by Nidhee Venkatesh
India has always been a home away from home for me. I had the most amazing trip back in April, where I was able to visit some of the places that have always been on my list of places to see. Although just 10 days long, I managed to do and see so much. The trip covered Delhi, Agra, and parts of Rajasthan (Jaipur, Udaipur). Starting off in hot and sunny Delhi, we had our first taste of life in the capital, where we had various stopovers at key sights such as India Gate and Jama Masjid. This was then followed by a cycle rickshaw ride through the extremely narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk. So much life within such narrow spaces, and rules of the road are non-existent here. Yet the vibrancy was extraordinary, and these lanes had stalls for everything imaginable, from saris to books to food. Spending half a day in Delhi alone introduced me to 2 completely contrasting sides to the city which was great.
We then moved on to Agra, something I was most looking forward to. Both Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal were amazing- the architecture, the history, the thought and effort behind the construction of these structures – all stunning. The Taj was particularly great – the famous postcard photo cannot capture it’s true beauty. Everything within the grounds was perfectly symmetrical from the garden to the building itself. I was finally able to tick this wonder of the world off my list.
Throughout the trip we visited a number of forts and palaces – a side of India that i had not experienced before so I really enjoyed it all. We saw Fatehpur Sikri where one particularly interesting feature was the life sized game board that was etched on the floor of the palace grounds. Essentially, the old kings would play a dice game using real life people (or women, should I specify) as the game pieces – where they would stand in squares and move around accordingly. Crazy.
Kumbhelgarh fort was a structure almost similar to the Great Wall of China. It was amazing that it was situated within the mountains, and was constructed in such a way that you could not even view it until you were very close to it.
The tomb (‘dargah’) of Sufi saint Salim Chisthi was another great structure and indeed a symbolic one. The surrounding to this was dotted with other tombs which created an almost eerie atmosphere. We performed a small sort of ritual at Salim Chisthi’s tomb where we laid some fabric and flower petals at the tomb whilst making a wish – an apparently very holy ritual, so lets hope my wish comes true!
Other architectural wonders included Kanota palace in Jaipur, where the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was shot. Jaipur as a city was beautiful – India’s first planned city, and the old city was also known as “pink city” as all the buildings were the same colour. We went to Amber Fort, situated on a hill, which was lovely, and one of my favourite sights within this was the “shish mahal” or palace of mirrors- where all the walls were covered in mirrors. We also visited an old observatory which was amazing as a lot of thought and precision must have gone behind its construction. There were instruments for everything from simply telling the time to the position of the sun, horoscopes, etc. the evening in Jaipur was spent visiting the local street markets, full of interesting knick knacks from clothes to shoes to jewellery. Haggling in this area is a must, but it was a fun experience, and we ended up picking up a couple of lovely little bits.
Some interesting stopovers during our journey included Abha Neri step well which was a beautiful well that had steps going down all the sides in a geometric pattern formation, and an old ruined Hindu temple nearby where all faces of deities on the pillars etc were wiped off- The temple was in ruins, yet had a mystic charm about it. We also had a camel ride during one of our drives which was slightly scary but fun. Other than the architectural spots, we had also spent a couple of nights in Sawai Madhopur, i.e. area where the Ranthambore tiger sanctuary is located. We went on 3 safaris, and it was third time lucky for us, as we were able to spot a couple of tigers on this occasion.
Our trip ended in Udaipur which was my favourite city. Our hotel was on the edge of the lake. I loved the narrow little streets here, reminded me a little of Europe. We visited the palace here also which was gorgeous, and we concluded the evening with a sunset boat ride on the lake.
All in all I had an amazing trip (well planned by indebo considering the limited time we had to spend there, and also had a great driver with us the whole time) and I look forward to coming back for more trips like this in the future.