Saturday, March 26, 2016

Final Impressions of our trip to India

We enjoyed our trip to India.  It is a large and diverse country.  People in the North look and sound different than people in the south.  It reflects the many different ethnicities and city states that made up the country.  The golden age appears to have been during the period of 1500 - 1700 when the Mughals, those decedents of Genghis Khan came down into what is now India and conquered vast areas of land.  True they made some incredible monuments but undoubtedly with slave labor.

Today India is on the move.  Bangalulu has a lot of high tech companies that have come to take advantage of low cost labor and a fairly well educated work force.  India is crowded.  There are people walking around everywhere.  Traffic is horrendous and will probably be a challenge to future growth.  Most of the people we met with spoke pretty good English.  Hindi and English are the two official languages of the country but there are 26 dialects spoken throughout the country.

I like spicy food, but to me Indian food is "burn your face off hot"  There are no little clues on restaurant menus as to what is "spicy" and what is not.  I ordered mostly off the children's menu.  The Indian culture is very different than Western cultures.  Things like "saving face" are critically important to Indians and to not offend.  This can be very confusing to a Westerner where "telling the truth" is of utmost importance.   There is a very strong "cast system" in India.  There are different levels of social strata.  You are born into one strata and you do not move up.  Indians have a dark complexion but the lighter your skin the higher your social status.  This is very different than the modern ethnically diverse Western society. Some people literally have a job of handing out paper towels in the bathrooms, or lifting luggage onto the scales at the airport, or sweeping leaves off of lawns.

The people are friendly and helpful.  They are kind.  We did not see a lot of Westerners on our travels.  Most of the tourists we saw were from India, seeing the famous sites in their own country.  We were as much as a curiosity as the sites were in some places, especially Eden and JJ with their blond hair.  Eden, whose hair is white, not just blond, was a special attraction.  People wanted to take her picture everywhere we went.  Not only that, they usually wanted a picture of her with their whole family.  Jesse was very kind about it, but after a while we just had to say no.  Eden was very patient about it as well.  We gained an appreciation of what celebrities go through with the paparazzi.

Jesse's family has a good life.  The kids are in excellent schools and are having a unique cultural experience that will shape them in a good way for years to come.  Cori is enjoying the challenges of his work assignment.  Jesse is a good sport and making an adventure out of the challenges of maintaining a household in India.

The LDS church is tiny in India.  But it is growing.  Their branch was just made into a Ward and a Stake.  The Mission President, and Area General Authority are in their Ward.  They attend in a very nicely built chapel.  It looks pretty much like the chapels at home only a little smaller.  They call local Indians to have leadership responsibilities and then take the Americans and others with more church experience and put them in support rolls.  This way the locals can learn to run the church themselves.  Many members travel for hours by bus to attend the meetings.  For this reason, there are the Sunday meetings but no mid-week activities.  From what I could learn all of the converts to the church came from a Christian background.  There were no Muslim, Hindu, Bahia, or Jainism converts.  Christianity is so entirely different than the oriental religions.  Even though there are big cultural differences in India, the gospel in India felt the same as I have experienced it everywhere else.

It is good to learn that not everyone sees the world or thinks about things in the same way we do in America.  In fact they think in a way entirely different is some regards.   It is also very good to me to live in America and enjoy the many blessings that our country is endowed with.

Jaipur India

The last stop on our Golden Triangle tour was the city of Jaipur.  Jaipur is on the edge of the desert.  It reminded me of the area around Phoenix Arizona. (minus the Saguaro Cactus.

Many of the Indian women wear beautifully colored dresses.   This woman was one of the tourists visiting the sites.

Front view of Amber Fort from the road
We took a trip to the Amer Fort (they called it the Amber Fort due to the yellow walls).  It was opened in 1592 and was the palace of Raja Man Singh.  To get to the fort we rode elephants up the winding road to the top of the hill.  We rode in Jeeps to come down.  The elephant rides were a total tourist trap but an interesting experience none the less.  It was reminiscent of what it must have been like to be royalty approaching the palace.

Our perch kept sliding off to the side.  I thought we were going to end up under the Elephant.

