A May 2000 trip
to Delhi by actonsteve
Quote: Delhi is a blur. To step out of your hotel is to enter another world. It is intimidating and intoxicating at the same time. It has historical sights, crowded bazaars and buzzing autorickshaws. Delhi may knock you sideways but you will remember it for the rest of your life.
So you generally rely on auto-rickshaws or taxis. These three-wheeled belching beasts can be great fun to ride but the drivers are the most devious devils in India (as will be discussed later). But nothing can beat the experience of whizzing around the dusty streets while you hang on for dear life.
The poshest part of New Delhi is Sundar Nagar. This is a leafy cul-de-sac with a park and surrounded by embassies, mansions and classy hotels. My hotel - the Kailash - was tucked away in this verdant enclave and for 1200 rupees a night (about £25, the cost of a normal hotel in Vienna or Barcelona,and the cost of a hostel bed in London) I got four-star accomodation.
The rooms were in seperate bungalows and were very nice. They have killer air-conditioning, cable television, huge double-beds, a coffin-like bath and shower and portraits of the maharajah''s on the walls. The food was excellent and one of the pleasures was sitting out in the garden enjoying the sun while tucking into my mutton biryani.
If you get bored, Sundar Nagar backs onto the Delhi zoo, a short walk away down the Mathura Road. I would thoroughly recommend this as you will see the animals you didn''t manage to see at Bharatpur or Corbett. However you may find, as I did, that you are more of an attraction to the Indians then the animals.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2001
The only quibble is gaining admittance, auto-rickshaw drivers all know this place and know that foreigners frequent it - they may be very ferocious in getting your custom. But there is generally a tourist-police commissioner there to prevent harassment
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 29, 2001
Radial Road 6, Connaught Place
To reach it is very simple. Take an auto-rickshaw or taxi (preferably one from a rank or arranged by your hotel)into Old Delhi. The Jamii Masjid stands on a hill overlooking where the hectic Chandni Chowk spills out onto the area surrounding the Red Fort. In fact you could probably walk from the Red Fort but the persistant hawkers and beggars may make things uncomfortable.
The best way to approach it is from the east along the Meena bazaar. At the end of the bazaar are a number of steps leading up to the gigantic Masjid where it faces west towards Mecca. Despite the ever-present worshippers there isn't the frenzy that surrounds the Red Fort here and you can walk through the bazaar unnoticed and unmolested. At the base of the steps turn left past stalls selling spices and leatherware and north until you reach the western entrance to the Jamii Masjid.
There you will be stopped by an old chowdikar and asked to remove your shoes and pay a storage fee. If your legs are bare they will be wrapped in a lunghi and it is worth hiring a guide as they will show you things that you will miss on your own.
You will first enter the great courtyard. This is covered in red marble is the size of an athletics track and has space for 6,000 believers to worship. Looming over the courtyard is the great mihrab with its bulbous white dome. Inside was very cool and my bare feet could seek sanctuary from the hot marble. The Koran is kept in a small niche and above us were arabic runes embossed in gold inlaid in the dome. You can also climb the minarets where the view across the rooftops of Delhi towards the Red Fort is spectacular.
Once finished if you head west, this part of Old Delhi is full of fascinating things to see. Cobblers and barbers throng the pavement while camel-carts stand idly by and cows wander the streets. You can spend hours exploring old Shahjahanabad after seeing the Jamii Masjid.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 1, 2001
The Jamii Masjid - Indias greatest mosque
Attraction | "The Red Fort: Palace of the Mughal Emporers"
Quite simply, this is the heart and soul of India. When the struggle for independence was going on early in the 20th century the battle cry of the nationalists was to raise the flag above the Red Fort. This is one of the great imperial citadels of the world - the Indian equivalent of the Kremlin or the Hofburg. Home of the great Moghul Emporers who ruled intermittently from 1526 to 1857. It was the great Moghul - Shah Jahan who built the Red Fort on the model of his imperial palace down in Agra.
The fort itself is immense and its scarlet walls are octagonal and stretch for over two miles. Beneath the western walls is the tourist frenzy of the Lahore bazaar. And once past the beggars and hawkers (see later entry) you enter the Chatta Chowk. This covered bazaar housed jewellers and silversmiths in Moghul times. Now it houses souvenir sellars trying to get the attention of mainly Indian tourists as they pass through.
