S: INDIA 2010
FC: INDIA 2010 November 12 -November 28 | Casey Walker
1: Welcome to India - these huge sculptures greet new visitors in the airport...where you can already smell the overwhelming pollution | My first view of Delhi streets from the back rooftop restaurant of the hotel | Honking horns from hectic traffic, people bustling by everywhere and this little boy wondering around naked by himself
2: Two days in Delhi - getting lost walking all over & seeing the 'real' Delhi - while raising a few eyebrows. | There are lots of boys like these always trying to get you to take their photo... then usually sticking out their hands for money or candy or both! | Connaught Place- a very progressive shopping area near my hotel
3: Old Delhi Area - such drastic impressions of wealth and poverty watching street life across from a massive new civic building and glimpsing into the world of fortunate students at the University of Delhi, carefully locked behind a tall chain-linked fence topped with rolls of barbed wire.
4: I inadvertently wondered into this refuge of calm and relaxation amongst all the noise and traffic! Taking care to heed to customs, I was able to enjoy this important Sikh Shrine - Gurdwara Bangla Sahib
5: VARANASI - DAY 3 & 4 One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth - a sacred place for many cultures - bringing pilgrims from all over the world along the banks of the River Ganges | Roadside barbers were common | I find it painful to look at this pony that looks so ill... but it is the way animals are regarded in India. | The sacred River Ganges
6: The River Ganges - where Hindu pilgrims come to the ghats to wash away a lifetime of sins in the sacred waters and to cremate loved ones. The ill also come here to die - since passing here provides liberation from the cycle of reincarnation (moksha) | There are 80 ghats - stairs leading down to the water. Some are designated as bathing ghats, some as burning ghats and others are used from laundry or boating docks
7: Dasaswamedh Ghat - the name indicates that Brahma sacrificed (medh) 10(das) horses (aswa) here - the main street leads to this main ghat | Every evening after sunset an elaborate 'ganga aarti' ceremony with 'puja' (prayers), fire & dance is staged here. | Dasaswamedh Ghat at night
8: Manikarnika Ghat is the main burning ghat where corpses are handled by outcasts known as 'doms'. The body is covered in cloths and doused in water of the Ganges before cremation, which takes 3-4 hours. Cremations occur at this site 24 hours a day | I hired a row boat to take both sunset and sunrise cruises along the famous ghats of the RIver Ganges
9: An aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. It's usually made in the form of a lit lamp, and in the case of the Ganges River, a small diya with a candle and flowers that's floated down the river
10: Varanasi is a culture junkie's paradise - linking Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Jainism and others in peaceful observance of sacredness and respectful celebration
11: Agra & Fatehpur Sikri - Day 5 & 6 | Craft shop where I watched a demonstration of how marble inlays, such as those seen at the Taj Mahal, are created. It was a difficult choice, but I purchased the piece in the middle!
12: First view of the Taj Mahal, traveling from train station to hotel in Agra | My hotel in Agra was amazing! Rooftop room with a view of the Taj Mahal from my round-shaped bed... and yes, that is a window in the bathroom so that I can look out and see the Taj while sitting on the toilet!!! $16 USD! The pic on the bottom right is from the rooftop cafe at the hotel. Can you tell I am beginning to feel ill? For the next 3 months, I battled a mysterious parasite that I must have picked up in Varanasi, A very common India travel experience. | Saii Palace Guest House
13: Taj Mahal At Sunset | It was dark inside by the time I got into the Taj, so I used my flashlight to get a few photos of the famous marble inlays... just before security told me it was forbidden and kicked me out!
14: "BABY TAJ" | Itimad-Ud-Daulah (known as Baby Taj) is the tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg & the first Mughal structure built entirely of marble. The detail of the marblework and carved lattice screens are more intricate than the Taj Mahal. | Young boys in the courtyard
15: this persian-style riverside tomb of poet & chief minister Afzal Khan was built between 1628-1639. The bright blue tiles on the right once covered the entire building. It is widely believed that overwhelming pollution is destroying this once gorgeous mausoleum. | Saleem - my guide in Agra and my new friend! A Muslim with an open heart and mind. | Chini-Ka-Rauza
16: Taj Mahal at Sunrise The best place to view the Taj Mahal at Sunrise is from across the river, in the Mahtab-Bagh "The Moon Garden". On Fridays the Taj Mahal is closed to the public, so there was also an added benefit of photos without hordes of tourists!
17: Saleem drove us by car to nearby Fatehpur Sikri. It is hard to capture the chaos that is traffic in India. | It was the week of Eid al-Adha - a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide as a commemoration of Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son, as commanded by Allah. In recognition, Muslims sacrifice their goats during this week - leaving piles and piles of goat hides. | Saleem's horn stopped working while we are driving that morning. On our way back, a careless pedestrian walked right into our path without looking. Although Saleem hit the brakes hard, we still skid into him!
18: Saleem's girlfriend joined me to have a look at this famous palatial complex in Fatehpur Sikri - this entrance is called Buland Darwaza (Victory Gate), built to commemorate Emperor Akbar's military victory in Gujarat. | For years, one man used to jump from the high roof of the mosque into the sickly green waters for tourist amusement. Now that he has died, several young men stand ready to jump at a moments notice for tourists - at the right price. | The palace included residential areas and manicured courtyards for Emperor Akbar's 3 favorite wives - one Hindi, one Muslim & one Christian...he was a very tolerant and open-minded man for the 1570's!
