12.12 from temple to temple

ahhh i've been a slacker. so i'm transposing what i've written (most of it by moonlight as that was the only time i had to myself) so a lot of it is useless rubbish and i'm going on memory!!

one thing that sets india apart from the rest of the world as i see it is the proliferation of devotion to god or the gods. so many religions and so many followers. down any street in any town, large or small, you will see several temples, churches, a mosque or two and even little roadside altars, complete with lights and insense burning offerings to a higher being.

our first full day in dehli we paid a visit to the akshardham temple complex. a replica of a temple built on the ganges river, this temple is a massive complex, complete with indoor shows of the srinayaran's life and a boat ride along its waterways. its so new that all the romance is overshadowed by an eerie feeling i'm in a religious version of canada's wonderland, with it's ticket booth outside, metallic wait-line railings to heard its thousands of daily visitors through, and even the look of the buildings themselves. it took us a few hours because after eagerly checking your shoes before visiting the main building, they make you walk all the way around so you encircle the temple before coming back down the steps, pick up your shoes from the "shoe-check", then walk around the long way to the exit, past the amphitheatre, library, research centre, gardens, at which time you are so thirsty you could drink spit, so you gotta stop in the cafeteria and have something to drink and eat, then finally see yourself out. kharak was waiting at the ambassador with a knowing smile.

our next visit was my introduction to the mughal empire. kharak gets us onto two bicycle rickshaws (a carrier that is driven by a cyclist in the front) we hit jama-masjid. now in a state of utter downtrod, akber (grandson of babur if i got this correctly), built this mosque several hundred meters from the red fort (where the family had taken up residence after leaving fathepur sikri because the land was drying up), had built this mosque where the family would come for daily prayers each day on horseback, to be carried by servants up and down the dizzying stairway ascent. as we approach the mosque, the stench of urine permeates the place and my throat stings. all form of decay is on display out front leading to the main building. local beggars are asking for food or money. merchants are yelling out their wares in the labyrinth of stalls that surround the place, all the way to the infamous chandi chowk lane. to rabid dogs are trying hard to breathe and not get hit by motorcycles that beep and zig zag through the crowds. hippie tourists and us are the ones climbing up the stairs to once again take off our shoes and go inside the vererable mosque. once through the massive archway, it is true to me that this is india's largest mosque. there is a huge massive square, with buildings on either side, and in front the main prayer space. i pay my respects and sneak photos from the camera phone. no cameras are allowed inside. this layout, with its huge archways, tall and steep steps, quadrangle symmetry and the tallest of stone archways inlaid with quranic ayats, i am to learn, is the foundation of mughal architecture...

back outside, we are cycled 'across the street' to lal q'ilah, the red fort of dehli. this place is huge; a complex of several buildings, this was the mughals' residence housing at least three generations. going from buildng to building, it was amazing to imagine the place in its heyday. there must have been hundreds of servants for a handful of family members and nobility. along with the residences themselves, there was Khaubat Khana (the drum house - that would have been where I'd hung out), Diwan-I-Am (a congress), library, Rang-Mahal (residences of the wives), Mumtaz Mahal, Tosh Khana (the robe room), Diwan-I-Khas (another congress), to the Hammams and the Moti Masjid (Akbar's private prayer hall). akber built it, along with other major mughal architectural masterpieces like the tomb of his father, humayun, and the capital city of fathepur sikri, another mughal residence.

our last pilgrimmage of the day was the tomb of humayun. he was babur's son, the second in the line of great mughals. upon entering the place there are two buildings, one down a long lane directly in front, another behind a half-demolished and ancient wall. this place was built as a tomb for humayun, although i believe his actual grave is in what used to be persia. i'm happy to see that the premises are under restoration by the aga khan development network. for example, a main facet of mughal architecture is an advanced system of water irrigation. so far, all the places we've visited have had no water in what would be beautiful waterway channels. there is so much of intersest in the mughal family that i cannot explain it all here, but check the wiki entry if you are interested. a really fascinating family story.

somehow in the tomb of humayun, i felt the most peaceful i have since we arrived. i felt as though we were not even in a bustling city, but had escaped to a farway place and back in time.

all in all, a good day. it took a handful of temples, but i am finally feeling at peace.

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