Past these are the emerald green gardens set before the Diwan-i-am - the hall of Public audience. This was where the Moghul emporer would hold court from the Peacock throne. Once it was covered in jewels, silks and precious stones but now simply a scarlet empty platform covered in redstone arched pillars. You need a bit of imagination to envisage the Red Fort at its height.
Beyond was the football pitch size Royal gardens. Very dusty when I visited in the dry season, but still contained the watercourses, flowerbeds and lawns as it did in Moghul times.
At the edge of the fort, overlooking the walls were the royal pavilions. These were in a sorry state, and the royal hammam's were boarded up. Shah Burj the living quarters of the Emporer with its marble pillars and inlaid porcelain was very beautiful but the rest seemed very dusty and neglected. There's no background material available so you must rely on a guidebook, perhaps it is deliberate so as to not put the guides who are outside out of work.
But the biggest thrill for me was standing on the eastern walls and looking down on the vast Chor bazaar. Stretching for more then a mile beneath the walls and was an ocean of people and a real exotic spectacle. The Red Fort is spectacular but needs a bit of imagination to bring it to life. Son-et-lumieres (english language) are available most nights. This I would recommend as it brings the drama and beauty of the Red Fort alive...
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 8, 2001
West central Old Delhi
It was built by the British in the last century and is a little way south of New Delhi station. It is a white-colonnade shopping district surrounding a green park. The Place forms a full circle and is divided into blocks by seven radial roads and ringed by a busy ringroad called Connaught Circus.
It was once designed for elegant boutiques and the ladies and gentlement of the Raj would saunter along under their parasols. Now it is faintly decaying and thoroughly Indianised with shoeshiners on every corner and even elephants walking along the road. Everything you will need will be here including the American express office on the western side and a couple of good bookshops and banks. Very useful is a pre-paid autorickshaw office on the south side of Connaught Place.
However it is very much a tourist colony and those who depend on the tourist trade are in as much evidence here as in Paharganj. Beggars will harass you for money, auto-rickshaw drivers will follow you along the road and touts will call for your custom. You may feel yourself very conspicuous in Connaught Place and may follow the backstreets rather then the main thoroughfares as I ended up doing.
The attractions of this area are legion. And to reach it is relatively easy. Take an auto-rickshaw (preferably from a rank and not of the street) from Old Delhi or Paharganj. From Connaught Place there are buses travelling down wide Janpath on their way to the Qutb Minar or the airport. You can walk from Connaught Place but the distances are enormous and can be hard work in the dry dusty heat of the capital.
The great epic road of South Delhi is Rajpath. This travels west to east with the Rashrapati Bhavan at its western end and the giant India Gate to the east. The whole area was laid out anew by the British Raj who built a new city south of the old. It is a city of wide vistas, roundabouts, green bungalows and parks and gardens. Wide lawns and fountains flank Janpath itself which are illuminated at night. On either side of Rajpath are the grand red buildings of the Parliament and Secretariat which on National holidays are illuminated with thousands of lights to create quite a spectacle.
The area is not a bad one to walk in, with less hassle then Connaught Place or Paharganj. But the distances are enormous and the lawns, despite being watered are often dusty and dry. India is everywhere from nut-brown children playing in the reflecting pools to the lawns being cut by mowers pulled by oxen.
Most people's first stop is the huge India Gate.This is a great Indian Arc de Triomphe built to commemorate the dead and stands 42ft high. To stand beneath it with all the other Indian tourists is very impressive and there is even a monument to soldiers killed in the 1971 war with Pakistan. But touts and hawkers are very persistant here and I was pursued away from the gate by a small boy thrusting a cobra under my nose.
At the other end of Rajpath is the epic cream Rashtrapati Bhavan - the home of the Indian President. Hidden behind filigree gates this cream domed building looked very imperial despite the moghul style of domes, classical columns and arches. This during the Raj was built as the residence of the crowns representative in India - the Viceroy. The architect Edward Lutyens built most of Rajpath with its great buildings, wide vistas and wrought-iron lamposts. It was built at a time when the empire seemed like it would go on forever, but twenty six years later the buildings were handed over to the Indian republic (as it should have been)and that was the end of the Raj.
I would recommend a visit to Rajpath and its great buildings. And if you are interested in modern Indian history and its connection with the British then come here - where Delhi truly becomes monumental. A Brazilian friend back in London once told me "the British, they are now embarassed by their empire.." and as I looked around Rajpath I found this was true. But the attachment between Britain and India is still strong and I have noticed that little relics of the Raj still live on. Examples include cricket, bungalows, an obsession with woolens and without doubt the best cups of tea I have had in my life....
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