Sunday, 22 May 2011

Peek-a-boo

Finally, some historic monuments!  This morning, I decided to bite the bullet and brave the great outdoors- I didn’t come all this way to sit in my room.  So stealthy disguised in my native garb, with a scarf covering my head and sunglasses covering my eyes, I strode bravely to the metro armed with the map of the metro which is practically the only kind of map you can find here (I asked at the hostel, a bookstore, two tourist gifts hops and they replied “A map?  What for?” and looked at me funny). 
I started off at the Qutub Minar, which is the largest stone tower in the world, and often used as a symbol for the city.  I gave into hiring a private tour guide because I hoped he had advice about getting around Delhi in general- not so much but as you can see, I enjoyed having a private photographer! 
This is the first Muslim mosque built in India, and the Imam was proud to state he constructed it out of materials from "27 destroyed Hindu temples".  You can see evidence of pre-existing Hindi temple, on the pillars with defaced Hindu gods and goddesses.  It is rumored that if you encircle the random black metal pole in the middle of the courtyard with your back to it, your wish will come true.    The Imam feared misfortune if he touched this sacred Hindu relic, so it stayed, rust-free for centuries!
At the qutub minar in my new kurta- holding the magical metal pole

In the tomb at the Minar

The intricate carvings are mind-boggling!

Partially destroyed Mosque at the Minar

            I also went to the Swaminarayan Akshardham, which draws Disney-sized crowds.  This enormous temple “mandir” honoring Bhagwam Sqaminarayan with an 11-ft high, gold plated murti of the Enlightened, as well as beautiful meditative gardens, ornate sculptured exterior walls, fountains and a pool which contains “the holy waters of 151 rivers, lakes and stepwalls” visited by this holy man.  Some optional exhibtions include a animated boatride, large screen Imax movie and an moving figure show (told you- it's Disney world for Hindus!).  There were no cameras or cell phones or purses allowed inside so all you can see from here is a photograph from a distance and some of the advertisements at the metro stop.  Waiting in that line was fun- for some reason, small children love my pale skin and especially like to touch my feet.  Indian babies are the cutest.  In line, I spent a hour playing peek-a-boo with a new friend- his sisters didn't speak any English but we had a blast and he would kick his feet in excitement when he spotted me on the grounds later in the afternoon.  It was a breath-taking place- newer than most of the temples in this area- Rehka estimates it was built in the past decade and it took less than 5 years to construct.
            After that, the storm clouds were rolling in so I decided to head back.  The India tourguide in Borders probably would have been a good investment- I had no idea that it would be nearly impossible to get maps, brochures and information without Internet access. I haven’t even found postcards- good thing I'm still here for awhile!
Akshardham... as close of a picture as they'd let me take!

Metro Ads for Akshardham