabulous engineers to troubleshoot any issue.

It’s bumpy and more than one of us got our heads and elbows knocked up against the metal frame of the rickshaw but it was worth it. Certainly first highlight of the day.

Jama Majid – Friday Mosque

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Our Delhi siteseeing started with a trip to a mosque. A part of Delhi has a high percentage of Muslims and the mosque can accommodate 25,000 people at a time. There are a number of sets (35 or so) up to the entrance where all of the women in a our group had to don robes. Any men wearing shorts are also required to wrap robes around their bottom halves.

Photos inside are allowed only if you pay a $5 fee to do so (which I did not do). It is not ornate, has a feel and architecture of mosques I saw in Morocco.

Monkeys DO love bananas

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

From Jaipur we headed down the highway (three lanes separated with white lines!) for Delhi. Along the route the driver pulled over when he saw a banana cart and monkeys at the side of the road. We hopped the barrier and Mansi bought bananas from the vendor so we could feed them and get photos. At least three of them had babies clinging to their stomachs.

There are two kinds of monkeys in India; black faced monkey and red faced monkey. Both types were hanging out waiting for a treat.

Jaipur – City Palace and Museum

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Adjacent to the observatory is the City Palace and museum. The architecture is similar to much of the other buildings we have seen. The work is impressive; beautiful colors, arches and courtyards. The eighteen year old king lives here and the flag was up indicating he was home. We didn’t get to visit with him. Apparently he is quite shy.

The museum holds a collection of royal costumes, shawls and other objects. Most surprising is clothing from one king (Sa wai Madho Singh) who Mansi describes as “four feet wide”. The guidebook lists his weight as 250 kg which is almost 600 pounds. He was said to be seven feet tall and four feet wide and didn’t contribute much it anything to India.

Jaipur – Jantar Mantar

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Jantar Mantar is an observatory started by Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur, in 1728. Jai Singh was a fan of city planning and war in addition to astronomy. One instrument is a sun dial and another calculates the time of year displaying the current astrological sign. During his reign four other observatories were constructed, this one is in the best shape.

Indian culture is steeped in myths and legends and astrology is a part of that. Each family has an astrologer. One of the first steps in the arranged marriage is whether or not the potential bride and groom have signs that are compatible. Mansi has met her arranged marriage husband to be for just 22 minutes and only did so after their signs were deemed compatible by an astrologer.

On one of our long bus drives she told a long story Indian tradition; women’s roles, men’s roles, arranged marriages, and family values.

Jaipur – textiles

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

We stopped at a textile place where we saw rugs being made by hand. They make rugs from cashmere, camel hair and silk. After the demonstration by the looms we were escorted into a show room with soft cushy stools, served fritters, grilled cheese sandwich snacks and rum and coke. The rugs were rolled out, some of each kind in many different sizes and when the floor was full we were invited to take off our shoes and see how they felt. Two people in my group bought rugs (not me!) and we wandered downstairs for more browsing of scarves, bed covers, pillow covers and clothes.

Jaipur The Wind Palace

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Jaipur is divided into the new city and the old city. The old city is a walled city with seven entrances and is painted a terra-cotta color. The nickname of this city is “Pink City” because in 1876 the Prince of Wales visited and it is said pink was his favorite color. So, they painted the city pink. Afterwards the nickname stuck but the ruler at the time changed the color to terra-cotta. Now, it is a law that the old city shall remain that color. It is a place full of tiny shops, narrow streets, and hawkers.

Our first stop was a (two for one) photo opportunity. The Wind Palace is just a facade of 900+ windows and balconies. Our photos taken from across the street were just down the sidewalk from the snake charmer. We had the opportunity to sit next to the snake charmer and have the snake wrapped around our necks.

Amber Fort rises from a rocky mountainside just 11 km outside of Jaipur. The bus delivered us to Jeeps and they took us up the steep and narrow cobblestone road to the fort. Construction started in 1592 and funded by the spoils of war. Three kinds of sandstone and marble are plentiful in this area and these materials were used to build the Fort, largely a royal palace divided into four sections, each with its own courtyard. Nothing in the Fort has been resorted, everything is original.

At the beginning of the trip Mansi gave us each a listening device she calls a whisper device. She has a microphone attached to hers and we all have earbuds. It’s a great device to have both because some of these attractions are so loud and because you can wander and look a little bit while she talks. In one of the courtyard some musicians were playing and women in colorful dress were dancing. Mansi stopped mid-explanation and asked if we wanted to pause and watch the dancers. So we shifted a bit over to take a look and at one point one of the guys I the group joined the women dancing. These spontaneous moments are so fun.

From the top of the Fort a wall in visible. It’s not the Great Wall of China but it’s impressive. I think Mansi said it’s 35 km long. This wall is one of the part of the defense elements of the Fort that kept it from being attacked.

Usually elephants take visitors from the bottom up to the Fort but for some reason they were not available. So, instead, we went to the place where the elephants are kept and took a ride from there around their neighborhood.

Step Well

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

The step well is one of the oldest in Rajasthan, this part of India, and dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries. The step well is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a reservoir for water in the dessert like part of the country.

Almost 20 meters deep there are steps on three sides of the well perfectly constructed, symmetrical and made in a safe way for as steep as it is.

Across the street is an ancient temple, small, with many stones from the original temple that was destroyed many years ago.

In the village we were able to visit three homes. The first was a very small home. I would guess it was about 10 x 30, painted pink, with a wooden shelves containing a TV, a suitcase (their closet) and some dishes. There were two rope cots, one with a sleeping two year old. There were two women and five children in the house with us. Or maybe not all of us actually made it inside.

The second home was of a potter. There were clay teacups outside, indies, in the kiln …everywhere. A man and a woman worked together with a wheel, producing cup after cup. The wheel was powered by a motor and was on the flor. Like so many jobs here, people squat (I am nominating Malasana as the yoga pose of India) to do their work. This home was bigger, had a bathroom and a cooking area.

The third home was where a man of 103 years of age lived with 17 other people. His hooka pipe was his greatest possession.