Lindsey and I had quite the jam packed weekend of travel, sight seeing, food, and culture enrichment.
To start, this past Friday we took our first ever night train from Dehradun to Delhi (it left at 11:30 pm). Sleeping on a bunk bed amongst strangers in a moving train was certainly an interesting experience, but I ended up liking it much more than just sitting on a train for so many hours because I was actually able to sleep. YAY for sleep, am I right?!
Once we got to New Delhi that morning, our CFHI driver drove us to a town called Amer. Once we got there, we explored the Amber Fort. (So our Delhi coordinator provided us with a plethora of information regarding all of these historical/tourist sites, so a lot of what I’ll write in this blog came from information that she provided us!) This monument is a fortress-palace of white and red sandstone that was built by Raja Man Singh I, one of the first war chiefs of the trusted Emperor Akbar in 1592. Emperor Akbar considered him to be among one of the nine “Navaratnas,” or the gems of the royal court. Singh I later became the Rajput (King) of Amber, a state later known as Jaipur. Amber Fort is known for its artistic style, blending both Hindu and Rajput elements. With its large ramparts, series of gates, and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks the Maota Lake at its forefront. I also got to see my first elephant ever up close!! I never understood how beautiful and majestic they would seem, but after witnessing it first hand I was truly taken aback.
After we finished exploring the Amber Fort, we were on our way to Jaipur, the Pink City! There, we stopped and took a picture in front of the Water Palace! After that, we went to the Wind Palace. For those of you who have never heard of the Wind Palace, I have a history recap for you! So…in 1799, the (Kachhwaha) Rajput ruler, Sawai Pratap Singh ordered the construction of the palace. At the time, the Rajput royal ladies were not allowed to be seen by strangers or appear in any public area. Therefore, the construction of Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace) allowed the royal ladies to enjoy street activities and royal processions without being seen, otherwise known as the Purdah System. Hawa Mahal was built in the form of Krishna’s crown because Sarai Pratap Singh was devoted to Krishna, the Hindu god. The mahal has small pink windows, balconies and arched roofs with hanging cornices. The large number of windows in the palace are each the size of a peep hole so the royal ladies could not be seen by the public.
Once we finished at the Mahal, we checked into our very quaint hotel at the Jaipur Inn. I will say…. if you ever find yourself in Jaipur, you MUST stay here! This hotel has such kind and good natured staff that is attentive to everything you need. The manager of the hotel even invited us on some of his Sunday outings. After we changed clothes at the hotel, we went to the much anticipated Chokhi Dhani. Choki Dhani captures the vibrant spirit of the Rajasthani experience. Both foreign and native tourists of India come here for the amazing experience it offers. Choki Dhani shows the real Rajasthan through recreated sets of Indian villages and states, paintings, Bani Thani art, evening performances, the ‘manuhar’ (a delicate request to eat till your heart’s desire), traditions, and costumes.
After spending the night in Jaipur, we woke up bright and early to leave for Agra (a city in the state of Uttarpresh). Agra is where the Taj Mahal (!!!!!!) and Red Fort are! Wow. Do I mean The Taj Mahal as in one of the man-made seven wonders of the world?! You got it! The Taj is a white marble tomb that was built in 1631-48 in Agra by Shah Jehan for his wife, Arjuman Banu Begum. Shah built the monument during the Mughal empire reign and it is representative of Islamic architecture. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”
Agra (Red) Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site also located in Agra, India. It is about 2.5 km northwest of the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city that worked both as a military strategic point and a royal residence. Agra played an important part of Mughal Empire as Akbar decided to make it his capital in Agra in 1558.
After we were done gazing at the magnificent Taj Mahal, we drove back to Delhi to catch our night train. Before we took our night train, we stopped and had dinner with the New Delhi program coordinators for CFHI. We all enjoyed some delicious chicken biryani while discussing Indian history, culture, politics, and religion. I am learning and absorbing so much from every conversation I have with someone here, and it feels great.
We got back to Dehradun and then left for the village of Patti shortly after that. We will be doing our rotations here until Friday (3/22), so I will be sure to inform you guys all about this experience during the next blog post!