Patricia by Patricia

Patricia by Patricia
Patricia by Patricia

Monday, January 14, 2019

India: Monuments and Museums 2019

What can you say (after just a few weeks) about a big complicated, mysterious, ancient, dynamic country that is India. I guess you have to be a big complicated, mysterious, old and not too tired person to tackle this task. I may not have all those requisites, but I am going to have a stab at a very few things I noticed. And my husband Darwin and I did manage an elephant ride and a crazy rickshaw ride through old Delhi which reminded us that we are ancient.

Our first days were completely occupied with Great Big Indian Wedding: Cultural event that ends my year!. We then toured the golden triangle of Jaipur, Agra and New Delhi with a hearty group of mixed aged fellows mostly from San Diego and all part of the wedding party.  Our limited view did not take in the Hindu south, the scenic east or even the borders to the north. We passed through mainly flat land with scubby fields, some interest brick making structures and a large number of sacred cattle. The air this time of year was full of fog, not cold but smog filled, which lent a picturesque mystery to the landscape as trees and buildings faded in and out of view.

We saw the Taj Mahal just before sunset and it almost blended into the skyscape at that time of late afternoon. 

Our tour guides concentrated on Muslim mosques, tombs and monuments which were preserved and restored from the 17th century. Those are the tourist attraction of this area. Muslims, as you know, don’t believe in depictions of sentient beings so they eradicated so much of what was here before. The early column and lintel entrances, plain arched entrances are mainly replaced by the more decorative arches. This produced a great variety of intricate designs.

* Please note:  we took two days off sick and the guide changed the order of some of our visits so the names might be a bit confused. I have done my best to identify cities and monuments.


Hawa  Mahal, palace of the winds built for the harem so that they could sit at the windows and view the scene below without being seen. Just one room wide, this is more of a facade than a real building. But it was typical of the beauty of this pink city. 

We arrived by elephant up a steep 20 minute trail to the Amber Fort. I wish I could tell you I had video of this trip, but it was all I could do to hold on to my seat!

The bride and 4 bridemaids!

Hall of Mirrors

Stunning building right in the middle of the lake. Our guide told us this will be a restaurant but it has been held up for 3 years by permits. 

Agra and the Taj Mahal

House for the husband Mughal  emperor Shah Jahan to live in while the Taj was being built as a tomb for his wife.  Duplicate building on the other side was a mosque for the prayers of the workers so they did not lose too much time praying 6 times a day.  Shah Jahan was going to build a duplicate in black on the other side of the river with a silver bridge connecting the two. This was to be his resting place, but instead one of his sons murdered all the rest of the sons (older and younger) and imprisoned his father in a tower.  Saving grace was that he had a view of the Tag Mahal.  All Mughal emperors were Muslim and ruled by force. 

New Delhi

We visited the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India but you had to pay to take photos and I was pretty exhausted by that time. But we did observe Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Rajhat which was simple and moving, before going on to the Hamayun's Tomb 

Memorial to Gandhi

Hamayuns Tomb

Nizamuddin Basti was on the tomb property and part of the Urban Renewal Initiative. We were told the residents were sometimes paid to visit these renovations and become involved in the tourist industry. 

I did delight in seeing museums full of a wider section of artifacts from all over India. This is the selection at the Albert Hall Museum in Jaipur

8th century AD Stone Goddess sculpture

Early black stone sculpture from the Jain period.

This black stone sculpture is of a dwarf avatar of Vishnu and the story goes that he could have all the territory he could cover in three strides. He was a trickster and changes into a giant and then dominated. 

4th century life size statue in buff colored sand stone of  Yakshi, a divine damsel of love and beauty

I could not resist including two of the series of small sculptures of yogi poses. 

And two shelves of many of this weird variety of faces and hats.

Bikaner Gold Lacquer Ware on Pottery from Rajasthan, late 19th century

Chillhams are clay pots used to smoke opium and were introduced just after the Mojhal courts came to India.

Bahawalpur Surahi Kagazi  (Paper thin) double handled water bottle with triangular cut work on rim, Bahawalpur, 19th century.

These rounds boxes reminded me of those made to roll around on elaborate carpets to make the patterns come to life. 

Two intricately carved ivory pieces. Much of the display was not labelled with dates.

What we saw was some very old, trusted religious observances like the sacred cows in the streets taking priority over traffic and cleanliness and mosques which no longer seemed to be used by religious prayer but with places for rugs to face mecca and the necessity to remove shoes before visiting. This was juxtaposed with a cacophony of merchants’ signs in English, hoards of hawkers trying to get us to buy their goods, mothers using small children to beg for alms, and the most lavish of fabrics whirling around us in markets and on ladies of every caste.  Just like the cows, men were peeing but also washing in the streets, one man I noticed was even shaving using his cell phone as a mirror.

We mostly felt very safe but challenged by public toilets facilities that were universally disgusting. Our very privileged stay in 5 star hotels was soon considered a necessity as Darwin and I particularly could not manage the very spicy food and even those thought very mild by Indians, but gave us Delhi Belly and indigestion. We must have been seen to be very fussy to the locals, but we both suffered from bad colds probably brought on by the air quality with the even present exposure in airplanes and I ended up with a terrible rash soon after I arrived in the UK. We took precaution with Malaria and Typhoid and sprayed for non-existent bugs with Deet and are happily recovering, but I would suggest the trip to India is something you should do while younger in your life to have the stamina that is required.

You really want to develop a mindset that is accepting to this culture to fully enjoy it. Throw out the American standards and see how living with a cow as an equal might free you to enjoy life in a completely different way.  

On our rickshaw ride over every pothole in Old Delhi we saw overhead a continuous knot of wires leading us to wonder if this is the call center to which we are directed for help with IT. 

In this photo, I was somehow able to capture the serene beauty of this very populated country in an image that could have come out of a French turn of the century landscape. I will probably best remember India in this way. 

On our last two extra days in Delhi, the Poteets and I had an opportunity to visit some private contemporary galleries as well as the National Gallery of Modern Art. I was ready to be re-engaged in the present or at least near past. The installation about the Salt March of 1947 was one of the highlights. See the last of three parts of this report for more about India: Modern and Contemporary Art .

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