Even Marla rode the Elephant!

 There is a "small" palace in the lake just outside the Amer Fort.

Grant and Eden practicing their medication skills.

We stopped at a shop where they were practicing the art of Hand Stamping fabric.  Small wooden molds are dipped into inks made of natural materials and then "pressed" onto the fabric.  The combination of molds makes for very intricate patterns.  Everyone got to give it a try.  Then of course we had to purchase some of their wares.

Galtaji or more commonly known as the Monkey Temple.  This Hindu temple complex dates back to the 1500s.  It is still a site of Hindu pilgrimages every year.  It is located in a very tight little mountain canyon.  The monkeys come down from the hills for hand outs from the tourists.

The monkeys were particularly attracted to Thea.  Marla does not look happy about this.  The monkeys were very dirty.

Jantar Mantar was build in 1738 by Sawai Jai Singh the area ruler at the time.  He was very interested in astronomy and built a series of 19 fixed astronomical instruments for observing the stars and the sun.  The large sun dials are the largest in the world and are accurate to within 20 seconds.

Hawa Mahal is a palace in Jaipur, India, so named because it was essentially a high screen wall built so the women of the royal household could observe street festivals while unseen from the outside.

Taj Mahal, Agra India

No trip to India would be complete without seeing one of the eight wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal.  The picture above looks like an incredible palace but it is just one of the gates to the Taj Mahal 42 acre complex. 

Three million people a year visit the Taj Mahal.  I think half of them were there with us.   Notice the lines of people and how small they are  at the entrance to the building to get an idea of the immense grandeur of the Taj. 

Again this is not a palace but a mausoleum built by a Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan.  It was was built for his favorite wife who died in childbirth after baring him 14 children.  He made a vow to never marry again and the Taj was a symbol of his love for her.   

Construction began in 1632 and was completed in 1648,  22,000 laborers were involved in it's construction.

The Mughals were Muslims and the inscriptions around the doors are verses from the Koran that are inlaid with black onyx carved into the marble.
The letters are much larger up high so as to give the visual illusion that they are of uniform size. 

Notice the monkeys at the top of the scaffolding. 

Cori and JJ

The Gs, Grant and Grace
Sunrise view from across the Yamuna River

While in Agra we stopped in a shop where they are trying to keep alive the art of engraving colored stones into the white marble.  This is the same technique used to decorate the Taj Mahal.  Their show room was pretty amazing.  All carved in marble.  We had to take a little something home.  

New Delhi India

After Christmas we took a little tour of some cities in the northern part of India.  It is called the "Golden Triangle" and has some of the more spectacular sights in India.  First stop was the capital city of New Delhi.
The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal emperor of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857. It is located in the centre ofDelhi and houses a number of museums. In addition to accommodating the emperors and their households, it was the ceremonial and political centre of Mughal government and the setting for events critically impacting the region.  It was built in 1648.  It is called a fort and was certainly fortified but it served as the emperor's palace.
India has lots of little shops and street vendors.  There also appear to be a lot of men hanging around.  Everywhere.
These are Tuk Tuks.  They are three wheeled taxis or a motorized rickshaw.  They are everywhere and are an affordable way to get around.  They run on natural gas  (India's attempt to clean up the air)  Our guide tried to convince us that the smog and haze we were seeing in the city was really just fog.  I wasn't buying it.  I saw one of these tuk tuks with seven people in it.
We took a rickshaw ride (bicycle powered) through the ancient bazaar in New Delhi.  Disney has got nothing on these guys for "E" ticket rides.  Lots of traffic, lots of people, horns, the drivers shouting and lots of people wanting to touch JJ and Eden's blond heads.

 Even though this is a major shopping area, we were told it was most a wholesale business area and our guides did not let us off the rickshaws.  (Thank goodness).  
Notice the electrical system.  Becomes a problem when it rains.

I had to take a spin on the rickshaw.  I think I went about one foot.  

