I officially started my study abroad trip in India!
I met up with my fellow AIFS students, and we began our program-led Golden Triangle tour of India, fittingly in the capital city of India: New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Rajpat, or the King’s Way, leads to a roundabout where the Supreme Court, House of Parliament, President’s house (the largest world leader residence in the world), and Capital buildings are found. At night, the buildings are beautifully lit up in different colors, and the surrounding fountains are illuminated with the colors of the Indian flag: orange, white, and green.
We continued our tour with our tour guide, Jimmy, who told us there were 20 million people living in Delhi, and 10 million vehicles, but none of those vehicles would be able to fit on the narrow roads in Old Delhi, so we hopped on some rickshaws to explore the centuries-old architecture and incredibly vibrant displays in the various shops. Our rickshaw driver (or cyclist, it’s a gray area) deftly navigated the twists and turns of the path while pointing out many of the 300 historical monuments in Delhi.
We wrapped up our rickshaw (say that ten times fast!) tour, then Jimmy then took us to a local shop called Kashmir Cashmere, which is run by artisans from Kashmir who had migrated to Delhi. They sold beautifully intricate textiles and artwork, and the store owner shared with us the traditions of his ancestors.
He started out by serving us piping hot saffron tea. They drink it three times a day, which was astounding because saffron costs more than silver, so it took a little while to convince myself to take a sip of this expensive cup of tea.
He then took us into the showroom and demonstrated how they hand-weave their famous Kashmiri rugs, prayer mats, wall hangings, and scarves. They use hand-drawn patterns that look like cross-stitch or color-by-numbers, and it’s very detailed and mathematical.
This tradition dates back all the way to the Mughals, as exemplified by the “mango” motif that you’ll see everywhere on Indian clothing and in henna designs. This traditional design originated from the stamp or seal of Mughal emperors, which they created by rolling their hand into a fist, applying ink to the side with the pinky, then pressed down (try it, it turns out pretty cool). Each stamp was one-of-a-kind, just like every individual piece in this shop.
Afterwards, we took a drive to Humayun’s Tomb, which was built by his wife in his honor in 1565, and was the first monument built in India purely according to Muslim architectural styles, without any Turkish or Mongolian influences.
After exploring the various buildings in the large compound, we reached Humayun’s tomb, which Jimmy said is essentially an “introduction to the Taj Mahal.” We were taken aback by the massive historical landmark constructed out of red sandstone with outlines of marble, so I can’t imagine how incredible the Taj Mahal is going to be. Good thing our next stop is Agra!