In mid-August 2011 I traveled to India for the first time. We flew in and out of New Delhi but our destination was Rajasthan. I like the flight maps feature on airplanes. You can see how far you have to go and how many more movies you can cram into the flight.
The best movie to get you in the mood for Rajasthan is Jodhaa Akbar. Hrithik Roshan stars as Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Mohammed Akbar and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Jodhaa, a Rajput princess from Amer. It’s the classic tale of a marriage made for political alliance where she dislikes him and he is sort of interested in her. Of course they reveal their true selves and slowly fall in love. It’s the closest you can get to a illustration of what it was like in 16th century royal India. It’s one of my favorite movies and luckily the lead actors are easy to look at.
When you hear about Kabul or Karachi you know they’re a point on a map, thousands of miles away, but until you’re close to them physically they become real. I kept looking out the window to see if I could make out something to reinforce this but the clouds prevented it. I knew that India would be unlike anywhere or anything I had seen but until we were there nothing could prepare me. The trip was amazing. It was hard at times but if you can travel, you should. If your mind is open, the world is an interesting place.
We arrived in the evening so we checked in to our hotel, ate dinner and went to sleep. The next day was devoted to seeing Old Delhi. Old Delhi is exactly how it sounds–the older, historical part of town. We saw the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid and the Qutub Minar, plus we had a nice rickshaw excursion. Since I have thousands of pictures we’ll cover the Red Fort and Jama Masjid today with some sights here and there thrown in.
In New Delhi the temperature was roughly 90+ degrees everyday with nearly 100% humidity. If you went from air conditioning to the outdoors with your camera, expect a foggy lens.
Is that the pool?
The Red Fort in New Delhi is made of red sandstone, surprise. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan moved his capital from Agra to Shahjahanbad (present day New Delhi) in 1638 and construction on the fort was completed in the 1648. The forts of the cities of Rajasthan: Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner have similar architectural elements. There is a Hall for Public Audience, Diwan-i-Aam, where the Emperor would receive complaints from the commoners. For Private Audience there was the Diwan-i-Khas for members of the court and other royalty. Like other palaces or castles there is are private rooms for the Emperor and his family, areas for the female members of the court and other assorted rooms.
Some of the decorative elements remain in the Red Fort which indicate the opulence and grandeur that once was but the rest you’ll have to imagine. The total area inside the walls of the fort is roughly 250 acres so it’s already grand, and to think of all the people who would have occupied it or helped to maintain it is staggering.
After the Red Fort we went to the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in New Delhi, and apparently the best-known in India. It was started by Shah Jahan in 1650 and finished six years later. Inside the walls is enough room for 50,000 people. We left our shoes at the entrance and I had to put on an attractive polyester floral housecoat. I brought a scarf to cover my shoulders but it was not enough. We climbed to the top of one of the minarets for a great view of New Delhi.