After staying up so late last night, and not being able to catch much shut-eye on the plane, we ended up sleeping in til around noon. I did some yoga (we are in India, after all) in front of the floor-to-ceiling window in our room, which offered an amazing view.
Once I was able to drag Rupak out of bed, we decided to explore the hotel. Rupak loved this painting outside of our elevator – he found an “R” and a “T” in the shape of a man on it.
After a quick meal, we headed off to Qutb Minar. The weather was beautiful – around 80 degrees and breezy. However, the smog in India is extremely heavy and intense that any view of the sky is tinged greenish-gray. Unfortunately, the pollution is nothing compared to the dangers of the roads in India.
Drivers completely ignore lane markers and routinely run red lights. A road that contains three lanes would easily contain six cars/buses/trucks/auto rickshaws/old-fashioned rickshaws/motorbikes/bicycles/horses/cows and/or camels. We saw auto-rickshaws with up to nine people in them, and trucks with literally dozens of people in the back.
Drivers weave in and out of traffic like it’s Mario Kart and not real life. Pedestrians are no better than drivers, crossing the road at will with no regard for the traffic in either direction. There are crosswalks, but as far as Indians are concerned, they are just parallel lines to decorate the road. They have no real purpose here. Horns also seem to have no purpose, as they are constantly blaring, and people seem to have become so accustomed to the sound that they don’t even look around. Relentless beggars and street vendors flood the vehicles at many intersections.
However, some vendors are more awesome than others:
We somehow arrived alive at Qutb Minar. PK bought our tickets to go inside, but when we handed them over to the ticket-taker, he asked for our IDs. After a lot of confusion and broken English and Hindi, we realized that PK had purchased Indian citizen tickets instead of tourist tickets. He had to go back across the street (we were all too scared to cross the street to go with him) to exchange the tickets. We returned to the guard and made it inside with no issues this time.
The grounds were beautiful and well-maintained. There are many structures on the site, but the main focus of the Qutb complex is the 73-meter (nearly 240 feet) tower, known as the Qutb (also Qutab) Minar. The purpose of the tower was for issuing the adhan, or the Islamic call to prayer, from the top of the tower, although some claim that the tower was erected as a victory monument signifying the beginning of Muslim rule in India. An inscription on the site described the destruction of 27 Hindu temples whose columns were then used in the construction of the complex. Construction began on the tower in 1193 and was completed in 1368. It is made of marble and red sandstone, which naturally gives it its beautiful color without the need for paint, and is covered with Islamic carvings and inscriptions from the Quran. At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the first mosque to be built in India.
Another building on the Qutb complex is the Alai Minar. Alauddin Khilji, the second ruler of the Khilji dynasty in Northern India, started building the Alai Minar after he had doubled the size of Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. This tower was intended to be two times higher than Qutb Minar, in proportion with the enlarged mosque. The construction was abandoned soon after the death of Alauddin in 1316, just after the completion of the 80 foot first-story core, and was never taken up by his successors of the Khilji dynasty. Alauddin’s tomb is also part of the Qutb complex.
After finishing our self-guided tour, we headed back outside. Our driver was waiting for us, and while everyone was getting in the car, I snapped a quick picture of a roadside shop. I like how they tried to cover their bases with the varied spellings of “digital” but unfortunately, neither one is right. Also, no snoking.
The next stop on our agenda was the Lotus Temple. The temple is a Baha’i house of worship, welcoming all faiths to worship without denominational restrictions. Already tired from touring Qutb Minar, Rupak’s parents left us to walk the long pathway to the temple by ourselves. We were required to take off our shoes before entering the temple grounds. I had to silence my inner germaphobe – according to its website, the temple welcomes four million visitors each year (about 13,000 every day or 9 every minute)… that’s a lot of feet!!!
Inspired by the lotus flower, the temple is composed of 27 free-standing, marble-clad “petals” arranged in groups of three to form nine sides. Each side has a door opening to the central hall, where people from all religions are allowed silent prayer and meditation. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the hall, but I did snap a few outside on the grounds.
After another near-death drive home, we headed to the Delhi mall for some shopping and dinner. We went to the Hard Rock Cafe New Delhi, which unfortunately ended up being the worst meal of our entire trip. I don’t know why we thought it would be a good idea to go there… Hard Rock Cafe is pretty bad in the United States, so I’m not sure why we thought one in New Delhi was somehow going to be better. We still bought souvenirs, though. Total rookie tourists.
After dinner, we took a quick stroll around the mall, which is attached to our hotel. I found a pillar that just so happened to have the places we visited today on it, so of course I had to have a picture:
Finally, we decided to head back to our hotel rooms… but not before one last trip to the bathroom…
Tomorrow we tackle the Taj Mahal!
Until then, namaste!