Today was a very long day. First of all, I hardly slept. Then we got up early for breakfast and hurried off to our bus. We left by 8:30AM and it was already extremely hot.
Qutub Minar & Iron Pillar & Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Our first site was the Qutub complex, built around 1192. Our tour guide took us around the ruins and I was shocked by its size, complexity, and visitors. These visitors were obnoxious, touching and picking at the walls and pulling at members of our group to have pictures the white students.
I took some pictures of brightly colored wasps and some lounging Indian Palm Squirrels. We moved quickly to the next site.
Visiting this temple (built 1986), we weren’t allowed to take pictures, wear shoes, or talk inside. It was already getting to peak heat when we took our shoes off and ran towards the straw mats to save our feet from the scorching marble tiles. Again, I was shocked by visitors who spoke and took pictures inside the building. We sat for a moment inside on the prayer benches, then hurried out to get our shoes and head to the next site. Just after pulling out of the parking lot, every student was delivered one coconut with a straw from the stand outside of the temple entrance.
This site is in fact a giant astrological center with buildings used to measure time up to a precision of one half of a second as well as some buildings meant for determining the equinoxes, etc. We got yelled at for climbing one building to look inside. The policeman blew his whistle, but we were just following the guide’s instructions. Afterwards, we decided it was time for lunch and a break.
When we returned to the hotel, we had a traditional lunch and then two free hours. I chose to find the pool and swim outside for a few minutes. It was the hottest time of day! Some others joined as well and we were given spinach lassis and frozen fruit kebobs. Then I came back to get ready to leave again and to upload my pictures.
Finally, we arrived at the Akshardham area. I really wish I had pictures, but we weren’t allowed cameras or anything due to past bomb threats. We realized they were very serious about their rules when my friend tried to sneak my phone, her phone, and her camera in her bag and got them confiscated. Another student had shorts on that came above her knee, so she was made to wrap a couple scarves around her to cover up. We managed to negotiate picking up our confiscated goods after we were ready to leave.
First, we walked through the temple. I wish I had photos of these evening visits – just check out the link to the complex. It’s an incredible carving job of over 7,000 carvers for 5 years. In the temple, an elaborate room was painted with real gold touches and dotted with actual gems. We had to leave our shoes, yet again, but this time the shoes were mixed up and we were separated from the other half of our group. I ended up with shoes that wouldn’t even go on my feet, so I had to walk across scorching pavement for a fair distance. Thankfully, my feet grew numb quickly.
Next, we visited the museum with moving statues that told the story of the peaceful founder?. It depicted his 49 years of life and was slightly bizarre. People chucked money towards him in most scenes, but no one dared try to hit him or one of his followers. Some children bowed in prayer. We were ushered from room to room to see the exhibit at lightning speed. The opening scene was dramatic and empowering, talking about how you can sculpt a human by taking your stone, your chisel, and your effort to shape yourself. The last scene, after preaching life without violence, was a bunch of signs with animals saying things like “Mommy, why do humans raise us and kill us for sport?” Or “Why do they eat eggs when we don’t eat their babies?”
We then rushed to ride a “boat ride”, which was really just like a park ride that floated through cave-like rooms with stories, music, and a narrator coming from our speakers. By this point, I was falling asleep pretty intensely.
After the boat ride, we sat on the steps to watch the light show to music. It wasn’t that impressive compared to Bellagio, but I was surprised by the buildup. It was also completely in Hindi. I thought I saw a face projected into the one fan of water, but no one else saw it. Police man paced the outskirts of the fountain with bomb-sniffing dogs, pressuring the crowd back as it kept slipping forward. I liked the parts of the show where jets of water were interrupted and filled with orange light to replicate glitter falling. I also recognized a large peacock made from the lights dancing in a colorful fan.
We grabbed North Indian food at the Premvati food court, then went to catch our bus and return to sleep. We leave early in the morning. My roommate is finally arriving, but I’ll probably be in bed before she does. Hopefully this won’t keep me up if we’re leaving so early!