Trek to Kedarnath Temple at the Source of the Ganges

In the Himalayan mountains of Uttarakhand in India, the Chardham Yatra is a pilgrimage that leads to the sources of the Ganges and its tributaries. The itinerary brings together four sacred temples of Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamounotri, and Kedarnath. This trip offers to immerse completely in the universe of Shiva and other Parvati, in the shadow of the giant pillars of peaks bordering 7000 meters.

The Kedarnath Peak culminates in 6968 meters, the Sumeru Parbat at 6350 meters, and the Bharte Kunta at 6578 meters. If the origins of Char Dham seem obscure, this pilgrimage to the gates of heaven is usually between April and October.

Day 1

The adventure begins in Gaurikund. We arrive here the night before, after driving a full day on more or less pleasant roads. From the Himalayan village of Gaurikund, begins the slow ascent of 17 km at 14000 meters of elevation to reach the 3,600 meters of altitude of Kedarnath. As soon as I leave Gaurikund, along the meandering path, I find a motley army of mules and donkeys.

Some pilgrims are very old while others from south India discover the Himalayan climate for the first time. Yet the path and the weather do not seem to scare anyone as all seem determined to complete the Chardham Yatra.

The trail advances to the peaks following the winding course of the Mandakini River. The Himalayan landscapes are grandiose. Along the way, several refreshment points offer pilgrims free meals with dal, rice and masala chai and must-have chapati. These invigorating breaks also make it possible to get to see the pilgrims.

Their colorful outfits are all worth a picture but to my surprise, my jacket and my hiking shoes too! This friendly contact makes it possible to forget the difficulties of the pilgrimage which promise themselves much more difficult than expected.

After long hours of walking, a last climb in laces finished me. All means are good to forget fatigue. I focus on my breathing, look at the feet of the person in front of me, count to one hundred and turn to see the path traveled, listen to music but nothing works. At this altitude, too much breathing turns to hyperventilation.

I have long since dropped and there is no longer the feet of anyone in front of me. The path seems interminable, and despite a capacity of 8 GB of music, now my iPod content annoys me. Finally arrived, I'm not at the end of my troubles as the floods have destroyed all hotels in the area. I spend the night in a tent in a military camp.

This night, the thermometer descend, under the tents, well below zero. The happiness of having arrived so far makes me forget everything else!

Trek to Kedarnath Temple at the Source of the Ganges

Day 2

In the early morning, the landscape is magical. The sun tears clouds and mist, snow-capped peaks sparkle. I begin the last two kilometers necessary before reaching the Kedarnath temple. On the way, the usual namaste of pilgrims gave way to triumphant Jai bhole ki. An engine noise rises from the valley. It is a helicopter that will drop the well-off pilgrims near the village of Kedarnath.

The last kilometers of the trek are difficult. The path zigzags on the side of a wall rising almost vertically. We then open on a plateau swept by the winds. It is a large brown steppe strewn with snow. On the rocks are cairns. All around, the peaks form a natural circus composed of black and white peaks often veiled with a lace mist.

It is a wild and remote world, not made for the man. It is a world apart, of uncompromising austerity, reigns of heights and bitterness. Everything is raw and powerful, imperious and inflexible. All this clashes in my head still cradled by the breath of the ridges dominating the Sahastra Tal.

As the altitude increases, the earth gives way to snow. After a last series of laces, at the foot of the snowy mountains, appears the beautiful Kedarnath temple erected in the eighth century by the Adi Shankracharya.

As fierce and simple as the landscape that surrounds it it looks like a block of granite. Arriving in the village, the atmosphere is almost mystical. The loudspeakers broadcast prayers recited by a hypnotizing voice in a loop, while the temple seems to spring in the middle of a pile of ruins.

The whole village was devastated except for the sacred place. The pilgrims pray near the statue of Nandi, the bull mount of Shiva, before entering the small sanctuary which contains a lingam of the God. Next door, sadhus spend time in meditative moments to reach the moksha that is the culmination of their spiritual quest.

These hermits had to give up all the pleasures of life with the exception of one of marijuana. Around a tea and a big firecracker, a sadhu tells me about his existence freed from all material and emotional ties. Aged 75, it is now 30 years since he made the pilgrimage of Chardham Yatra. For those who doubt it, he willingly unrolls his impressive hair that he has not cut since he was sadhu.

People make offerings according to a whole ritual, depositing them on a rock marked with the footprint of Shiva. The other footprint is said to be in Pashupatinath in Nepal. Already, inside, the priests began the heady litany of prayers, relayed by loudspeakers of Om Namah Shivaya. Inside are the statues of the five Pandava brothers, the protagonists of the Mahabharata.

The best known of them, Arjuna, hero of the Bhagavad Gita, stands proudly beside Krishna, his instructor, and Draupadi, the wife of the five brothers. Inside the garbhagriha, a strange conical stone two meters wide and one meter high seems to rise from the depths of the earth. It symbolizes Kedarnath Mountain and Sadashiva, the three-headed Shiva.

The black walls of the temple are wet. The soil is cold. Polished by the years, heads of gods and animals seem both to spring from the stone and to sink into it. Wicks soaked in ghee burn in the alcoves. The heavy cast iron doors seem like those of the limbo. The air of the garbhagriha is full of steam. The faithful pour on the stone, in the form of a mountain peak, water from the hot Ganges.

The coldness of the rock transforms water into gas. In this nocturnal atmosphere, through this thick mist, we listen to the sound of conch shells, bells and mantras seeming produced by the gods themselves. The atmosphere is dark, strange, and timeless.

