India

Living Temple in India

India is a wondrous spectacle, a modern-day creation in a land of history and contrast. Empires, dynasties and kingdoms have risen and fallen here, leaving in their wake stunning architecture, music, painting and sculpture. Religious movements have flourished: Buddhism, Hinduism and, with new influences, Islam and Christianity, all of which have also contributed to the rich art and culture of this land. Today, India is the seventh largest nation in the world with a population second only to China. With such epic history, size and density no surprise then that India is home to a remarkable diversity.

The landscapes alone tell the story. To the north there are the great peaks of the Himalayas, source of the holy rivers that flow down into central India and out to the sea. The north is home to the celebrated lakes of Kashmir, the Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh, and the famous British hill town of Darjeeling, which is today a center of Tibetan life. The north is also home to India's capital, Delhi, a dazzling city of over sixteen million.

To the west is the mythic land of Rajasthan, where astonishing palaces and forts were raised from the desert and where color is as intense as the generous sun.

One of the many temples dedicated to Ganesh

DELHI, the capital of India, is the place to appreciate all the marvels and all the contrasts of this country. It is situated along the east west and north-south routes through India and all of the country’s history can be seen here; ancient, colonial, modern. In Delhi you will find museums and galleries, temples and monuments, teeming bazaars and fashionable boutiques, street-side stalls and gourmet restaurants.

Most of the important monuments are in Old Delhi. The most famous are Humayun’s Tomb; Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque and Chandni Chowk bazaar. The Red Fort, built by Shah Jahan in 1639, took nine years to build and was the seat of the Mughal Capital until 1857.

Qutub Minar is India’s highest tower and represents the first Muslim Kingdom, established in 1193.

New Delhi, in great contrast is a modern and beautiful city where one can see beautiful boulevards and the government buildings, the famous Mughal Gardens, and diplomatic embassies, as well as the National Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art.

AGRA is approximately 5 hours by road from Delhi. Leaving Delhi the road is crowded with cars, busses, cows, camels, and almost every other animal one can imagine. The drive gives one a wonderful opportunity to appreciate rural india and provides great photo opportunities.

The main two monuments of Agra are the Taj Mahal, modelled on the Islamic gardens of Paradise, a monument of love built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife and widely recognized as one of the most exquisite buildings ever created; and the Agra Fort, situated on the west Bank of the Yamuna River. The fort was built by Emperor Akbar between 1565 and 1573.

Temples of Khajuraho

Central India is also home to the temples of Khajuraho, each one a masterwork of carving depicting gods, lovers, musicians, maidens and others celebrated during the Chandela dynasty in the ninth and tenth centuries.

Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is often called “The Pink City” because many of its buildings are this color. The city is one of the most famous of India and its main highlights are the City Palace Museum with its famous Observatory; Hawa Mahal (the Palace of the Winds) built in 1799 by Sawi Pratap Singh to allow his harem ladies to watch life in the city, and the magnificent Amber Fort.

Udaipur, known as the City of Lakes, is the historic capital of the kingdom of Mesar, in the Ratputana. It was founded in 1559 by Maharana Udai Singh II. The legend says Maharana Udai SinghII, while hunting in the Aravalli Range, came upon a hermit who blessed him and asked him to build a palace, assuring him it would be well protected.

Udaipur Lake Palace

Udaipur is also known for its Rajput palaces. The Lake Palace covers an entire island in the Pichola Lake. Udaipur is often called the “Venice of the East” because of its beautiful Lake Pichola.

Visit the temples Eklingji, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Nagda (Temples of the Mother and Daughter-in-law), dedicated to Vishnu. These eleventh century temples are renowned for their magnificent sculptures depicting scenes from the Ramayana.

Varanasi is the holiest of Indian cities and also the most important pilgrimage for Hindus, who believe that anybody who dies in the land of Varanasi will attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. The origins of Varanasi are unknown but the River Ganges is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals. Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world and the River Ganges is said to have its origins in the tresses of Lord Shiva and in Varanasi. The city has been a center of learning and civilization for over 3000 years. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment just 10kms away, Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Knowledge, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts have all flourished here for centuries.

Street food, India

Khajuraho, located in Central India, is famous for its beautiful Hindu and Jain temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples contain magnificent erotic rock carvings and are considered a manifestation of the essence of philosophy of Indian aesthetics. The erotic sculptures of Khajuraho depicting Kama Sutra are unique in the world.

The temples of Khajuraho were built between 950 to 1050 A.D. during the Chandela dynasty of Central India (These rulers claimed descent from the moon, hence the name Chandela). After the decline of the Chandela dynasty in 13th century, the temples were left under the cover of dense date palm trees for many years, which gave the city of Khajuraho its name.

Beyond the land itself there is much to marvel at in India. The inventive cuisine with its imaginative spicing. The gorgeous jewelry and fabrics. The ethereal music and dance. The rare and beautiful wildlife. The exceptional and talented people. This is a land in which to see the world become new.