I’m trying to figure something out here, and can’t quite piece it together, but think I am coming to it. Delhi has a population of 26 million, and although I’ve seen areas of incredible density, and I see many people around the roadside, much of the area my driver takes me through appears to be quite sparsely populated with long, tree-lined roads (although the roads themselves are tightly packed), and little actual housing. What I’m struggling to sort out is where the people live.
I’m reading more and finding that Delhi is a large metropolitan area, and my hotel isn’t in anywhere near the center. Delhi, the city proper, has a population of 11-12 million, and New Delhi is a district within the city (within the larger metropolitan area). New Delhi has a population of 258,000
So that’s one issue: how we define Delhi really matters a lot.
And there are the trees. I mentioned trees along almost every roadway. They are often densely planted, and difficult to see between. I’m beginning to suspect that if I could get through those trees, beyond that verdant barrier, I would see slums. Not everywhere, perhaps, but I suspect there are at least some that I’m missing. This is admittedly a bit of speculation on my part because I don’t find anything about that on an internet search. Still, I wonder.
Finally, and probably most importantly: I also don’t know about the routes my driver is taking, as those choices will certainly affect what I see. I’m probably seeing only a very small snapshot. I’m just not seeing much, overall, of this megacity.
Today that snapshot included the a visit to the Qutab Minar complex, including the tallest brick tower in the world, the Qutab Minar.
The minar and nearby Might of Islam Mosque were begun in 1193 to commemorate the victory of Qutb-ud-din-Aibak over Rajput Jains. This was the first mosque built in India, having been built on the site of a Jain temple. Stylistically it is a mixture of Islamic, Jain, and Hindu tecnhiques, and it is fascinating with its shadowed colonnades and archways.
Within the mosque is a 1600 year old iron pillar. My guidebook declares that it hasn’t rusted because of the incredible purity and dry atmosphere. The chemist in me doubts the veracity of this statement. Wikipedia agrees with me and attributes the lack of corrosion to the nature of the alloy, which prevents it from rusting despite the local climate.
There was another, larger, minaret planned for this site, but it was never completed.
And we are left with one dominant, breathtaking, variegated tower. I would have loved to climb it, but that wasn’t permitted.
Beyond the grounds of the sedate refuge proffered the complex, the thrum of Delhi continues unabated, and I find my driver, who suggests we go to India Gate, a memorial arch that commemorates the 70,000 soldiers of the British Indian Army who died in World War I.
The park is circular, surrounded by a circumferential roadway that my driver loops once before dropping me off at the entrance with instructions to text him when I am done. On entering I am accosted by hawkers selling snacks or nicknacks, none of which I want or need.
Beyond the arch is a canopy that once sheltered a statue of King George V. Once the British rule was overthrown, the Indians removed his statue from this site.
Yet further beyond these structures, and past another layer of security, is the National War Memorial. It looks very nice, but not like something I wish to visit. In due course I find the exit, which was 1/4 way around the ring from the designated pick-up location, and make my escape.
My driver then took me to the last big item for the day, the Red Fort. He dropped me off near the ticket booth. There are lines for Indian gents, Indian women, foreigners, the disabled, and those going cashless. They charge foreigners much more than they charge the locals. Curiously enough, however, the entrance fee is discounted for those paying with a credit card, as compared to cash. This makes no sense at all, unless they don’t trust the value of their money.
I think I may have missed seeing the nearest entrance, as I ended up walking half way around the fort, to the Lahore Gate, to make my way in.
I guess that’s OK, as this is the nicer gate anyway.
The Red Fort was build by Shah Jahan in the mid 17th century, and is remarkable for its stunning architecture and red sandstone walls.
Within, there are a series of museums occupying former British barracks. The British destroyed buildings and gardens to construct them, and they are clearly dyssynchronous with the rest of the architecture, lacking the delicate grace, harmony, and beauty that we see elsewhere. The museums contained within are probably more interesting to Indians, history buffs, and perhaps the British. I paid extra to visit them, but only stopped in one. Live and learn.
Well within the fort, I come upon the Diwan-i-Am, or hall of public audiences. which is where the emperor greeted guests and dignitaries from his throne, to the right in this photo. The red sandstone was previously covered with white shell plaster, polished smooth.
Well within the fort are additional structures, including the Diwan-i-Khas, or hall of private audiences. It was the most expensive building, decorated with white marble and inlaid stonework.
And this was the Pearl Mosque. Those elegant domes were at one time covered by copper, but that was removed and sold, of course, by the British.
The Red Fort was a lovely way to pass the afternoon, in her sheltered gardens. But eventually I found the path out and met my driver who guided me back through the chaos of Delhi.