Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Just got back from 8 days of vacation and travel in Delhi and the region. We did a two day trip to Mathura, Agra and Fatehpur-Sikri. The region was unseasonably warm and we could not pack in too much despite travelling in an air-conditioned vehicle. The day temperatures were about 36 C and the night temperatures were also high, and even the mornings were warm and humid. Mathura was interesting and we visited the Bange-Behari temple, which I am told is one of the most important temples in the region. And the Nidhivan which is where Krishna is supposed to be dancing every night with his 16,020 Gopikas. Later we visited the Janmabhoomi. It seemed like we were visiting a prison because of the number of metal detectors and frisking we had to endure. As you know this is right next to a fort which is also a mosque. I do not know if the mosque is a place of worship. In any case, despite all the propaganda in our newspapers and electronic media, I did not sense any kind of tension in the air. The next day was the visit to the Taj. After reading the morning's tragic headlines (see my earlier post on `Death in America') we did get to the Taj by 8:15 and inside the complex by 8:30 (lucky as the gates were closed off by 9:00 for a visiting dignitary and we were told would reopen only at 13:00). And what a sight. Did not imagine its grandeur and stateliness, dimensions and yes, symmetry. It is also very simple: sounds contradictory but it is the simplicity and gives the grace. It looks good as new. This is what was most surprising. I did not expect a monument which is I believe 360 years old to look this new. As Aparna said of herself, "this is my first wonder of the world." Yes, mine too. And the first time. After spending a good hour and a half in the complex we then left for Fatehpur-Sikri. It is also very impressive and I visite my first Dargah as well, that of Salim Chisti. It was quite touching to see the faith of so many who come here to make a secret wish. Of course I am tired of talking about India's multi-religious society and and how it is syncretic, blah, blah, blah! Why is it so surprising? After all no matter what the religion is, the people of the country eat the same food, breathe the same air, drink the same water, spend the same money, travel by the same train. But that is another story. After a nice meal at the nearby Hotel Goverdhan which is owned by the father of one of Anita's students at Ramaiah Institute, we got a tour of this lovely little hotel with about 20 rooms, extremely clean, spacious and comfortable, went back to Mathura and rested for a while and got back home by 22:15. A lovely little holiday indeed.