In a quirk of modern air-travel, it is usually cheaper to travel from Bhopal to Bangalore via New Delhi, which is about 750 kilometres in the opposite direction, than via Mumbai which would appear to be a much shorter route. This time Anusha and I decided to use the opportunity thus afforded to stay over in New Delhi for a little over a day and see some of the main tourist attractions.
As I have noted before, to someone coming from a place like Bangalore where traffic is always slowed down by congestion and potholes, the fast traffic on the smooth and wide roads of New Delhi comes as a bit of a shock. Taxi drivers drive even faster than the other folks, not bothering to slow down for junctions or turns. Everyone snakes in and out of traffic lanes with abandon and freely exchanges expletives at the slightest provocation.
Despite the presence of so much traffic, the air-pollution seems to be manageable, no doubt helped by the mandatory installation of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) systems in public vehicles. New Delhi also has a lot of green trees, quite unlike that jungle of concrete, Mumbai. One of the more surprising sights for me in New Delhi was the row of toll booths at the entry to the DND Flyway, something that you rarely see in a developing country like India.
Among the standard tourist attractions, some of the places were either only mildly interesting or particularly underwhelming. However, I was particularly fascinated by Humayun's Tomb, the Qutub Minar complex and the Red Fort.
I had not expected Humayun's Tomb to be such a big, peaceful and beautiful complex. It was restored and beautified only as recently as 2003. The main mausoleum is particularly remarkable since it looks so similar to the Taj Mahal, although it was constructed almost 100 years before the latter. Some of the other buildings in the complex are also nice, although many of the places reek very strongly of bat droppings.
Even the Qutub Minar surprised me with its height and beauty. It has beautiful carvings on its walls and a nice pattern to the first three storeys. Sadly however, the last two storeys, which were later additions, are quite discordant with the rest of the tower. While the Qutub Minar is quite impressive by itself, one can only imagine the magnificence of the entire complex in its prime by looking at its sad remains. Some of the walls still retain bits of intricate carvings.
The Red Fort was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a palace for his eponymous new capital Shahjahanabad. It is a splendid structure and seems fairly well-preserved. Of particular note are the royal residence, the "deewan-e-aam" (where the emperor met the common people), the "deewan-e-khaas" (where the emperor met his ministers and important guests) and the museum housing some interesting artefacts of that era. The "deewan-e-khaas", the emperor's seat in the "deewan-e-aam" and the royal residence are lavishly decorated and are a must-see.
I have created a Picasa web-album that has some more pictures from New Delhi.