This is it. We’re at the end of my India story. I’m kind of sad, but also excited to move on to the next trip. But first, Meike and I have one more day in Delhi before flying home.
After our tiger safari, we spent the following day driving several hours back to Delhi. Throughout our travels, we’d seen several of these Tata trucks. Like everything else in India, they are colorfully and festively decorated. Have I mentioned yet how much I love how colorful everything is here?
We’d spent 5+ days in Delhi at this point and never actually made it to the city center. We’d skirted around the city, seeing monuments, shopping and attending weddings, but it seemed just plain wrong to spend so much time here and not actually see Old Delhi. So for our last day, we headed for the Red Fort, the last major palace of the old Mughal emperors.
Built in the mid-1600’s by Shah Jahan (who built the Taj Mahal), the Red Fort had everything the royal family could ever need, including Chhatta Chowk, a small bazaar just inside the Lahore gate, where they could buy silks, jewelry and other household items. Today it sells souvenirs to tourists, but the fact that it has otherwise changed so little in all these years is really neat.
After the bazaar, the first structure you come to is the Diwan-i-Aam or public audience hall. Similar to the Amer Fort, this is where the emperor would meet with the public and conduct business. It’s hard to tell in these pictures, but you can still see the iron rings that used to hold heavy curtains to section this area off and help control the temperature during the hot and cold months.
This big white structure is where the emperor would sit and engage with the public. Today it’s covered with netting to keep the birds off. Pretty sure that’s not historically accurate.
Directly behind the audience chamber is the private chambers of the royal family. They were built in a row, elevated on a platform overlooking the river below. And interestingly, there was a man made river that ran through the apartments. As with the Amer Fort, this was to help cool them in the summertime, but also to emulate the version of paradise found in the Quran. Also noteworthy (at least in my opinion), as someone who comes from a cold climate, the fact that these buildings have no real walls or doors is so unusual to me. I know there were curtains and rugs and other plush adornments, but it still is hard to picture this being the place someone would sleep and dine and otherwise spend their time.
The Red Fort has an air of sadness to it. This was the last place the Mughal dynasty existed before their eventual decline. A lack of strong leadership left them open to invasion by the Persians, who plundered the fort and removed many of it’s treasures. Later, the British would set up shop here and eventually imprison the last Mughal emperor after he led a rebellion against them in 1857. The British then removed whatever remained of the valuables, destroyed many of the buildings and built their barracks.
After India gained its Independence, the Indian flag was raised above the Lahore gate and has been done every year since. In 2003, the fort was given over to the Archaeological Survey of India to be restored and opened to the public.
Our last stop on this tour was the Hayat Bakhsh Bagh, the largest gardens in the Red Fort. To one side are a series of buildings, the red Zafar Mahal and flanking it, the white marble Sawan and Bhadon buildings. From these two buildings, water would flow in a cascade to the Zafar Mahal in the center, which would have been surrounded by water, and then out into canals in the gardens. There would have been lit candles in each of the carved cutouts. I wish I could have seen it in it’s heyday – it sounds so beautiful.
Finally Meike and I had had enough of being harassed by the locals trying to take our picture. We even had a guy set his child down in between us and try to take our picture without asking, then yell at us when we walked away. It’s possibly one of the most annoying things about India, and Meike especially was so over it. So we moved on to the Chandni Chowk for a bit more anonymity. There were so many people and cars and animals and everything clogging up the roads!
At least the monkeys had enough sense to avoid the chaos altogether.
We wandered through some back alleys until we stumbled upon the spice market. We had been wondering where this was for so long, and Maggie was so mad when I told her later we found it and she had missed it.
Meike and I bought our last few souvenirs here, then decided to head back to the hotel. My flight left at 6am the next morning so I knew it was early to bed to be up at 230am to catch my taxi through the congested traffic of Delhi to the airport. India is an exhausting country, but so full of amazing things to discover. I was definitely ready to be heading home to the land of cheeseburgers and reliable electricity, but I knew I wanted to come back some day. There’s so much more to see and do, I’d barely scratched the surface. But then, I think I could come back 3 or 4 more times and still not see everything there is to see.
I hope you enjoyed reading about this amazing country. I have one more post for you before I’m officially done, a breakdown of everything we did and what I spent. Then it’s on to the next adventure!