Where better to visit old temples and churches and mosques than almost any city in India. I even managed to capture this shot of a Baptist church through the tourist van’s window. It was right in the middle of a very busy street not far from Connaught Circus, jammed between larger buildings with large delivery trucks parked in front which I purposely cropped out of this shot:
It seems in India, not just religious monuments, but everything else just about can (and often do) have several names. That makes it near impossible for people like me to remember. With few exceptions, New Delhi being one of them, cities I’ve known for years as Bombay, Calcutta, Cochin or Madras are now called Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi and Chennai. I had only just committed the southern city of Trivandrum–a lovely old city–to memory when they decided to call it by its original name, Thiruvananthapuram. Only someone born with a more flexible tongue than I have can ever put that many syllables together at once without sounding as though they have a plug of chewing tobacco or snuff in their mouth. The first official stop on our tour of various religious buildings in New Delhi was the Hindu temple known as the Birla Mandir of it’s other moniker, The Laximinarayan Temple, since it’s dedicated to the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
I should point out that non-Hindus are not allowed in some temples in India, so when I noticed the sign that said “Welcome to All,” it made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. Thus photography not being allowed (inside the gates), was a small price to pay for the privilege of walking the grounds with my bare feet that get very cold walking on marble. I have the contributor of this lovely snapshot in Wikipedia to thank for allowing public use of his photograph which he thoughtfully took before entering the temple compound.
Afterwards we drove on to a busy central street in Old Delhi, the Chawri Bazar Road, where we found the largest and best-known mosque in India. Though we thought we had dealt with bustling traffic in New Delhi, Old Delhi was another experience altogether. All I can say is, having been a pedestrian a long time ago on some of those same streets, when it was already so crowded–and so busy–it was terribly easy to lose yourself or your children. I was glad to be sitting high up in the seat of a large van checking things out from the window. Inside, of course, the very first thing you always have to–regardless of religion–is take off your shoes. In this mosque, ML and I–being (gasp!) women, we were required hide our naturally sensuous bodies as well. You’ll notice all those pretty colors piled up waiting . . . . I was hoping for my favorite turquoise, but guess what color they thrust in my hand!
Is that not the most hideous orange color–sooo not me–?! Luckily the dress worked its magic; not a single pass was made to either ML or me, by Christian, Muslim, Hindu or possible Atheist, although with those outfits I can’t imagine why not. And that’s me disturbing the pigeons as our guide guaranteed me he could get a shot of them in flight if I shooed them. (Don’t you love seeing flocks of birds fly upwards in unison? I certainly do.)
Now we come to one of my favorite memories at this Jama Masjid. Our guide was a Sikh (Sikhism–as I understand it–is another sect of Hinduism), who in his neatly wrapped black turban already fit my idea of exotic and mysterious, but when he led us aside to a small stall along one wall, I had a come with me to the Casbah moment. Take a good look at the expression of the face of the man in the stall in the picture below.
See what I mean? Although I can’t remember what was in the silver tray (Hubby says it ‘s a sandal worn by the Prophet), I do remember the hand drawn old parchment-like-book that looked super old! Perhaps it’s a copy of a Quran:
There was also, as I recall, a coarse looking hair–purportedly from the Prophet Mohamed’s beard–and a bone fragment that looked like the tibia. My favorite was the Prophet’s footprint on a fragment of granite. You can’t tell from the picture I’m afraid, but based on Michael Jordan’s Nike I saw somewhere, the Prophet Mohamed wore about a size 13.
Later we were wondering how heavy he had to have been in order to leave a footprint on the side of a mountain like that.
Why do we mortals tend to be so fascinated with bone fragments and hairs and footprints of religious figures anyway? We were to visit quite a number more churches and mosques and temples in the next weeks, and many of them featured similar relics to ogle. How can authenticity be proven; who could we ask? I will continue to be fascinated whenever and wherever I come across this sort of thing. We all–ML, Hubby and I–ultimately decided that what will really, really, reallllllly, impress us is when we see a frozen block of water Jesus walked on, with–you guessed it–his footprint on it!