As I said before, Delhi is a drastically different place from anywhere that I’ve been. There is an entire vibrance and character that is unique from other places. On the one hand you have the old India with its ancient temples and devotion to Hindu, Buddhist and Jainist religion while another aspect is the British Christianity and secularism mixed in with centuries of Mughal Islamic influence and Panjabi Sikhism. The coming together of these cultures along with the various cultures of the Indian subcontinent in this one city makes for a very interesting and dynamic blend.
On my arrival to India (aside from being asked if I was married) I was asked how long I was staying in Delhi. After answering that I’d be in the city for a month most people replied with surprise as to why because Delhi doesn’t represent India and that there are better places to visit. To be sure the capital of the country is dirty and at first glance doesn’t seem to be all that great but looks can be deceiving. Where else but Delhi to get lost, meet new people, form long-lasting friendships and even do a little bit of good? The capital may not represent the nation in its entirety but decades of migration to the capital has led to the development of the city as a microcosm of the country as a whole.
When exploring Delhi, no one is a better friend than tuk-tuk (auto-rickshaw) drivers and taxi drivers. They’ll take you where you want to go for cheap and point you to the best places to eat what India has to offer. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll get invited to dinner at their home and take selfies with car mechanics. But if you’re like me and don’t know any Hindi to speak of, you’ll probably get lost…quite a lot but that’s okay.
We will be covering some of Delhi’s more famous sites in later posts but for now we’ll talk about lesser known sites. For one there’s the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb yet despite this status there are not as many foreigners that come to visit. Perhaps the more famous tomb, the Taj Mahal, completely outshines this particular tomb but it shouldn’t. The use of its iconic red sandstone was used on a massive scale for the first time at the tomb; for that matter this is the first time that a garden tomb, characteristic of Persian Mughal influence was first built in India. The blending of Indian and Persian architecture began with this temple and reached its zenith at the Taj Mahal.
Next we have the Lotus Temple which does in fact receive a lot of visitors but is not as well known outside of India. Belonging to the Ba’hai faith the temple itself welcomes all people of all religions believing that all people should be welcomed to come together and live in peace and harmony. The building itself is an engineering marvel shaped like a giant white lotus which has earned it international recognition. On the day that I went it was extremely packed and the line to get in took hours. I doubt it is like this every day but it’s still worth checking out, even from afar.
One of my personal favorite places is Lodhi Park and ironically I wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t gotten lost, like Christopher Columbus but without the genocide. What makes Lodhi Park so interesting you may ask? Well the main thing is that it’s a 90 acre park full of old structures and tombs yet it’s also a park so you’ll find plenty of people having a friendly game of cricket, taking a stroll along the paths of the park or just relaxing on the grass. In the summer the large amount of trees likely serves to give the Delhi crowds some respite from the oppressive summer heat while in winter the large open spaces provide ample space for all sorts of sports activities. The Hindu-Islamic architectural influences provide a remarkable look into the past and its blending of native with Mughal influences that were characteristic of the era. As for me it was a good place to finally get my bearings and get to know more of Delhi despite people saying that the city is not worth visiting.