Thursday, January 22, 2009

Trip to Delhi

Hubby and me visited Delhi from 05 to 06 January 2009. As I wrote in the previous post, we had travelled from Delhi to Chandigarh by my older brother's car on 3rd of January, and visited his family and did sightseeing in Chandigarh for two days. In the afternoon of 5th of January, my brother, hubby, and me returned back to Delhi by car.

5th January
We reached Delhi at about 4.30 pm. As it was still too early to go to my brother's home (he lives in Delhi because of his job), we decided to do a bit of sightseeing the same day.
First we went to see the Bahai House of Worship. It is also known as the Lotus Temple and is located in the village of Bahapur near Kalkaji, south of Delhi. Shaped like a half opened Lotus flower, this 40 meter high temple is made of marble, cement, dolomite, and sand. The architecture of the temple represents a blend of both traditional and modern engineering expertise. The credit for the architecture of the temple goes to the Canadian architect Fariborz Sahba. The temple structure has 27 freestanding giant white marble petals and nine sparkling pools that are indicative of the nine unifying spiritual paths of the Bahai faith. The temple has no restrictions for visitors and is open to people from all religions and faiths. The place provides an ideal environment for meditation and obtaining peace and tranquility. The temple was inaugurated in 1986. Since its inception, it is estimated that the temple has attracted more than 50 million visitors. We were unaware that the temple remains closed on Mondays. So 5th of January being a Monday, it was very unfortunate that we could not enter inside the temple. However, the temple was clearly visible with a very nice and stunning view from outside the temple complex. The temple looked wonderful and remarkable.
The Lotus Temple

Hubby standing on a pillared wall outside the Lotus Temple complex

Hubby, me, and the Lotus Temple

Next, we went to see the Qutub complex. Qutub complex, also spelled Qutb, is an array of ancient and medieval monuments, structures, and ruins at Mehrauli in Delhi. This complex was first constructed by Qutub-ud-din Aibak who established the first Islamic sultanate in the Indian subcontinent in Delhi in 1192, and his successor Iltutmish in his new city called the Qila-Rai-Pithora near Prithivraj Chauhan's older city. The complex was added to by many subsequent rulers, including Iltutmish and Ala ud din Khilji. The Qutub complex was accorded the UNESCO World Heritage status in 1993. The most famous monument situated in the complex is the Qutub Minar; other important constructions in the complex are the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, the Alai Gate, the Alai Minar, and the Iron pillar.

Me in front of the Tarikhul Islam Mosque located near the Qutub complex

Brother and me inside the Qutub complex

Hubby and me inside the Qutub complex

Notice indicating the World Heritage status of the Qutub complex

The soaring tower of Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret of the world. Construction of the Minar commenced in 1193 under the orders of Qutub-ud-din Aibak who completed only the first storey, while the next three stories of the Minar were built by Iltutmish in 1230. The Minar was damaged in 1322 and was repaired by Mohammad Bin Tughlaq. The fifth storey was added by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in 1368. Qutub Minar is a 72.5 meters high stately tower and is an exquisite example of Indo-Islamic Afgan architecture. The tower has 379 steps leading to the top. The base of the tower is 14.3 metres wide and the top floor is 2.75 meters wide. Qutub Minar is a five storied tower. Each storey is marked by a balcony. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone, while the fourth and fifth are made of marble sandstone.

Qutub Minar from afar

Hubby and me in front of the Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar is the tallest structure in the vicinity which makes it imposing and grand.

View of Qutub Minar from inside the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, to the northeast of the Minar is the first mosque to be built in India and one of the most spectacular in the world. Its construction was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak in 1192 and was completed in 1198. It has a rectangular courtyard. The courtyard is enclosed by cloisters which were erected with carved columns and other architectural members of twenty seven Hindu and Jain temples, which were demolished by Qutub-ud-din Aibak. The mosque is in ruins today but indigenous corbelled arches, floral motifs, and geometric patterns can be seen among the Islamic architectural structures. It was almost dark when we reached the mosque. However, wonderful lighting arrangement has been added to the Qutub complex by Delhi tourism. After we entered the mosque, the whole premise glowed up with ambrosial lights, which cast a mesmerising spell.

Outside the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

Part of Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque (outside view) on the left side of the main entrance of the mosque

Colonnade standing just outside the mosque on the right side of the main entrance

Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. Many pillars were used to support the hallway.

