Friday, November 4, 2011

Arrival in Delhi

Our visit of Varanasi  included the visiting of many temples to Lord Shiva. The most famous is the Golden Temple, hidden among narrow alleyways and a maze-like bazaar area. To get there we followed our guide, being careful to not step in the many piles of cow dung that covered these narrow streets. At least we wear  sandals  and  even then our feet are filthy with dust and dirt by the end of the day. Many of the local people are barefoot and walk without hesitation through the streets. As we neared this   temple there was a strong army presence that we could not understand at first. At the entrance we were taken into a little shop and told to leave all possessions there with the shop keeper...pens , cell phones, cameras , etc. I was reluctant to do so and so kept my small purse  well concealed under my shawl. Little did I know what trouble this small act of rebellion would get me into!
At the gate we were all given  a body search, men on one side and women on the other. When I was asked if I had a pen or mobile in my bag, my guilty conscience  got the better of me and I showed her my phone. Well.... her reaction was to shove me away and shout that I had to leave immediately and go to the shop where the others had left their things. Pierre was behind me  with the guide, and as I passed them, I said I would wait out in the alley until they finished the visit, as I knew I could not find the little shop alone. And anyway, what was one less temple in the souvenirs I am carrying with me in my head?
I enjoyed watching the crowds  jostling to get into the temple, some carrying offerings and praying, others simple tourists like us..I felt in no danger and was happy to be there watching the action. However, when Pierre and the guide came out after15 minutes they could not see me and they began to panic. The guide thought I had been taken by the army and was being interrogated as to why I had not obeyed the rules. Perhaps they thought I was a terrorist ready to attack this holiest of crimes with either my pen or my cellphone.. Finally they spotted me and expressed their relief. The guide told me he had been very worried, imagining the worst.
Pierre has described the temple as being off limits for  non-Hindus so he could only peek through a fence. He saw a solid gold dome and this is the reason that the army guards the temple...fear of theft and possible violence............
Interestingly, the security at the airports here has been less stringent than in North America, but the                temples are strictly guarded.  I will be more submissive next time..

In Delhi we are staying at the "Holiday In....ternational" commonly called the Holiday Inn,  which is not part of the International chain but rather a budget hotel in the busy backpackers area of Old Delhi..   As in other cities  this place in teeming with people and various vehicles all vying for their place on the narrow packed streets. The smog here is very bad and  today it was difficult see any distance.  We visited Ghandi's  cremation place, in grounds that also hold the ashes of Nehru, Indira Ghandi and her two sons.New Delhi has lots of parks and  wide boulevards. The difference between the old and the new is remarkable here.

                                           The Red Fort, Delhi
                                          The back of our  bicycle rickshaw driver.

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