Backpacking Through North India-4: Delhi
After Attari, Amritsar and McLeodGanj, it was time to head back to Bangalore, Delhi was supposed to be the transit point but I decided that as I was going to be in Delhi, why not stay there a day more and visit couple of historical places from the Mughal era (which Delhi has plenty) apart from meeting some friends based in that city.
So in Delhi, I visited Agrasen Ki Baoli, Jama Masjid and the bylanes of Old Delhi which have their own charm. One point I noticed, travelling in Delhi’s metro is no different than Bombay’s local trains in terms of the enormous crowd. Maybe I felt so because I was around Connaught Place during both my days, that being the busiest station of the city.
Agrasen ki Baoli is a historical step well located surprisingly close to Connaught Place and Jantar Mantar, yet unknown to many. Who constructed it? As the name suggests, it was built by Maharaja Agrasen in 14th century. The main feature of this structure is the long flight of steps that lead down to the step well. The steps are flanked on both sides by thick walls with series of arched corridors. The place is also said to be haunted as back in its day, people used to indulge in suicide by jumping in the well. Now, no water remains and what can be found inside the well is litter caused by the visitors and some stones.
As you enter the structure, you can see the tall commercial buildings of Connaught Place, but as you descend the steps, it vanishes and all you get is silence or echoes and the occasional fluttering of wings of pigeons or residential bats. You can duck through a small opening and go to the actual circular well that was once supposed to be there. If the story of it being haunted is true, then that would be the place where the spirits of the dead roam, if things like spirits exist for that matter.
One can enter the area where the well once stood via this tiny hole in the wall.
This is what lies today in the supposedly haunted well where once there was enough water for people to attempt suicide.
And this is how the sky looks from the bottom of the well.
Next travelling via lifeline of Delhi, i.e. the Metro, I headed to Chawri Bazaar in old Delhi. That busy market is just what I had expected to be like. After having some lip smacking Gol Gappe and savoring some Kebabs (glad I didn’t contract Delhi Belly), I headed on a cycle rickshaw to the magnificent Jama Masjid which is often compared with Lahore’s Badshahi Masjid.
The chaotic streets of Old Delhi. A unique aspect of this part of the town is the cycle rickshaws, a ride on which is a must if you visit these bylanes.
And there you get the first view of the backside of the magnificent mosque. Notice the tangled mesh of electric wires in all the photographs above.
Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque), built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century is the largest mosque in India. The complex encompasses this three domed structure and a vast open compound which can accommodate 25,000 people at a time for prayer. Like in Jama Masjid of Ahmedabad, this mosque also comprises of a pool of water at the center of the complex where Muslim men wash their feet and faces before entering the mosque.
The awe inspiring domes always play a host to the pigeons.
A Muslim man washing his feet at the pool of water at the center of the mosque compound.
This little girl was posing for her mother’s camera.
View from the top of one of the minarets.
The vastness of the compound can be comprehended by this bird’s eye view. Notice the Red Fort in the foggy distant.
The streets of old Delhi look equally chaotic from up above as they feel down there.
Couple of destitute men stealing a nap on the steps leading to the mosque.
A little kid watching keenly what his dad is doing, again, on the steps leading to the mosque.
And with Delhi, my North India backpacking trip came to an end (and so do the posts under this series, as of now). Those nine days which took me across three states and exposed me to multitude of accommodating cultures made me see for myself, the diversity of India. It ended with a meeting with couple of friends with whom I wanted to meet since long at New Delhi’s Khan Market. Taking all the experiences and memories, I headed back to Bangalore the next day with the holiday hangover lingering till some time.
As far as Delhi is concerned, it’s rightly said by a Bollywood lyricist:
Ye Shehar nahi, mehfil hai…