This part is about the traveling we did on our trip in between. Well… that’s kind of obvious. Anyways, I got to visit different parts of India for the first time. Usually I’ve always stayed in one place in either Mumbai or Pune and never went anywhere else. This was my first time visiting a different state- with the exception of Karnataka- and seeing a different version of India. Multiple versions actually.
Our first destination was Prayagraj, which is in Uttar Pradesh. As Uttar Pradesh is further up north, it was FREEZING there. Not only that, we had to get up really early once again, and go on a boat ride on the Yamuna river to perform an aarthi. So, even COLDER. However, for this aarthi we got to go to this spot known as Theen Veni Singham. I think it translates to three sister rivers. If not, I’m sorry. However, it is where three rivers- Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati- rivers meet. It’s said that if you bathe where the three rivers meet, all your wrongdoings will be cleared. ( I think.) However, the rivers in India are extremely filthy due to the immense amount of pollution and carelessness by people. So we only got the water sprinkled on us.
The aarthi that was performed is done by the oldest generation ( in this case my grandparents) and it is to kind of clear away all the wrongdoings done in their lifetime and the future generations’ lifetime. ( Once again, this is based on what I remember. I’m truly sorry if I may mix up a few facts. I honestly was too cold to process what I was told correctly.)
I’d say Prayagraj is a very….different place. It’s unbelievably poor, and extremely dirty. India in general does not have the best hygiene. It is quite dirty in many places and not exactly the best place sometimes. However, Prayagraj is honestly, quite worse. It’s still developing as PM Modi is spending time and money on it, as it was stripped of resources by the Moghuls, but in the midst of all that it’s unbelievable how people live there. There are destroyed buildings, and rubble everywhere with so much trash and waste on the roads. People live here. In these half demolished buildings and cold weathers without much. It’s just unbelievable. And the number of people suffering. We went to visit a temple there and the number of people just around us as we walked, with cut off and crippled limbs, with absolutely nothing, begging us for money. And the guilt you feel when you can’t do anything about it and try to ignore it by walking away. It’s overwhelming. It’s terrifying even. It makes you wonder how do these people live like this?
Varanasi was no different. It was extremely crowded, and unsanitary. We had gone to Varanassi to visit the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple there. I have to say, the temple is beautifully rebuilt. Before, it was completely destroyed by the Moghuls and a mosque was built there instead. But it’s been renovated, and now there is such a beautiful result. It’s really nicely done. According to my parents, the entrance used to be through gullies/alleys. I got to go through one, and let me tell you, those are filthy. They are extremely narrow, and reek with sewage water and just literal wastage there. I couldn’t help but wonder how such a thing could be an entrance for a temple. It feels so disrespectful, and upsetting. Now, thanks to PM Modi, there is this huge, wide space that is a proper entrance. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s this huge, open area that leads to these humongous wooden doors, which hide the temple. It is truly spectacular.
Later that evening we attended the Ganges Aarthi. This daily event is huge. You will not believe the amount of people coming to see this. We went by boat so that we could see all the different ghats along the river as well, but the river was also crowded. People surrounded those doing the aarthi, and lined up one after the other behind them all the way up the ghat.
After those two, my parents and I traveled to Delhi and Agra by ourselves while the rest of my family went back to Pune. I have to say, New Delhi is the complete opposite. Honestly, for some reason I felt like I was in Dubai. I don’t know why or how since I’ve only ever been at the airport in Dubai. Nothing else. New Delhi is actually cleaner than any other part of India I’ve ever SEEN. I know that in certain parts of India they are really good and clean as well. But, New Delhi is the first that I’ve seen.
Apart from that, I got to see New Delhi. India’s capital. I got to see all the government buildings and houses of ministers and the Prime Minister as well. For me, it feels kind of open. I really don’t know what it should be like though. I’ve been to Washington D.C. before, but that was a REALLY long time ago. But the main part of New Delhi with all the government offices feels really close. It’s not really in it’s own little section. It’s just like there are roads and it comes up on the side of them. So I guess I was a bit disappointed by that. But perhaps it was only like that because we only observed them from a distance due to COVID restrictions.
We visited Raj Ghat as well. Raj Ghat is a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. The main part of Raj Ghat is a black marble platform which marks the spot of where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. On that is a torch where an eternal flame burns.
Our final destination that day was old Delhi. Old Delhi is the opposite of New Delhi. It has origins dating back to the Mughals, hence the reason the majority of the population are Muslims. It’s a very crowded place. The roads should be kept an eye on at all times as you never know when a vehicle will come near you or not. People don’t look at your feet, so it’s easy to get caught in the middle of the road. There are numerous meat shops lined up one after the another. Smells of chicken or mutton roasting on grills waft through the air, mixed with the smoke of the fire and the normal haze. At least that;s what one part looks like.
Similar to Prayagraj, the houses are small. Built in between alleys or stacked on other houses. Goats and sheep tied up near the houses. Kids playing along the road and running around joyously. Heaps of trash in corners. This is life for them. This is the home they know. This…is just…different. It’s different from what I’ve seen or known. I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s just unbelievable that these can be where people live. It’s heartbreaking.
Agra was similar. Despite being home to one of the 7 wonders of the world, Agra is a crowded and dirty place. The roads are so disorganized and cluttered, and there are so many people just crowded there. Not only that, the Taj Mahal is packed. In pictures it looks so empty, but it;s really not. There’s people packed on the walkways, and at the entrance of it. But when you get closer, there’s people so close together up there. At this point in time, it’s not the best idea to be roaming in heavily populated areas without masks ( in my opinion) yet here they are. Even at Varanasi and Prayagraj. Nobody listens to the guidelines and restrictions put out by the government. It seems like no one wears a mask.
Leaving all that aside, the Taj Mahal is absolutely stunning. It is perfectly symmetrical, and has so many perfect details that you can’t see in a photo. For example, there’s writing above the entrance. However, it’s carved out of black onyx and put into the marble. All the designs of the Taj Mahal are made with precious stones. There isn’t a single fleck of paint anywhere. It’s all done perfectly symmetrical to each other, and so precisely as well. The amount of work and craft gone into building it is incredible. The small details with the stones as well. The way it’s made and the stones are carved is amazing. It is truly a wonder, and is a must to see.
Christmas was spent at the Taj Mahal!
Soup as the special dinner!
Before we left to head back to Pune, we made one last stop at Agra Fort. Agra Fort is tremendous. It houses the Indian military, and before it was housed by the army of whichever empire ruled at that time. It was the place where Maratha emperor Shivaji Maharaj was made to stand behind troops and men he had already defeated in battle. He and his nine-year-old son Sambhaji had been summoned by Aurangzeb, leader of the Mughal Empire to Agra. However, when Shivaji Maharaj came to present a gift to him, Aurangzeb ignored him, and made Shivaji stand in the back of the court , behind men he had already defeated in battle. Shivaji would not stand to be humiliated, and took offence, storming out of the court. The tables were turned. Now Aurangzeb was embarrassed. Because of this, Shivaji was placed on house arrest. Shivaji later came up with a plan to free himself, and was successful. Outside of the fort was a statue of Shivaji Maharaj heading towards the fort. A man with so much might and courage to do so.
That concludes the second part of our trip.