The city of New Delhi, India was my last stop before heading to Europe. For a lot of travelers coming to India, Delhi is their first taste of the chaos and intense crowds that they will encounter the rest of their trip. Having already been in India for almost two months, I’d tried to avoid the large cities, with the exception of Kolkata and Jaipur, as they didn’t have the best reputations. Delhi is known for being the most polluted city in the world. Couple that with the blazing hot temperatures known to reach into the 110 F, it’s easy to see why most people leave the city with negative opinions.
I only had 2 days in the gigantic city, as I had chosen to stop in Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple and see the Wagah Border Crossing, two things that I do not regret! However, this meant that I had to carefully plan out my schedule in order to do and see all that I wanted in such a short time period. Below are a few of the highlights from the jam-packed two days in Delhi!
Salaam Baalak Trust Walk
When I travel, I try to visit or help out at various organizations aimed at bettering the lives of people or animals, such as volunteering at Cheti school in Arusha, Tanzania, volunteering at Animal Aid in Udaipur, India, and visiting the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharmshala, India. While I sometimes do not have them time to be able to make a long-term impact, even helping out for a day, making a small donation, or raising awareness can go a long way in helping a particular cause. Especially in developing countries, as some hotels and resorts would like to mask this side of their country.
The Salaam Baalak Trust in an NGO founded in the 1980’s, that aims to better the lives of the many street children found in New Delhi. Many children from smaller villages run away to the big cities in hopes of a better life. Many of them have to resort to begging or stealing in order to survive on the streets. The Salaam Baalak Trust gathers these children from the streets and provides them temporary housing as they work to reunite the lost child with their parents or relatives. In some cases, it is impossible to find a child’s family members or they may not still be alive. These children are then transferred to the longer-term homes, where they attend classes and live in a welcoming community until they reach adulthood.
The Trust offers “Citywalks”, as a way to raise awareness for this organization with visitors and to provide employment for some of the former street children. They gladly share their personal experiences as they lead you through parts of the city off of the beaten path. I participated in one of these Citywalks and was very impressed by the impact that this organization has had in helping thousands of children who otherwise would be left to fend for themselves. If anybody is interested in making a small donation, you can do so here.
Baha’i Lotus Temple
Looking to see something different, I decided to visit the Baha’i Lotus Temple, having never heard of the Baha’i faith previously. The temple was very impressive. It has nine sides, which symbolize the nine major religions, and looks like a lotus flower from far away. The inside of the temple was a stark contrast to the outside, as other than church pews and a pulpit, the interior was bare. There was also a small informational museum located nearby that explained the history of the Baha’i faith. It is a new religion, only started about 150 years ago. It does advocate acceptance for everyone and all religions. The Bahá’í Faith is a worldwide religion that “does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world.” Surprisingly, I learned that there is even a temple in Chicago! While I found the religion interesting, I don’t foresee myself converting anytime soon haha.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Humayun’s Tomb is said to be the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. The tomb was built to honor the late Mughal emperor, Humayun, by his son Akbar. The tomb was very impressive, and I would rate it almost on par with the Taj Mahal, if not for the size differences. There was a handy audio guide available via an app, which definitely made my experience more enjoyable. I learned about the specifics about this architectural wonder, as well as details about the six great Mughal emperors, and Humayun’s string of unfortunate events.
I have to admit that I was a little over touring forts after seeing at least 5 different ones in the state of Rajasthan. However, the Red Fort is one of the most famous out of all of them, so I decided to give it a try. Again I was able to download an audio guide, which greatly enhanced my tour. One impressive facet of the Red Fort is the sheer enormity of the complex, it covers over 250 acres! The fort began construction in the 1600’s and was commissioned by Shah Jahan, the same emperor who built the Taj Mahal. The fort was captured by the British in 1857, which they converted into barracks for their soldiers. They held the fort until India won its independence on August 15, 1947, and the Prime Minister of India Jawaharwal Nehru raised the India national flag over the gates. This ceremonial flag raising is now repeated every anniversary of Independence by the current Prime Minister.
Qutb Minar, another UNESCO World Heritage site, consists of the remains of several historical buildings from the 1200s, including the tallest brick minaret in the world. Most of the buildings are made of red sandstone and marble, making it interesting the walk around these ancient buildings and imagining what life was like back then. It was very fascinating to learn about the history of Delhi and how it used to be composed of seven different cities.
A museum dedicated entirely to Gandhi AND free to the public? I knew I had to check it out. After recently watching the movie, Gandhi, which details the life of this amazing and inspiring man, this museum provided more insight and information about his life. Walking through the museum was a big eye opener to how brave and steadfast of a man he actually was.
For my last night in India, I lucked out that there was a cricket match at Feroz Shah Kotla between the Delhi Daredevils and the Gujarat Lions. When I arrived to the stadium, the energy was electric. People rushed by wearing merchandise proudly showing their team of choice. The stadium itself was a perfect circle, which is different from all major stadium back in the U.S. Tickets were valid for an entire sections, and seats were first come, first serve. Luckily the section for which I bought tickets wasn’t too crowded. First up to bat were the Gujarat Lions. I had learned a few of the rules of cricket from watching the Twenty 20 World Cup back in March. Luckily there were a few friendly Indians seated nearby who would answer my questions as they came up. While there were some exciting points, such as when a batman would score 6 runs by knocking the ball into the stands, I have to admit that I was largely unimpressed by the match. It took nearly 2 hours just for Gujarat to bat, and after the intermission it would be Delhi’s turn. Since my flight to Germany was early the next morning (4:40 am), I had to catch the last night shuttle train to the airport or otherwise I’d have to find a cab. I decided to head out to make the last shuttle and was satisfied from what I got to see
Overall it was a busy couple days, but Delhi has a lot of things to offer once you look past the sheer amount of people and the trash and pollution that fills the air.