Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Delhi Delights

When I used to picture India, before I ever visited the country, I saw hopelessly congested roadways, scores of shoeless begger children pounding on the windows of my taxi, cows wandering the streets, filth and trash everywhere.  So when we arrived in Delhi after a red-eye flight from London, I was prepared to be overwhelmed.  And, in many ways, I was.  But it turns out that mostly, I was pleasantly surprised.

Khan Market.
Where are the traffic, congestion, beggars, and cows?  I want cows!
Although downtown New Delhi (especially Connaught Place) and old Delhi (especially Chandni Chowk, more on this later) were certainly full of the overwhelming mayhem I expected, we managed to find some pockets of (relative) quiet and some interesting sights during our three days in Delhi.  We also found delicious coffee (our favorites: Costa Coffee, then Barista, and then Cafe Coffee Day*), tasty food (including, dare I say it, Dominos Pizza) and a clean, modern and cheap subway system (complete with bag scanners, metal detectors, and full body pat-downs).  And at the other end of the spectrum: ruthless touts, cheating rickshaw drivers, skinny begging children, ramshackle tent encampments and cow shit in the streets.  As we were just starting to understand, India is truly a country of contradictions.  Below, a quick rundown of a few of the sights we visited in Delhi.

Lotus Temple (Baha'i House of Worship)

Built in the shape of a lotus, the Baha'i House of Worship in New Delhi attracts 8,000-10,000 visitors each day.  Like all Baha'i temples, the Lotus Temple is open to everyone regardless of religion, in keeping with the teachings of the Baha'i faith. The temple is gorgeous inside, and we sat through a very nice short service that consisted of a series of readings of different holy books by a representative of each such religion - Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam.  At the Lotus Temple was also the first time that we experienced the Indian concept of a queue.

Don't let these seemingly orderly queues deceive you.  We were cut in line countless times, and as soon as the guards opened the doors there was a massive free-for-all rush to get inside.

Lodi Gardens

One of our favorite places in Delhi, Lodi Gardens is a serene oasis in the southern suburbs.  It boasts lush greenery, peaceful walking paths, and beautiful tombs and mosques built by 15th and 16th century Pashtun rulers.

Humayun's Tomb

Located in the Nizamudden East neighborhood, Humayun's Tomb was built for the Moghul emporer Humayun.  Designed by a Persian architect, it was the first of its kind in India and an important influence of later Moghul architecture, including the Taj Mahal.

Qutb Minar

Built in 1192 to celebrate the victory of invaders from Afghanistan over the Rajputs, Qutb Minar is known as an early and important example of Indian-Islamic architecture.  The minaret rises almost 240 feet tall and, because of earthquake damage, leans like the Tower of Pisa!  Like many Islamic buildings in Delhi, which was ruled by Hindus until the Muslims took over, Qutb Minar was constructed on top of Hindu ruins.

Stay tuned for our next post about Delhi's other side - as far from peaceful as you can get!

* But Cafe Coffee Day had the best slogan, "A lot can happen over a coffee."  Indeed.


  1. I never knew there was so much beauty and peacefulness in India. I always thought of it, the way it sounds like, your next blog is going to be. Thanks for sharing this side if India.

  2. I do not believe that you went to India and did not see cows in the street.

  3. Not to worry, we saw plenty of cows in the streets. They're just not featured in this blog post.

  4. I want to be there!!!! You are in my beloved country, I am seriously jealous. Hope you had a great time.

  5. Hi Toshie!!! How are you? Hope all is well. We did have a great time in India... although by the time our 6 weeks were up, we were really ready to leave.


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