20 April 2008


After our travel plans were finally settled, we had a couple days in Delhi to see some sights before heading out to Jaipur and Agra. Above, Heather is pictured at Humayun's Tomb. It's earned its place on the World Heritage List because it is India's first garden-tomb and was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. In addition to the building itself, the grounds are also quite impressive. Next to and behind Heather, you can get a sense of the watercourses that form a grid over the entire garden.

The tomb was also one of our first experiences with the dual pricing system in India: foreigners are charged significantly higher prices than locals. Given that most things still only cost us the equivalent of about five dollars to get in, I'm not really complaining. In fact, I think it is great that locals are able to see these wonderful sites for very affordable prices. It is their heritage, and I think it is important that they are able to experience it, and not be priced out of it by tourists.

We returned to Delhi for one day after our trip to Jaipur and Agra and visited this mosque, the largest in Delhi. Like many other times, we were asked to share a picture. While at the Taj Mahal, we saw two very blond brothers with a line of people waiting to take pictures with them. Their parents said that it happened everywhere.

We also saw the Bahá'í House of Worship, better known as the Lotus Temple, completed in 1986. Bahá'í is an open religion that accepts most others in the world, so the Lotus Temple is a site where people of all faiths can come together and worship in their own way. Personally, I would disagree with the theology, but I certainly applaud the acceptance represented here. I suppose if more of us were as accepting of other people and our differences we could probably solve a lot of our problems. At the very least, it is a beautiful building that, since its opening, has been visited by more people than the Eiffel Tower.

We knew that sites such as these would be impressive, but one of the best things we experienced in India was the National Gandhi Museum, located in the home where Gandhi lived at the time of his assassination. They have all of his personal items in a single display case, and it doesn't amount to much more than his glasses and walking stick. But the most important part of the museum is the grounds behind the home, where Gandhi was shot.

As you can see in the picture, stone footprints trace his final steps, culminating in the sheltered stone marker where he fell. Visitors are required to remove their shoes, but are allowed to walk around the path, contemplating it all at their leisure. While we were there, I experienced true peace. Outside the gates, everything is loud, car horns are endless and people constantly ask you for money or offer taxi rides or other services. But inside, it is quiet and meditative. Gardeners meticulously care for plants. The men near the marker invite you to look around (Please! Please! You are welcome!) Most touching of all was watching the Indian visitors and their wide-eyed respect for the man and the site. As I walked around the path, it was clear what an impact Gandhi has on the Indian people, and on me. He was steadfast as he stood for what was right, no matter the cost. Maybe there is hope for this planet yet.

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