19: The Diwan-i-Khas, built in 1575, was the private audience hall of the palace. This amazing center carvings of red sandstone is one continuous piece of stone - very impressive! | On outside walls of the mosque there were pigeon holes like this one where mail-pigeons traditionally carried in their letters - but this hole was occupied by an owl! alooo alooo | parakeets graced the palace walls and I was thrilled to catch this one in flight! | Parks and palaces provide lovely romantic backdrops for Indian couples
20: Caravanserai - our guide told us some story about this being the harem house - but my Lonely Planet guide indicates this complex was used to house merchants visiting the Emperor - which do you believe? | The amount of litter outside the palace walls is a remarkable contrast to the grounds within | Gardens in the palace complex | These ladies look like they are carrying a heavy load!
21: This marble building sitting within the mosque courtyard is the tomb of Shaikh Salim Chishti - the holy man who broke the spell of the Emperor's childlessness and predicted the birth of Emperor Akbar's son and heir to the throne. | Inside the tomb there is a tradition to offer cloth and to tie a thread to the carved lattice work with your heart's request- which has led to peddlers trying to sell tourists cloth and string. Fortunately, I found a random piece of string on the ground and made my wish here for free!
22: Ranthambore National Park Sawai Madhopur, India | The park is divided into 6 zones and each zone only allows 4 gypsies and 4 'canters' (large trucks carrying about 20 passengers) per morning or evening safari. Everyone's number one hope is to see a tiger in the park. I signed up for a gypsy tour in the evening & a canter in the morning. | a 'gypsy' | a 'canter' | Day 7 & 8
23: the high grassland in front of the water is perfect tiger hiding habitat | Although I saw fresh prints & heard warning calls, there was no tiger sighting on the sunset safari.... but the scenery was amazing!
24: I was the only westerner on the sunrise canter tour. No tiger sighting, but still was wonderful to be in nature and away from the pollution and litter of the cities! | OOhhh! Tiger prints! | Warthog! | Peacock | Famous walking tree! The roots above ground, so it can actually move about in the forest seeking the optimal light and water resources... we really under-estimate the power of trees! | The Driver!
25: Shiva's wife used a small coleman-style stove to cook meals for her husband and 3 children - and for me for 2 nights. | My last moment with these amazing kids. | Shiva's 3 wonderful children! So full of energy and love! | They all shared one small room and the few toys they had were hanging high on the wall or on a shelf. | My rickshaw driver & guide, Shiva. I am so grateful for him and his brother Raja for their open hearts and generosity to strangers- allowing me to be a part of their family while I visited Jaipur. | This cousin is deaf, so he can't attend public school and thus, he is unlikely to be educated. | Jaipur - Day 9 & 10
26: Diwan-i-khas is a marble paved gallery with open walls and chandeliers that hosted pigeons | Jaipur City Palace 'Pink Palace' | The palace is a complex of courtyards, buildings and gardens combining Rajasthani and Mughal architecture
27: the gates to the courtyard Pitam Niwas Chowk represent the four seasons. | constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawaj Pratap Singh to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city. | Hawa Mahal Jaipur's most distinctive landmark
28: This observatory was one of five started by Jai Singh - only four remain and this is both the largest and most well-preserved. | These mammoth structures were used to calculate time, the movement of the cosmos and eclipses. | began 1728
29: There are temples and shrines everywhere in India. This one is not in a guidebook and had some beautiful art. | This 'floating palace' was another site that was not in my guidebook.
30: Gaitor was designated as the royal cremation grounds during the reign of Sawai Jai Singh II. | Most of the cenotaphs here are designed as open pavilions with ornate domes supported by ornately sculpted pillars.
31: Jaisalmer Day 11-12-13 | My Room | The main suite was amazing with a BATHTUB! The first & only one I saw in India. | The hotel was entirely carved from stone, beautifully decorated and truly gorgeous! | The rooftop had amazing carved arches and views overlooking the city.
32: Tazia Tower near Badal Palace is a popular architectural site. | Unfortunately, this historic fort is now considered endangered and tourists must sleep outside of the fort walls. | Jaisalmer Fort is the city's center, built by the Indian King Rawal Jaisal in 1156 with an enclosed 9m wall and 99 bastions, it protects several palaces & temples | Yep, that is a cannon between my legs! | Jain Temple inside Fort
33: The hotel rooftop provided terrific views of temples and forts on hillsides in every direction | New travel friend Philomene Vallee from France | Street markets leading to the Fortified city walls are so colorful!
34: Happy Thanksgiving! | Joined new travel buddy, Abhi on an overnight camel safari into the desert! In the US, it is Thanksgiving Day! | Preparing our camels for the trek into the dunes!
35: Abhi was very nervous for his first camel ride! | Of course, I can always be counted on to fully embrace the adventure! | Our guide prepared a simple meal for us - no turkey here! | Nothing like a little whiskey to enjoy with the sunset!
36: Camels by Sunrise | Final morning camel ride back our jeep - which our guide had gotten stuck in the sand! | Abhi is a physician who has a passion for working with those less fortunate. He spent much of our journey telling these young guides how they could achieve any goal with hard work, dedication and an open heart & mind | Rescue!
37: The longest final day... scenes from the road | My bus compartment for the 16 hour ride from Jaisalmer to Jaipur | So much color, culture and life, so much poverty and pollution...
38: Treated myself to feet henna! | Final hours in Delhi - Day 14 | Street Bazaar in Paharganj Area of Delhi | Glimpse of Ghandi memorial on my way to Airport..
39: Scenes of India