Qutub Minar towering above the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque

A famous Iron Pillar, which was erected in the 4th Century AD, is located in the courtyard of Quwwat-ul-Islam. It raises to a height of 7 meters and weighs more than 6 tons. The Sanskrit inscriptions on the pillar tells that it was erected in honour of Hindu god Vishnu and the memory of Chandra Gupta. It is made up of 98% wrought iron and it stood the test of time of more than 1600 years without rust or decomposition. This proclaims the metallurgical excellence of ancient India.

The iron pillar

Since it was quite dark, we skipped seeing the tomb of Iltutmish, Alai Darwaza, and the incomplete Alai Minar building started by Ala ud din Khilji in the Qutub complex.
We reached my brother's home in the outskirts of Delhi at about 8 pm. We all had skipped lunch to do the sightseeing. So we were very hungry and ate almost all the packed lunch (there was a lot) that bhabhi gave us when we started our travel from Chandigarh to Delhi. My brother and hubby ended the day by having Suntory Yamazaki pure malt whisky and Suntory Hibiki malt and grain blended whisky that hubby had carried from Japan as a present for my brother. Both looked rather drunk after a couple of strong pegs!
Suntory whisky

Brother and hubby posing for the photo. Looks like they are really drunk!

6th January
Due to too much travel, sightseeing, and over-eating delicious spicy food for almost 10 days, I felt sick after waking up in the morning. As hubby and me were to take a flight in the evening to return back to Japan and had a long travel ahead of us, we decided to take the morning easy and relax at home. I started feeling better by 11 am. My brother cooked potato curry and rice and we had them for lunch along with many other items leftover from bhabi's packed lunch.
It was the first time that hubby and me visited the present home of my brother. We noticed that my brother's home was amazingly big with many rooms. We took a few photos of us in one of the rooms for keepsake.

Me and hubby in my brother's home

A cute looking phone at my brother's home

We left my brother's home with our luggage at about 12.30 pm. My brother accompanied us and we did further sightseeing in Delhi. We used my brother's car to move around in Delhi, which was very convenient and saved a lot of time.
First we went to see the Raj Ghat. It is located near Connaught Place, New Delh. Raj Ghat is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. It is located on the banks of the river Yamuna and is surrounded by a wooded area and several exotic shrubs that give the area a serene ambience. A stone footpath flanked by lawns leads to the walled enclosure that houses the memorial. The memorial is a black marble platform that marks the spot of Gandhi's cremation on 31 January, 1948. It is left open to the sky while an eternal flame burns perpetually at one end. The memorial has the epitaph 'Hey Ram' (meaning 'O God'), which is believed to be the last words uttered by Gandhi. Two museums dedicated to Gandhi are located near by. The cremation sites of several other famous leaders are located in the vicinity of Raj Ghat. Hubby and me felt very calm after visiting the place. Later we went to a nearby bookstore and purchased a biography of Gandhi entitled 'The Life of Mahatma Gandhi' authored by Louis Fischer.

Entrance of the Raj Ghat

A stone footpath flanked by lawns leads to the memorial

A board in the footpath displaying 'Happy New year' patterned from Marigold flowers

Words of Mahatma Gandhi at the entrance of the walled enclosure of the memorial

Mahatma Gandhi memorial inside the walled enclosure with beautiful lawns

Mahatma Gandhi memorial

Me and hubby in front of the memorial

Flame burning perpetually in the memorial

Brother and me near the memorial

Next, we went to see the India Gate. It is located at Rajpath, New Delhi. India Gate is 42 meters high and is a popular relaxation area during the summer evenings and a popular pinic spot during winter. Also known as the All India War Memorial, the historic monument was constructed as a memorial to commemorate the 90,000 soldiers who laid down their lives during world war I. It is one of the largest war memorials in India. The foundation stone of India Gate was laid by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught in 1921 and it was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Another memorial, 'Amar Jawan Jyoti' or the flame of the immortal warrior burns under it since 1971. The eternal flame reminds the sacrifice of brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Indo-Pakistan War of December 1971.

An empty canopy and India Gate

India Gate

Me and brother in front of India Gate

Hubby and me in front of India Gate

Facing the India Gate is an empty canopy, which used to hold a statue of King George V in it. But the statue was removed and placed in Coronation Park. The canopy, which was also designed by Edwin Lutyens, now stands empty. However, it is a very elegant structure even without any statue in it.

Me and hubby in front of the empty canopy near India Gate

It was 2.30 pm by the time we finished seeing the India Gate. After that we decided not to do any more sightseeing and went to the Indira Gandhi International Airport. We reached the airport by 3.10 pm. My brother, hubby, and me had coffee at the waiting lounge of the airport. At 3.30 pm by brother said bye and left us at the airport. Later we had Chinese fried rice at the restaurant in the waiting lounge.

