Archive for February, 2008

Amritsar

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Said to be made of 750 Kg of gold, the Golden Temple in Amritsar is the beating heart of Sikhism. We had to take off our shoes and step through a puddle of streaming clean water and cover our hair before entering.

The clear blues skies on the day gave the temple a gorgeous reflection in the water that surrounds it. We went inside after waiting in a patient queue and observed the singing and rhythmic beats of prayers. It made me wonder how music must be linked in with religion through our evolutionary past if one considers how main stream religions and tribes use music today, if not at least rhythm, in their prayers.

Golden Temple 1
Side view of the golden temple

Golden Temple 2
Front view of the golden temple

Golden Temple 3
Queue at the entrance

We had a free lunch there too. Donations allow food to be bought and followers to perform a selflessly free duty to feed anyone, even the poor. The dahl & rotti (lentils and flat bread) was quite tasty and filled me up.

Afterwards we went to Waga border. Here, everyday, a ceremonial lifting and bringing down the of Indian and Pakistani flags occurs right at the very border, only meters apart from each other. Surrounded by a large seating area on both sides, the crowds patriotically cheer on their nation. Tall soldiers perform with the utmost esprit de corps and lift their legs as high as their chests.

Waga Border 1
Soldiers at the border

Waga Border 2
Crowds at the evening ceremony

For dinner our taxi driver recommended a Punjabi museum/restaurant/entertainment show place that was on the road between Amritsar and Chandigarh. As we walked in a Panjabi drummer wearing a full dress was beating a loud drum that hung from his neck while a dancer spun and showed off a few moves. Inside there were clay model depicting the old village life of Punjabis, a camel ride, a Punjabi pottery maker, a Punjabi puppet show and also some live Punjabi dancers (see the video below). Bhangra music is very lively and has fantastic beats. The place was educational and entertaining at the same time. The restaurant inside served a full Punjabi village meal. The dahl, rotti, aloo rotti, paneer masala, and other items made it the best vegetarian meal I’ve had in India.

Taj Mahal

Monday, February 11th, 2008

So, the big one. The Mughal beauty definitely lived up to expectations.

We aimed to get there at sunrise but due to security restrictions we had to leave our bags at a hotel. We ended up having breakfast and catching up. Unsurprisingly, there were plenty of westerners who also paid the 750 Rs ‘non-Indian national’ charge. The extra 730 Rs does buy you a bottle of water and shoe covers for walking inside the Taj though.

Upon entering the main gate the monument is a pretty spectacular view with the sunlight reflecting off the marble surface. It was fun seeing so many poses in action, including this one yoga student from Australia who posed while standing on her hands with the Taj in the background.

We hired a guide who told us all sorts of facts. The Taj Mahal (“Crown of the Palace”) was built for an emperor’s favorite wife after her death. They had 14 children together. The Taj is crowned with a brass finial several stories high and the towering minarets stand two degrees away from the main building, just incase they ever fall. Up-close the there was plenty of detailed Arabic writing, marble carvings and marble inlays.

It was nice to catch up with the gang, especially those who all traveled all the way from southern India.

Entrance to Taj Mahal
View from the main gate

Close to the Taj.
At close range

Everyone who came along
Rest of the gang on the day

Chandigarh

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

I’ve been posted to Chandigarh DC for a while. A flight, a four hour train journey and three taxis later I arrived at Chandigarh, a city in the Northern India state of Punjab. I’m currently undertaking business specific training.

Main building
The main building at the site

Wavy Rooftop
A wavy rooftop on
another building

NewRoom
My new room

New Delhi

Friday, February 1st, 2008

I had a few spare hours in New Delhi while traveling to Chandigarh. To kill the time, I paid a taxi driver to take me around Delhi’s sightseeing highlights. Here are some pics:

Qutb Minar
Qutb Minar. Built in 1193 AD
which announcedthe advent
of Muslim sultans.

Qutb Pillars
Me near some carved pillars
at the Qutb complex.

Rajpath
Driving down the famous Rajpath
used for the annual republic day
parade. The India gate is in
the distance.

Lahore Gate
Lahore Gate. This is the
entrance to the Red Fort.

marble throne
A white marble throne-balcony
at Red Fort.

Peackock Throne
The Diwani-i-Khas Peackock Throne.
A past Shah used to be housed
here with his nobles.

Gilded ceilings
Gilded ceilings at the Diwani-i-Khas.
The Mughals lavishly decorated
the fort  with marble and gold.

Jami Masjid
Jami Masjid, India’s
largest Mosque.