Friday, January 13, 2012

Return to Delhi

My overnight train was delayed by a few hours.  I checked into a cheap but pleasant hotel near the station when I arrived.  I then jumped into an auto rickshaw to meet up with Nev and Danielle at the Lotus Temple.

The Lotus Temple is a house of worship for the Bahai faith, and adherents of all faiths are welcome to come and use the temple to pray and meditate.   It’s in the shape of a white lotus flower and set among immaculately maintained gardens and small pools.  In photos it looks amazing, but up close it failed to impress.

From my initial sighting I knew that the building was far from a world wonder.  The closer I got to it the less of an impact the building made.  It kind of looks a bit like the poor man’s Sydney Opera House.  Up close, the building materials don’t seem to be of the highest quality, it certainly doesn’t shine bright in the sun like some of the other pure white buildings we have seen.  I would say it’s comparable to the Armadillo and Glasgow, and as Danielle put it, it looks like a conference centre.    When I met up with Nev, for the first time in our travels, I asked him, “Why did you put this on your list?”

The visit wasn’t great either, you can’t wander round the building or stroll in the gardens.  The visit is a fixed route, you are only allowed to enter into one door and exit another with most of the area outside the temple out of bounds.  The stringent rules seem to contradict the openness of the Bahai faith.  Inside the temple absolute silence is to be maintained.  It was freezing and looked even more unimpressive from the inside, so we didn’t hang around for long.

Our next stop on our whistle stop Delhi wonders tour was Akshardham Temple.  It’s a Hindu temple with a main focus on one particular guru.  Now this building was impressive.  The temple is huge and incredibly extravagant.  It’s made from pink sandstone and white marble with around 20,000 carved deities.  It was constructed by hand using the same techniques as were used in ancient times.  After visiting so many ancient ruined temples with carvings in a state of disrepair, it was great to see what a temple looks like in its prime.  The attention to detail is magnificent, the walls, ceilings and pillars of the temple have exquisite designs.   

Photos weren't allowed in the temple complex, so this is the only photo I took

The only thing that lets the temple down is that it appears to have another side, that of a theme park.  There’s a boat ride, a water show and the hall of values, a kind of show with animatronics detailing Indian history and culture.  These extra features seem to lessen the impact of the building as a temple for spiritual worship, but as I’ve found out from visiting various Hindu temples, Hinduism is one religion that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is also about having fun along with worship.  

We stayed for the water show, which was entertaining, and went back for food.  Danielle and Nev were checking out of their hotel and moving to one nearer the train station as we had an early train to catch the next day to Agra.  I got the subway in a different direction.  I had one change at the end of my journey back to the train station with only one stop left.  This busy hub was incredibly packed, I’ve never seen the like of it.  There were massive queues which were aligned with the doors of the train when it stopped.  When a train stopped people were already packed in like sardines, the whole queue of people would push the passengers at the front until they were squashed into the train.  All the commotion was carried out under the watchful eyes of several policemen.  After witnessing the mayhem I decided to take a pass on the underground for my one stop journey, and left the station to get an auto rickshaw back to my Hotel.

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