Hubby having Chinese fried rice at a restaurant in the waiting lounge of the airport

At 4.15 pm, we entered the airport. Japan Airlines flight to Narita was at 7.50 pm and we reached Narita at 7 am on 7th of January. Later, we took domestic flight from Handa airport and reached Akita airport at 2.30 pm. As soon as we came out of the airport, we saw snow everywhere. We reached home by 3.30 pm.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Trip to Chandigarh

Hubby and me visited my older brother and his family in Chandigarh from 03 to 05 January 2009. Although my brother works in Delhi, his family lives in Chandigarh. Chandigarh is about 260 km away from Delhi and is located near the foothills of the Shivalik range of the Himalayas in Northwest India. It is India's first planned and green city which is nicknamed as "The City Beautiful". The city was designed by the well-known French architect Le Corbusier and has a superb architecture. Chandigarh is one of the seven Union Territories of India and serves as a capital for two states, Punjab and Haryana.

Map of India indicating the location of Chandigarh

3rd January
As I wrote in the previous post, on 3rd of January, hubby and my flight from Pune to Delhi was delayed by more than two hours due to severe foggy conditions in Delhi. We used Jet Airways, which finally started from Pune at 12.30 pm and reached Palam airport in Delhi at about 2.45 pm. My brother was waiting outside the airport to receive us. From there, we had a five hour car ride to Chandigarh. Although I was a bit tired, hubby enjoyed the car ride immensely. It was a foggy day and the visibility was poor. Although the car belonged to my brother, he had hired a driver to drive up to Chandigarh. The driver did a superb job of driving under such poor visibility conditions. While passing through Delhi, my brother pointed out the Metro railway and the Pitampura TV Tower to hubby and me.

Fog in Delhi

Pitampura TV Tower (on right side of the photo)

The traffic was very heavy in Delhi and it took us more than 1.5 hours to come out of the Delhi city limits. After about another 30 minutes of car ride, we reached a road side eatery called 'Sukhdev Vaishno Dhaba' at Murthal in Karnal city. We all were very tired and needed a cup of Indian tea to energize us. Hubby had a bottle of cold drink. We again started on our way to Chandigarh and reached my bhabhi's (brother's wife in Hindi) home at about 9.30 in the night. After greeting all the relatives of bhabhi, hubby and me had dinner and retired for the day as it had been a very long day us.

Dhaba in Karnal city

My older brother and me inside the dhaba

Indian tea

4th January
The temperature in Chandigarh was about 2 degrees centigrade in the morning and hubby and me felt very cold! We were dressed in winter clothes with down jacket and caps. All others were in cotton clothes and were probably amused to see us dressed in such a manner. However, later in the day, the temperature increased and it was very pleasant.

Hubby feeling very cold

We had a relaxed and nice breakfast at about 10 am. Later hubby and me played with my nine year old niece and one of her cousins for sometime. I was very tired just after 30 min or so. Children do have a lot of energy and enthusiasm! My niece showed us a bonsai orange tree in their garden which looked very beautiful. We ate one of the oranges and it was extremely sour. It felt good to interact with children. Bhabhi was very busy in the kitchen and with other household activites. But in between all the household chores, she found some time and we chatted about many things.

Bonsai orange tree

By 12 noon, we all were ready to go sightseeing in Chandigarh. First, we went to see my niece's school. She was very excited to show her school and talk about various school activities. It was a very big school with classes from kindergarten through high-school. Later, we all had icecream near her school.

My brother, me, bhabhi, and my niece having ice cream

While eating icecream, my hubby noticed a cycle-rickshaw and he and my niece rode on it for about two kilometers. All others followed the cycle-rickshaw in my brother's car who had to drive at a speed of about 5 km per hour to keep pace with the cycle-rickshaw. Riding the cycle-rickshaw was probably the high point of my hubby's trip to India.

Hubby riding a cycle-rickshaw

My niece and hubby in cycle-rickshaw

Hubby and niece in cycle-rickshaw

Next, we went to see the Punjab Engineering College where my bhabhi is a professor. She showed us around the college campus, which was very beautiful. The college offers engineering studies in various disciplines at the bachelors, masters and doctoral levels. We took photos of us in front of the steam engine that is displayed inside the campus.

