3-6 March, 2024

Ready to challenge the pollution and traffic of Delhi

Still feeling fit in spite of an evening eating street food, my niece and I set out to explore the city. Delhi is large and while New Delhi and the Path afford an opportunity to stroll, visiting other interesting sites requires braving the metro or bus, hiring a taxi, or taking a tour.

Tours seem to work best as neither of us want to cram onto public transport nor walk the crowded streets to sites. We join a day-long city tour of Delhi. Some of my favorite sites, and personal insights, were:

Red Fort

Shah Jahan (1628-1658) constructed the Red Fort. He also built the Taj Mahal so he retains good creds. Unfortunately, our tour, like most city tours, provides just a pass-by rather than entry to its maze of rooms and museum.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fort boasts imposing Mughal architecture with its red sandstone walls. Intricate marble inlays and semi-precious stone decorate every niche, and ornate domes reach overhead. One could easily spend a full day exploring the interior. Lots of chipping and carving occurred in its construction and decoration, but India always benefited by cheap labor.

Jama Masjid

Jama Mosque lies in the oldest area of Delhi with a view of the Red Fort in the distance. Its steps host the teeming masses and just outside its walls lie the ramshackle shanty slums of those it serves. No  neighborhood exclusively houses the  rich. Shawls (ugly and decaying blocks of tenements) house factory workers and exhibit their individual street address. But squatter shanties can appear right next to your home where its inhabitants exist as the invisible masses.

The Jama Masjid is a magnificent example of Mughal architecture, featuring red sandstone walls with white marble embellishments. Again, built by Shah Jahan. The mosque’s huge courtyard accommodates over 25,000 worshippers. The mosque’s iconic 131’ minarets rise high above the imposing domes and walls. Intricate carvings and calligraphy adorn the facades. Females must don an ankle-length cover and everyone remove shoes. Thankfully, hard-working sweepers keep surfaces clean as one removes shoes upon entering the courtyard.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib 

This is a historic Gurudwara, or Sikh house of worship, built in the memory of 8th Master of Sikh Religion, Guru Har Krishan. Originally, the building acted as a house for Raja Jai Singh in the 17th century. In 1664, there occurred a smallpox and cholera epidemic. The Guru helped the suffering by giving aid and fresh water from the well until he too contracted the illness and died. Raja Jai Singh constructed a tank over the well. The water is believed to contain healing properties; Sikhs continue to carry the water to their homes. 

The large complex represents an embodiment of Sikh teachings, the love of the Guru and belief to do good deeds. The Gurudwara includes a kitchen, school, an art gallery, and the holy pond.

As with all Sikh Gurdwaras, the community kitchen cooks and serves free food (Langar) to thousands of people regardless of race or religion. Donations and volunteers supply and prepare the meal. At the Gurdwara, one cannot wear shoes or socks and must cover one’s head with an ugly used orange cloth.

Good Insurance But a Better Horn

Being a vibrant and bustling city pretty much 24/7, there is no such thing as light traffic. Notorious for its congestion and expert use of horns, drivers often demonstrate immensely creative maneuvers while navigating the crowded streets. Driving in chaos and witnessing the unique driving styles of Delhiites, I find it more worrying than amusing. Rickshaws, tuk tuks, cars, trucks, hand carts, motorbikes, street people and traders, pedestrians and dogs find a space to maneuver. Horns constantly blast out the message “I am here.” I trust our driver knows what he is doing. I just don’t trust the other guys.

Agrasen Ki Baoli 

Near Connaught Palace lies the interesting monument of Agarsen ki Baoli which dates to the 14th century. The leamigo, or stepwell, is 50’ wide by 197’ long with 108 steps leading to its bottom. I admire the rock-wall construction from the top.

The well collected water from springs and the mountains to supply the city with fresh water. The women who needed the well water had to go down the steps, dip their containers, then lug it back up the 108 steps.

The architecture, somewhat Persian in style, shows each level lined with arched niches. Colorful and artistic graffiti decorates the outside walls. 

Lotus Temple

The Lotus Temple, popularly known as the Bahá’í House of Worship, is an architectural marvel shaped like a blooming lotus flower. Constructed of white marble, the temple includes 27 petal-like structures, symbolizing unity in diversity, a principle promoted by the Bahá’í faith. The designer was the Iranian/Canadian architect Faribo Fariboz Sahiba.

Humayun’s Tomb

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palatial 16th century Humayun’s Tomb represents a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. Humayun was the son and successor to Babur and ruled as the 2nd Mughal Emperor.

The tomb features a grand red sandstone structure adorned with intricate marble inlays and ornate domes. Surrounded by lush gardens, the tomb’s symmetrical design and Persian influences reflect a blend of Islamic and Indian architectural styles.

Humayun’s Tomb was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations and acted as a forerunner to the Taj Mahal. However, here it was the wife who ordered the construction of this opulent monument to honor her husband, the Emperor Humayon. Overall, the large compound includes several other smaller tombs and monuments scattered about the gardens. 

Raj Ghats

There exists many ghats about Delhi and India. A ghat consists of steps which lead down to a body of water where both bathing or cremation can occur. Delhi’s Raj Ghat denotes the memorial complex which consists of the memorials to its royal elites. 

Tranquil site honoring Mahatma Gandhi

A simple black marble platform marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated after his assassination in 1948. It became the first memorial dedicated here. Upon his death, Gandhi requested his ashes be spread upon the Ganges. His two youngest sons sifted his ashes and took them to the city of Allahabad. There, they poured Gandhi’s ashes into the Ganges as per Hindu tradition. 

Over the years, the Raj Ghat expanded to include memorials to other leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and her son Rajiv Gandhi, both assassinated, as well as other freedom fighters, prime ministers, and politicians.

Interestingly, not all of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes floated into the Ganges. Some ended in small brass pots and sent around the country for scattering in countless local rivers. Evidently, not all were dispersed, as accounts claim some ashes came to the Los Angeles California Self-Realization Fellowship Shrine overlooking the Pacific Ocean along Sunset Blvd. in Pacific Palisades. 

Kartavya Path

Ceremonial Kartavya Path cuts a straight line from the Rashtrapati Bhavan Estate and its President’s House and modern government buildings, compliments of the British Raj, east through gardens to the India Gate. Along its 2-mile length are the National Museum, galleries, monuments, and war memorials. Compared to Old Delhi, this walk is serene and uncomplicated and represents a great place to occupy an afternoon. 

The India Gate is a prominent war memorial and an iconic landmark for New Delhi. Honored are soldiers of the Indian Army who lost their lives during World War One. The complex encircling the India Gate includes several memorials. Established in 2019, the National War Memorial honors all soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces who fought in the armed conflicts of independent India. The Eternal Flame is located at the obelisk. 

It is a pleasant walk and filled with locals. A few stop and ask for selfies with us. Apparently, it is special to share a photo with foreigners. All in all, they and the walk was a quiet escape from the bedlam in Delhi streets.

Memorable Delhi

Driving, or being driven, through Delhi remains an unforgettable experience. The city hosts a plethora of remarkable monuments, fascinating architecture, and an extravaganza of cultures. Be it on a bus, taxi or rickshaw, one is in for a wild ride. Street and food markets appear endless, the air is continually filled with the pungent odor of spices and other less desirable smells, and narrow streets are lined with shops and tables of products. 

Into spices? The Khari Baoli spice market has it all. If you can’t find it there, it doesn’t exist. 


Retired. Have time for the things I love: travel, my cat, reading, good food, travel, genealogy, walking, and of course travel.


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