|"Our nation has lost its greatest son," President Jacob Zuma
May former president Nelson Mandela Rest in peace
Location: Delhi airport
1. Akshardham Temple, Delhi
The Swaminarayan temple spreads over 100 arces of land of which approximately 40 arces has been built upon inspired by ancient Hindu architecture. It is one of the most magnificent temples that i have seen.
In one arc alone, at the entrance of the temple, there are around 860 sculptures of the peacock, the national bird of India and a symbol often seen on the walls of ancient Hindu temples, many of which have been ruined by the various invasions in India. The temple aims to preserve the religion and all the images, deities, symbols and animals have been careful placed to make every wall, pillar, dome and arc contain a message or story.
Apart from the mandir (temple), there is also an indoor boatride on India, a imax-type film on an 11 year old Yogi's unbelievable pilgrimage through India, a walk through hall that contains stories of values as portrayed by the life of Swaminarayan, a lotus garden with various quotes on God and a garden with sculptures of various great people who made an impact in India's history.
In the evenings, there is also a breathtaking musical fountain with the lights and water timed so perfectly that it really seems as if the water is dancing. It is extremely peaceful and inspiring. One might wonder what the need is to build such massive and extravagant temples in today's society but, built in just five years, it contains a colossol wealth of knowledge about Hinduism that will leave you in awe. Unfortunately, all bags, cameras and cellphones are stored by security while on the grounds of Akshardam so you would have to google it for images.
2. The Lotus Temple, Delhi
In India, most of the heritage monuments are either temples, mausoleums or museums. There are about eight different religious groups in India and religion plays an important role in the lives of the people here. Commonly known as the lotus temple due to its shape, the Bahá'í House of Worship is a temple open to all religions. There was a mini service, if I can call it that, while I was there and as the speakers spoke and the singers sang, their words seemed to move around you In concentric circles. It personifies peace and tranquility and is an amazing spot for some morning yoga... I'm not sure if that is allowed.
3. Amber Fort, Jaipur
Maybe it was the morning elephant ride but I found this old palace interesting and beautiful. It is where many Rajput kings and their families lived and i spent over three hours there and took over 200 photos. I was fascinated but it was also the first palace/fort that i had seen and the first time that I had learnt about the ancient mechanics involved in creating a cooler Summer palace and a warmer Winter palace without simply purchasing an airconditioner and a heater.
4. Ganga Aarti, Haridwar
One word: wow. I honestly don't know how to describe what it was like to experience this famous India ritual...
Right: Ganga Aarti at Haridwar.
5. The Indira Gandhi Museum, Delhi
I'm not at all interested in politics so I won't even pretend to have had this on my India to-do list. There's just something about walking through a person's house who has long passed away and who has made such an impact on peoples lives that moves you whether or not you knew about that person or the mark they made in history. One of the glass cases in the museum, once her house, lies the sari that she wore when she was shot alongside her bag and sandals. The museum also contains elements from Rajiv Gandhi's life in the areas of the house that he once occupied, ending the journey of his life with the shreds that remained of his clothes after the bombing in which he was killed.
6. Old Delhi, Delhi
I hate to add this here but visiting old Delhi, as its called, was quite anexperience. Its thousands of years old and contains the most common image of India: chaotic slum. To walk across the street I had to climb over motorbike wheels because the multitude of vehicles were so close together that there was no pathway to cross. There was always endless hooting with street hawkers screaming above the noise to sell their mechandise and people screaming above them to hear each other. Our tour guide described it as the place tourists came to see... A type of culture maintained and put on display to aid tourism rather than an area that needs to be restored and developed... With India developing so rapidly, it feels wrong to add this as one of the interesting places that I visited, but it really was.