to all the ghosts, ghouls, gory goblins, bats, bloodcurdling witches on broomsticks with mobile cauldrons flying over cemeteries cackling to the creepy, eerie, frightening and bloody Grim Reaper and all lost souls.
On this trip to India, we visited many temples and forts.
One clearly remains uppermost on my mind, that is of course, the visit to a Sikh Temple.
Throughout India’s history, religion has been an important part of the country’s culture. The main religions are: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
The most dominant religion is Hinduism. This accounts for about 80% of the population.
About 2% of India’s population are Sikhs.
What I particularly like about Sikhism is that everyone has equal rights. This is irrespective of caste, creed, colour, race, sex or religion.
They have placed an emphasis on community services and helping the needy. They work towards universal, selfless love.
Everyone in the community is looked after and receive food daily.
Nobody is asked any questions. Nobody is judged.
The creators of Sikhism tried (unsuccessfully) to abolish some of the old Indian customs such as the caste system.
Every Sikh is expected to voluntarily contribute to their community by preparing free meals in the kitchen. The common kitchen is called Langar. In every place of worship, (Gurdwara) there is a Langar.
The meals are served to all and are eaten sitting on the floor.
This is to emphasise the point that all are equal.
Sikhism does not believe in fasting. They see the body as God’s gift to the human race.
Therefore, people must foster, maintain and preserve the body in good, sound condition.
I must admit it was a very humbling experience to be a part of this event. It was also a privilege to be invited to participate in the preparation of the food.
What a wonderful way to treat your people in you community.
I am so glad to have these memories of my trip to India
The Sikhs are recognised by five signs. These signs are, uncut hair; comb; sword or dagger; bracelet on the right wrist and shorts.
The religious Sikhs dress, carry a sword. Most of the Sikhs, even today, have uncut hair and gather it in a turban.
We are all so familiar with the iconic Taj Mahal, but did you know that it means, Crown of the Palace. It is an ivory-white marble mausoleum and has to be witnessed in person to be fully appreciated.
It is situated on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It is a World Heritage Site and has been declared a winner of the new Seven Wonders of the World (2000 – 2007 initiative)
It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–1658), to house the tomb of his (favourite wife !) Mumtaz Mahal a Persian princess. Her name means “Jewel of the Palace” or “Chosen One of the Palace”. She died having given birth to their 14th child. The princess expressed her wish to be remembered in a formal manner.
The Taj Mahal took approximately 20 years to build and 20,000 workers to complete. This surely was a true declaration of his undying love for this lady.
The tomb lies in the centre of the complex, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall.
We arrived at 5.00 am to catch the sunrise.
As you approach the Taj Mahal – its breath-taking beauty steals your heart. We were in awe and a quiet, respectful hush prevailed.
Once you reach the white marble steps, you can no longer take photographs (sorry about that). Also, you must wear special socks to enter the mausoleum as if you were entering a pharmaceutical plant or operating theatre! This is where you will witness the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal.
The emperor’s tomb was later added to the mausoleum so that he could be beside his loved one.
The Lure of India has always beckoned. As an artist, the colours, the culture, the costumes, the diversity attracted me like a magnet!
Our travel company advised us that we would be:
Never a truer statement was made!
This is just a taste of what we encountered on our visit to India and I hope you will enjoy the visit with me.
Injections, medications, visas all in order before we set off on our adventure!
After a seven hour flight from Dublin to Dubai, followed by three and half hours to Delhi, then throw in a time difference of plus five and a half hours = exhaustion!
We begin our cultural visit to UNESCO World Heritage SitesQutub Minar, the world’s tallest brick minaret and Humayan’s Tomb dating back to 1193
Qutub Minar made of sandstone and marble elegantly reaches towards the sky. It dates back to 1192 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a 240 ft tower in five stories – How could they possibly have built such a tall and magnificent structure back in those days?
We really had some fun when we took a ride around Delhi in a rickshaw and got a real taste of India and the streets of old Delhi.
There were fruit traders, barbers, ear-wax removal, faith healers, people sleeping, people washing – mayhem and chaos. All life was on those streets – marginalised lives and daily survivors.
We didn’t dare to enter the market – it was enormous and felt we would definitely get lost in such a chaotic environment but it was great to observe from the bus. There were shoes and more shoes and even more shoes again!
We took a visit to the buriel site of Mahatma Gandhi Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Because of Gandhi’s allegiance to Pakistan, some Indians thought Gandhi was too accommodating. Among them was Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest. What a shame!
We also visited the Jama Masjid Mosque which dates back to 1644 and it took over 5000 workers to construct.
Did you know that there are 36 (28 cultural, 7 natural and 1 mixed) World Heritage Sites in India that are recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of August 2017.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of my trip to India where I will tell you about the visit to the magnificent Taj Mahal.