A Passage to India
November 15, 2012
Last month I returned from a family trip to India. Our tour was with the vegetarian tour company, Veg Voyages. We went on the Green Triangle Tour, which took us mostly through the state of Rajasthan.
First, we landed in New Delhi. Bustling and busy, the city was awash with color and life. Stray dogs paraded everywhere throughout the city and cows, regarded as sacred, own the streets. Drivers had to make their way around them. If a herd crossed the road in front of your car, you simply had to wait it out. Taxis, cars, peddle-rickshaws, motorcycles, and trucks made up a steady stream of organized chaos. Everyone rode on motorcycles. It was very common to see a family of four or more sharing one. Father, mother in sari, and little children perched in-between.
In Kishangarh we stayed at Phool Mahal, a maharajah’s palace built in 1870. In the morning, our group did yoga in the courtyard with the sun coming up over Kishangarh Fort. We visited the markets and danced at a local school’s fun fair. Kishangarh is famous for its marble, so we toured a marble factory before exploring Roopangarh Fort.
Jaipur, called the Pink City, is the capital of Rajasthan. Vast and beautiful, Jaipur is home to some of the most majestic forts in India. We visited both the Amber Fort and Nahargarh Fort, as well as seeing Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory which boasts the world’s largest sundial. While in Jaipur, we also visited an animal sanctuary, a heartbreaking yet wonderful point in our trip. The shelter housed mostly dogs, treating them and getting them ready for adoption, but also tended horses, donkeys, peacocks, and even a large pig who had become a permanent resident.
On our way to Bharatpur, we stopped to have tea at the Bandikui train station and visited Chand Bawri, a famous stepwell built in the 9th century. The hotel we stayed at in Bharatpur was near the wildlife reserve, which we explored on bicycles and peddle rickshaws. The Keoladeo National Park is home to over three hundred species of different birds as well antelope, gazelles, and giant turtles.
At last we reached Agra, and there we saw the magnificent Taj Mahal. When you walked through the interior, it felt much smaller and quite dark, which seemed fitting for a royal mausoleum. The Taj was built as a tomb to honor the marahajah’s beloved wife who died in childbirth. Today their bodies rest in a chamber below the main level.
India is a land of contrasts and wonder. Some days it felt like we were very far away from home, but the trip was so exciting, the distance didn’t seem to truly matter at all. Most of all it was an experience never to be forgotten.