I tend to think of myself as someone who knows a little bit about a couple of things, a person who can put 2 and 2 together to get a pretty good answer, yet somehow I had kinda missed the fact that India would have historical ruins. Sounds ridiculous but it was just not something that had popped on my radar as a must see Indian thing.
Of course India has ruins. India has been around for a long time and there have been countless regimes and rulers that have either pulled her together, or ripped it apart. Different countries seem to have considered India a prize worth the fight to gain. Delhi was built out of the ruins of 7 separate cities in different areas of the city and so Dave and I took a little tour to go and check it out.
The driver sadly had nothing of interest to offer (note to self and others – if you are booking a tour make sure you know at the beginning whether or not the driver is also a tour guide) but he did get us where we wanted to go so that was a bonus. We began the day with a literal driveby of the current parliamentary buildings. It seems that stopping was out of the question and the best he could offer was to keep driving in circles while I hopped out and took a few snaps. The series of buildings that make up the precinct are truly beautiful and well worth a look, even from a driving car 😉
Next we headed to a Humayun’s Tomb. We knew nothing at all about what we were going to see other than that it was old and that it was world heritage listed (generally 2 factors that are a winning combination). Oh wow! The first building we came to was a smaller tomb belonging to a nobleman by the name of Isha Khan. Gotta say – we were pretty darned impressed. There were 2 buildings, the tomb and the mosque and both were simply beautiful. The Islamic need for symmetry in the buildings creates a real feeling of peace, harmony and balance and makes for beautiful views as everything tends to line up.
With this in mind we then wandered over to the ‘main event’, Humayuns Tomb. And OMG!!!! It has been renovated extensively in the last 3 years and the result is simply breath-taking. Not only is it beautifully restored but the building itself is jaw dropping. As 2 people with no expectations we were blown away. The whole thing was built in 1570 and the grounds were the first garden temple/tomb ever created in India. The actual tomb is 12,000m2 and has dozens of smaller rooms that lead off from the main mausoleum. It has over 100 graves in the outlying rooms and is often called the tomb of the Mughals. It is a massive area with gardens that originally covered 12 hectares, although a lot of that is now in different use. The desire of the restoration project is to regain all of that ground and return it to the original structure. For us it was stunning, truly worth a visit and we could have spent a lot more time there.
One of the 100 unnamed graves surrounding the main tomb.
Our next stop was Qutb Minar – again just a name on a map. This site was built in around 1192 and is essentially a 72m tall tower made of red sandstone and marble. It was designed to accompany India’s first mosque as the minaret from which to call prayer. All around the Minar and the mosque were crumbling remnants of the earlier buildings from past ruling empires of differing religions. Hindu and Jain temples were all dismantled for their materials to be used in building the mosque and minar. This spire leading up into the sky was certainly impressive and as far as Dave was concerned, begging to be climbed but the internal stairs have been closed to the public since 1981 – drat 😉
On another afternoon we took ourselves into Old Delhi to check out the famous ‘Red Fort’. It is a massive great walled city in the middle of town. It was built as a strong hold palace complex for the ruling Mughals in around 1648. They maintained a hold over the fort for about 200 years until the British sacked Delhi, imprisoning and later evicting the Mughal Emperor and then systematically removing or destroying all of the palaces and buildings within the fort. They then built barracks for their soldiers and the fort fell to ruin. In 1947 India gained independence from Britain and the Indian flag now symbolically flies above the main gate of the fort.
For us, the saddest part was the areas of the fort that were once used to house soldiers, first British then Indian have now been deserted and while the palace ruins are well cared for, these newer buildings are now falling into complete disrepair and more history is being lost and wasted.
Speaking of wasted – the foliage in the foreground of this dying building – wild growing marijuana, and not just a little bit of it either. It was everywhere but apparently that’s just what weeds do 😉
We had a ball in the grounds of the fort. First we wandered to the barracks buildings and found an open door and did a little off the books exploration, which was pretty cool. I think one of the guards may have spotted us as we wandered the balconies and we were marched off pretty quickly when we got back onto ground level. We figured that perhaps we should go and check out the actual palacey type stuff and I must admit it is pretty impressive. Lots of white marble with beautiful stonework inlays and plenty of tourists. The fun thing for us was that Indian tourists love having their photo taken with the white tourists so for a little while there I felt very Angelina Jolie with people lining up to get a shot with either me or both of us with the Indian family. Most amusing.
So anyway, a long winded post but I was so impressed with what we saw. The Mughal empire with it’s Islamic architecture sure did do a lot for India’s ruined past and we could have spent a lot more time exploring Delhi ruins. Maybe next time we are in Delhi 🙂