India has many religions.  Hindu, Muslin, Sikhs, Jainism , Bahai.  This picture is in front of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.  It is a Sikh temple.  To go inside we had to cover our heads and go barefoot.  They said the floors were perfectly clean.  They weren't.   It was built in 1783.  They have a community meal every day and feet around 3000 people.  We went into the kitchen and the girls even helped in the preparations. 

August 15 is India's Independence day when they became independent from Great Briton. 
Qutub Minar, at 120 meters, is the tallest brick minaret in the world

Qutub Minar is a Unesco World Heritage site.  Construction of the tower began in 1200 AD and was added to by various rulers over the next 200 years.  

India has had various periods of time when the Hindus were in charge and various periods of time when the Islamist were in charge. Ancient Hindu architecture has lots of ornate carvings with a lot of animal depictions.  Islamic architecture has no such images and more geometric designs. 
We stopped by a store that sells hand made woolen carpets that come from the Cashmere region of India.  Each carpet takes months to make, hand tying the thousands of individual strands.  We had a demonstration and of course an opportunity to make a purchase.  Once they realized we might actually buy one all kinds of people showed up with lots of samples to view.  We ended up taking the two below home.   The red one is under the dinning room table and the other one lives in the family room now.

JJ was more interested in the elephant.
This is called the Lotus Temple.  
Like all other Bahá'í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all, regardless of religion, or any other distinction, as emphasized in Bahá'í texts. The Bahá'í laws emphasize that the spirit of the House of Worship be that it is a gathering place where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions. The Bahá'í laws also stipulate that not only the holy scriptures of the Bahá'í Faith but also those of other religions can be read and/or chanted inside the House of Worship regardless of language; while readings and prayers can be set to music by choirs, no musical instruments can be played inside. Furthermore, no sermons can be delivered, and there can be no ritualistic ceremonies practiced.
This is the Humayun's Tomb.  It is referred to as a model of the Taj Mahjal.  While it appears to be a grand palace, it is actually a mausoleum for the remains of the Mughal Emperor Humayun.  It was commissioned by his son and completed in 1572.  It houses the remains of the emperor, his son and grandson. 

Much of the Unesco World Heritage sites we saw were from the Mughal Empire era.   The Mughals were descendants of Genghis Chan.  This is what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about the Mughals (also know as Mongols)
Mughal dynastyMughal also spelled Mogul, Arabic MongolIndia, history of: development of Mughal Empire [Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.]Muslim dynasty of Turkic-Mongol origin that ruled most of northern India from the early 16th to the mid-18th century. After that time it continued to exist as a considerably reduced and increasingly powerless entity until the mid-19th century. The Mughal dynasty was notable for its more than two centuries of effective rule over much of India, for the ability of its rulers, who through seven generations maintained a record of unusual talent, and for its administrative organization. A further distinction was the attempt of the Mughals, who were Muslims, to integrate Hindus and Muslims into a united Indian state.

The dynasty was founded by a Chagatai Turkic prince named Bābur(reigned 1526–30), who was descended from the Turkic conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) on his father’s side and from Chagatai, second son of the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, on his mother’s side. Ousted from his ancestral domain in Central Asia, Bābur turned to India to satisfy his appetite for conquest. 
Delhi Akshardham is a modern Hindu Temple.  It was completed in 2005.  It is built of white marble and has ornate carvings of Hindu history throughout.  Truly spectacular.  Incredible crowds.  High Security.  No Cameras allowed.  We watched a pretty impressive water show.  It was all in Hindi so we couldn't understand much of what was going on.  The Oriental religions we learned about have very devout followers.  They seem to embrace anything that is good.  I couldn't detect a set of doctrines.  They do embrace the billions of Rupees they collect as admission fees for the temple and water show.  Which we happily paid. Disneyland has got nothing on these folks when it comes to crowds and lines.  Westerners can pay a higher entrance fee and shorten the line considerably.  No escaping the crowds.  
The capital region of New Delhi is very nice.  The streets are wide and tree lined.  There is not a lot of traffic and the buildings are spaced with a distance between them and the streets are designed so you can see the buildings and monuments at the end of the street.  Their capital is modeled after the US capital.  The "India Arch"  looks a lot like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  It is a monument to the 82,000 Indians who died in World War I.  

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