Another day in South Delhi, via the Metro, to visit some of the most well known sights and one of the least. Also, experiencing at close quarters some of the real hardship endured by many people living on the streets of Delhi.
We headed south again on the Metro, this time to Kalkaji Mandir station. It’s the nearest station to two of the most impressive modern temple structures in Delhi – The Lotus (Baha’i faith) Temple, and the ISKCON (Krishna) Temple. But first a detour. Kalkaji Mandir takes its name from the small Temple to Kali, tucked away down an inauspicious passageway off one side of the main street to the Lotus Temple. No signposts advertising its presence, but a motley collection of red pennant flags at jaunty angles on its roof give away the location. The covered lane is packed with market traders selling religious votive offerings, and beggars seeking alms. Then at the end of the lane, a queue of locals making their way barefoot into and around the small temple. Quite a unique experience to see one aspect of another religion close up and first hand.
A further 15 minutes walk away is the beautiful and impressive modern concrete structure of the Lotus Temple, or Baha’i House of Worship. People from all faiths are welcome to sit and meditate in silence inside the giant dome. You have to remove your shoes before entering (and carry them in a shopping bag supplied by staff), and maintain complete silence within the hall. The temple is set amongst some colourful gardens, maintained by the use of recycled water.
Next to the Lotus Temple grounds, a short stretch of public parkland leads to the nearby ISKCON temple, run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (or Hare Krishnas). A small procession of devotees were working their way towards the entrance, following a group of drummers.
After visiting the temples, we headed north a few stops to Jangpura station, from where it looked to be a walk of less than a mile to the Tomb of Humayun near the River Yamuna. The walk took us along a quarter mile section of the Lodhi Road, where dozens of the very lowest classes of Indian society were living on the street in poverty and filth. Families with young children, with little more than makeshift tents of old material to shelter in. The roadside they call home strewn with litter, as are many of the quieter backstreets of Delhi. Plastic waste, mainly polythene bags and food wrappers, is a huge and very visible problem in most of the areas we have visited. Quite a shocking contrast to see, knowing that only a couple of hundred yards away on an adjacent road sits the magnificent Oberoi Hotel, at a service level and corresponding price band way outside even our own western budget.
Humayun’s Tomb – The first attraction we’ve actually had to pay any admission fee for! Indian Nationals may enter for just a few rupees, whereas the foreign tourist rate is 500 rupees each (about £6). A very impressive sight to see, it’s easy to spot the inspiration leading to the Taj Mahal. The older red sandstone architecture is beginning to include and give way to white marble elements. After spending maybe an hour looking around, we headed back to Jangpura station, this time taking an autorickshaw or ‘Tuk Tuk’ to avoid walking through the poorer part of town we had earlier experienced.
Cash Surplus: A further 20,000 rupees withdrawn today, and I’m beginning to feel a bit more comfortable about our cash position. I reckon we can now get round a good part of our Jaipur / Ranthambore / Agra travel plans without having to worry too much about ATM availability. But it’s never far from our thoughts.