Days 18 & 19, Agra to Delhi
Day 18 was a travel day with Paramjeet taking us from Agra to Delhi. We drove on the expressway through very fertile farmland where harvest was in full swing. Unfortunately for the farmers it started raining about 2 hours into a 4.5 hour trip. This is the first rain we’ve encountered on our trip. There was serious rain with a brief lightening display. It started clearing up about and hour out of Delhi, which was a good thing because we had to stop for a low tire. There was a pole with an old tire hanging on top and Paramjeet pulled to the side of the road. Turns out that hanging tire was a sign for a tire repair shop. Note the generator run compressor with the air hose that is running up to the highway about 100 feet away. Amazing ingenuity….and they seem to be busy.
We arrived in Delhi and got settled in our room to rest up for a the next day of seeing the sites. Since we had a free afternoon Suzanne and I scheduled a little pampering with the hotel salon. What a fascinating experience that was. Several of the Indian ladies were absolute divas, carrying on about any tiny or imagined slight or problem. The assistants in the salon were men, so strange in a male dominated society. They held the hair dryer, while a woman stylist arranged hair and I was astounded that the person doing my pedicure was a man.
Having a bit of travel under our belts we decided we needed more people and fewer monuments, palaces and forts. When we met with the guide we told him we wanted to go to the old spice market and a bazaar. We did agree to see the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, and drive by the India Gate. Plus we did a quick viewing of one of Delhi’s precursor cities. Delhi was originally made up of seven Muslim cities (pre-Mughal), they were built 1300-1700, ruins still exist.
One of the things we haven’t done is to visit a Sikh temple. Today was our opportunity. The Sikh’s were founded in 1500, an offshoot of the Hindu religion. They wear turbans, don’t cut their hair, feed their adherents in communal kitchens, reject idolatry and the caste system. We removed our shoes and bathed our feet and hands, covered our heads with special scarves before we entered the temple. The men seated to the left are musicians and the people standing in front are praying to the holy book under the golden canopy.
On our way to the spice market, we passed this bakery that has been in business since 1901.
Khari Baoli the spice market is location in Old Dehli, with it’s crowded narrow streets and random looking nests of electrical wires. These are a few shops in the retail portion of the spice market that has existed since before Delhi was a city.
The hanging items are tubes of various nuts that look like a strange lei that are placed around the neck. They are for the festival of colors that takes place later this month. The spice market has been operating since the 17th century with retail and wholesale portions of the market. Delhi was on a portion of the ancient Spice Road. This market is reputed to be the largest spice market in Asia.
Our guide, Ram, led us to the interior of the spice market where the wholesale spice trade takes place. There was dried ginger, coriander, turmeric, coconut, anise, chili’s, mulberries, prunes, figs, dates, rice, nuts, grains, salts and more we couldn’t identify. The air was thick with airborne spices and dust kicked up by the sweepers. Everyone was coughing and sneezing. Men carrying huge burlap bags of spices piled on their heads were passing in a steady stream and we were dodging to get out of the way. Up several staircases, we reached the roof of the market to take in the whole scene of chaotic commerce (see above and featured photo).
The memorial to Mahatma Gandhi who was assasinated by a Hindu extremist. In some quarters Gandhi was blamed for the loss of the area that is now Pakistan. The inscription on the front of the memorial says ‘Oh God’, Mahatma Gandhi’s last words.