India is a country of continental dimensions: its physical vastness, racial, linguistic, cultural and religious diversities are bewildering indeed. In the scale of time, India is a continuum that juxtaposes the past with the present with a futuristic projection, providing a blend of tradition and modernity. The nuances of such variations can only be experienced. And now, here is the opportunity for our distinguished guests to have a feel of the wonder that is India.
DELHI : THE CITY ETERNAL
It is said, `Delhi is the only city that has something of everything that you can see in India’. Not the high Himalayas or the palmfringed sea beaches, but everything else; peoples of all races, religions and languages; a history that spans centuries, ancient temples, mosques, mausolea, palaces and castles; bazars teeming with humanity; huge parks and spacious gardens, and above all, superb craftsmanship. Sites of interest in Delhi are the Gandhi Smriti, the Qutab Minar, Humayun's Tomb, the Red Fort, the Baha’i Temple and the Dilli Haat to name only a few.
"Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon the earth", so said Albert Einstein of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. To millions of people, he was the great soul, whose sacred glimpse was a reward in itself. His ideas were so simple, as was his living; he practised what he preached and preached what he practised. And he became the symbol of the nation through his espousal of non-violence or Ahimsa, which caught the imagination of the world and continues to inspire all of us many years after his death.
The Gandhi Smriti – a national memorial – is where the epic life of the Mahatma ended on 30 January 1948. The hallowed house treasures many memories of the last 144 days of Gandhiji’s life. The exhibition on the Mahatma, the room he lived in and the prayer ground where he fell a martyr with God’s name on his lips attract a large number of pilgrims every day. The atmosphere reverberates with the bhajan he liked most, Easwar, Alla, tere naam….
The Capital city of Delhi is renowned the world over for its many monuments which stand testimony to its historicity. Among them, the Qutab Minar stands out as an architectural marvel, drawing visitors from far and wide. The tower is 72.5 metres high with 379 steps and has a diameter of 14.32 metres at the base and about 2.75 metres at the top. The construction of this monument was started by Qutab-ud-din Aibak to herald the victory of the Slave Dynasty in the 13th Century and was completed by his son-in-law Iltutmish. Originally consisting of four storeys, it has now five storeys, the first three of red sandstone and the remaining two mainly of marble with bands of red sandstone. The architecture is of Islamic style. The lowermost storey has alternate angular and circular flutings, the second storey with rounded, and the third with angular ones, the alignment of the flutings remaining in the same line. The ornamentation of varied styles in the different storeys adds to its grandeur. Its projecting balconies with stalactite pendentive type of brackets and inscriptional decorative bands on different storeys heighten the aesthetic effect. It is the highest stone tower in India and a perfect example of minars known to exist anywhere. We are sure you will be as fascinated by the Qutab Minar as the millions who have already experienced the grandeur of this tower.
A poem in red sandstone and black-and-white marble, Humayun’s Tomb possesses both a blue beauty and a serene grandeur, set amid carefully laid-out gardens and rows of palm trees. Humayun was the second Mughal emperor ruling from 1530 AD until he was vanquished by Sher Shah in 1540 and again from 1555 until his death in 1556. Humayun’s death had all the unimpeachable trappings of piety and scholarship. Walking down the stairs of his library, Humayun heard the azan and quickly sat himself down on the nearest step; upon rising, the emperor tripped and slid down the stairs. The injuries incurred in his fall proved fatal, but it wasn’t until 1565, nine years after his death, that his Tomb was built. Humayun’s Tomb is located at the centre of a rectangular, quartered garden laced with channels and paths (charbagh), a type of garden whose development reached its apex with the building of the Taj Mahal. A pioneering work of Mughal architecture, the Tomb is octagonal and is situated atop a massive pedestal, with the Tomb’s double dome rising to a height of nearly 40 metres.
LAL QUILA (RED FORT)
The Lal Quila or the Red Fort is one of the many splendid monuments that abound in Delhi. The construction of this Fort was started in 1639 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and was completed in 1646. The Red Fort, so called because of the red colour of the stone largely used in it, is octagonal on plan, with two longer sides on the east and west. The palaces lie along the eastern side of the Fort, while two imposing three-storeyed main gateways flanked by semi-octagonal towers and consisting of several apartments are located in the centre of the western and southern sides. These are known as the Lahori and Delhi Gates, respectively.
The area immediately after the Lahori Gate was a fancy market for the aristocracy. At the entrance of the palace area stands the Naubat-Khana (Drum House) which was used for playing music five times a day. Also inside the Fort is the Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience) where the Emperor received the general public and heard their complaints. The Mumtaz Mahal and the Rang Mahal (Palace of Colour), originally painted on the interior, were part of the imperial seraglio. Other aspects of the Fort are the Khas Mahal (Private Palace) consisting of three parts, the Muthamman Burj (Octagonal Towers) where the Emperor appeared every morning before his subjects, the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), Hayat Bakhsh Garden, and the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience). The Diwan-i-Khas with openings of engrailed arches on its sides consists of a rectangular central chamber surrounded by aisles of arches rising from piers. Over the marble pedestal in its centre once stood the famous `Peacock Throne’. The grandeur of the Fort is best expressed in the famous verse of Amir Khusro, `if there be a paradise on the earth, it is this, it is this, it is this’.
THE BAHA’I TEMPLE
An architectural marvel, the Baha’i Temple, built atop the Kalkaji hills in South Delhi, is shaped like a lotus and symbolises universal brotherhood and unity of all religions. It is seventh in the chain of the Baha’i Houses of Worship now girdling the globe. Each Baha’i House of Worship is designed to suit the cultural and religious aspirations of the people of that region of the world. The Delhi Baha’i Temple consists of a House of Worship, an auditorium, a library, an audio-visual centre and administrative offices.
The lotus, as seen from outside, has three sets of leaves or petals, all of which are made out of thin concrete shells just 13 cms thick and 25 metres high. All round the lotus are walkways with beautifully curved balustrades, bridges and strains which surround the nine pools representing the floating leaves of the lotus. The outermost set of nine petals, called the `entrance leaves’, open outwards and form the nine entrances all around the outer annular hall. The next set of nine petals called the `outer leaves’ appear to be partly closed. Only the tips open out, somewhat like a partly opened bud. This portion, which rises above the rest, forms the main structure housing the central hall. Since the lotus is open at the top, a glass and steel roof at the level of the radian beams provides protection from rain and facilitates entry of natural light into the auditorium.
Below the `entrance leaves’ and `outer leaves’ rise nine massive arches in a ring; through each one is a row of steps leading into the main hall. The central circular auditorium houses no idols or photographs, no priests or pundits, no candles or incense-sticks. There are no rituals or ceremonies of any kind. However, there is a place of meditation in the main House of Worship, which can accommodate 1300 persons.
Delhi, the city with an antiquated history, has perpetually changed through the ages. The vast and sprawling megapolis that stand today is a far cry from the ancient Indraprastha or the medieval Shahjahanabad.
It was out of the effort to revive the unique experience of village life, that Dilli Haat was born. Situated close to a nodal centre of the city and spread over a lavish 6 acres of landscaped area, the Dilli Haat is poetry in brick and terracotta. Set amidst idyllic environs with a markedly rural ambience, it is an ideal place to retreat and unwind.
The Dilli Haat is actually a take-off from the quaint little `haat’ or a weekly village market where local artisans gather to sell their wares which is so much a part of rural life in India. The Haat is conceived to be a multipurpose, socio-cultural complex where one can not only have a glimpse of rural and ethnic India, but also carry home a part of it.