Niece, hubby, and me in front of the steam engine

Then we went to see the Rock Garden, which is one of the major sightseeing attractions of Chandigarh. The garden is spread over an area of 12 acres of land and is an exquisite artwork and a paradigm of creativity and innovation. The garden was created by a road inspector Nek Chand using industrial and urban wastes around 1957. The garden has been established in the form of an open-air exhibition hall. The garden consists of a complex of interlinked courtyards and man-made interlinked waterfalls. The garden also houses hundreds of pottery-covered concrete sculptures of dancers, musicians, and animals that have been made by using a variety of discarded scraps and waste materials like frames, mudguards, forks, handle bars, metal wires, play marbles, porcelain, auto parts, bottles, glasses, broken bangles, tiles, ceramic pots, sinks, electrical waste, etc. Such sculptures are placed in walled paths. Hubby and me enjoyed viewing the Rock Garden very much.

At the main entrance of the Rock Garden

Rocks and porcelain

Inside the Rock Garden

Rocks everywhere

Man-made waterfall inside the Rock Garden

Inside the Rock Garden

Hubby and me posing inside the Rock Garden

Hubby and me posing in front of the sculptures

Sculptures of men (top) and animals (bottom)

Sculptures of women (top) and animals (bottom)

Sculptures of women (top) and birds (bottom)

Sculptures of seated men (top) and standing women (bottom)

Sculptures of men

After that, we went to see the Sukhna lake, which is another major attractions of Chandigarh. It is a beautiful man-made lake that lies in the foothills of Shivalik range. This three km long lake was created in 1958 by damming the Sukhna Choe, a seasonal stream coming down from the Shivalik Hills. This lake has gained popularity as a prime picnic spot because of its tranquil ambiance and variety of water sports activities like boating, yachting and water skiing, etc. that can be pursued here. We ate a box of popcorn and enjoyed the view, the cool breeze, and the beauty of nature. We all wanted to do boating. However, there were a lot of people around and the boats were unavailable for hire for a long time. It was getting dark and so we decided to skip the boating. My niece was a bit upset as she was looking forward to boating.

Hubby standing near a fast food joint in Sukhna

Sukhna lake

Sukhna lake

Crowd near the Sukhna lake

Hubby, me, niece, and bhabhi near the Sukhna lake

It was 6 pm by the time we left the Sukhna lake. After that we went back home to have lunch. We had lunch at 6.30 pm! We all were very hungry and ate a lot. Hubby and me relished a bengali dish made of 'Hilsa' fish cooked in mustard paste.

Lunch of eggplant fry, potato curry, fish cooked in mustard paste, and rice

At 8 pm we went out again for further sightseeing. First, we went to a market called Shastri market where we bought many colorful bangles and Punjabi 'jutti' (a kind of footwear) for me.

Entrance of Shastri market

Then, we went to the Kalibari. It is a temple that houses Hindu Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva. It was a new experience for my hubby to pray to Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva. Kalibari is a socio-religious organization that also celebrates major Bengali Hindu festival called 'Durga Puja'. The statues of Durga and other goddesses were being made in the backyard premises of the Kalibari. We went to see that also. We saw the basic wooden frame of two statues covered with a kind of grass. Unfortunately, the fully made statues (clayed and painted) were unavailable as the festival is held in the latter half of the year.


Hubby (in cap) praying to Goddess Kali

Hubby ringing the temple bell

Hubby praying to Lord Shiva

Initial framework of goddesses

Finally, we went to see Shri Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib Gurudwara. A gurudwara is the Sikh place of worship and is referred to as a 'Sikh temple'. Sikhism as a religion is mostly followed by the people of the state of Punjab, of which Chandigarh is the capital. It was very peaceful inside the gurudwara. The gurudwara was decorated with spectacular light and color during the new year. It was a wonderful sight. By the time, we came out of the gurudwara, it was 10.30 pm. We all were very tired and went back home.

Entrance of the Gurudwara

Two friends of Sikh religion in front of the Gurudwara

We had dinner of chicken, fish, vegetables, and rice at about 11.30 pm. It was a hectic day but hubby and me were very satisfied after all the sightseeing we did in Chandigarh. Later we packed our luggage as we were to leave for Delhi the next day.

5th January
We had breakfast of 'sarson da saag' (mustard leaves curry) and 'makki di roti' (unraised corn bread), which are Punjabi cuisine. It was absolutely delicious. Bhabhi packed lunch for us. Saying good-bye is very difficult for me. I usually feel very sad and emotional. After saying bye to everyone, my older brother, hubby, and me started our car ride back to Delhi at about 12.30 pm. My brother again hired the same driver for driving his car. We stopped at the same roadside eatery that we had stopped on our way to Chandigarh, and had a cup of tea. Fortunately, it was a very clear day with no fog and our driver could drive much faster. We reached the outskirts of Delhi at about 4.30 pm.