Weekend in Nainital in Uttarakhand

I have a trying month in Delhi with the onset of the monsoon and all that it comes with is humidity, thunderstorms, and suffocating heat. I needed a place in the wild to get away from all the ubiquitous cacophony of Delhi. One of my friends told me about Nainital, a hilltop town at Uttarakhand in north India, surrounded by nature in a beautiful site around a volcanic lake. I did not think for more than a second.

Nainital is a small lakeside resort at 1938 m, very popular with tourists from Delhi, Bombay or Calcutta.

Day 1

5 o'clock in the morning. I wake up impatient and tense at the same time thinking about the day ahead. Here I am on the road accompanied by two acolytes in this mysterious adventure that awaits me. I have always loved traveling light and I do not mind getting dirty once on the road. So I take only a small backpack.

It will take us about 7 hours to reach Nainital with of course stops on the road to nibble some cookies and stretch our legs. At this early hour, traffic is still calm in the capital and I leave the city quickly. After arriving on the highway my heart start accelerating.

The cool breeze, the sound of the engine, the peaceful view of the Indian countryside and the highway that extends as far as the eye can see, confirm my choice to leave. After a hundred kilometers, I decided to stop in one of the roadside dhabas. I have the opportunity to admire a beautiful sunrise on the sunflower field along the road.

But the heavy traffic and the sounds of horns make me leave the dream and I decide to leave them as soon as possible. On our way to Haldwani I realize that there is nobody on the road and I only cross a few isolated farms on the way. It is a true moment of happiness after the noise and the bustle of the cities.

We finally reach Haldwani, who seems to have just been hit by the rain and is adorned with sparkling reflections. We do not stop long and reach the hilly road of the ghats under particularly mild weather. It's time to stop for lunch. We find another typical dhaba with a great view of the city of Hawani.

The owner, friendly and welcoming, asks us where we are going. When we tell him we go to Nainital, he looks at us amused and wonders what drives us to go there when it's been raining for weeks. I answer that it's the best time for me to travel. He laughs and then, without saying a word more and brings us a delicious meal and goes away smiling.

As the day progresses, the roads become more and more winding and the air becomes cooler. We stop in places to take some pictures. Each turn is an opportunity to admire an ever more impressive view. But the cloudy sky soon prevents us from taking pictures. It really looks like it rained heavily in this area of ​​Nainital. The kilometers are longer and longer to travel on these winding roads and we have to find a hotel in Nainital before night falls.

On the road we stop at the Corbett Falls! To recover from the trip we stopped at a small cafe restaurant which serves absolutely exquisite mocktails for only a few rupees. We could admire the view before us, the beauty of nature at its height. Cannabis, which grows wild and everywhere at this altitude, also attracts some Westerners.

As our beverage finished, we hit the road again. After 20 minutes of turning in the mountains, here we are in Nainital. When entering the city we get stopped by a police check. The police ask us of what brings us here and when we tell them that we come as tourists they look at us with a puzzled air and answer us that this is not the best time to travel.

We leave without really knowing what is waiting for us. After two or three kilometers we are lucky to have a first glimpse of the Nainital valley and its huge lake. I was expecting to see some tourists or passers-by in the streets but the city is a ghost town.

It was almost by chance that our cottage search brought us to Bhimtal. The area also seems less touristy and wilder. We opted for a weekend stay at a luxurious hotel located in the hills of the city in a forest of majestic cedars and with the panoramic view of a wide valley. It has all the necessary services with room service, SPA, gym.

It also has a shuttle system to go from the hotel to the city center and vice versa because it is very difficult to reach the center of Nainital by car. The rooms are luxurious and very nicely decorated. The owner of the place announces us that it is the low season and that all these rooms are free and gives us a discount on the price of the room.

It is perfectly located, with a beautiful view of the lake. I take advantage of the last rays of the sun to go to the lake and take some pictures. Once arrived at the scene, I taste a good cellar and notice two wooden boats floating on the lake. I decide to rent one and it seems that the driver is happy to have his first customer of the day!

He brings me to the Tibetan market. Finally, I meet people on the streets! I see school students negotiate prices already cheaper than jackets in town. But already night is falling and it's time to return to my hotel and it starts raining again. We have a good traditional meal in the hotel. The Butter Chicken which is just delicious.

We had an ice cream to finish the meal and decided to go to bed because we were very tired after these many hours of driving. After preparing my things for the next day and calling my family to reassure them, I bundle up under the thick blankets.

Weekend in Nainital in Uttarakhand

Day 2

After a good night's sleep, we go in search of a good cafe and we come across one which offers a great view of the lake. The restaurant offers many dishes for a pittance. After breakfast we left for a small pedal boat ride on the lake. Slipping on the water with a light breeze on my face was a pleasure!

I feel directly the very serene, even spiritual atmosphere of this place with this very dark lake and the clouds that seem to land on the water. During the trek to a Tibetan monastery, we were greeted by a smiling community who invited us to share their meal. Unexpected event, warm encounters, are the moments that always make me want to travel.

We returned to Sattal to find another path to a birding site. Surrounded by various insects, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a concert of cicadas that I could easily see on the bark of trees! It is not always easy to see animals in their natural environment. So we decided to go the zoo. We saw among others bears, Tibetan wolves, pheasants, deer, leopards, red pandas, and a tiger.

After this short walk, we decided to go to the main market of Nainital which is full of many souvenirs to bring home. To go see this market we went through a path that runs along a huge field where many young people play cricket. We reach the mall, the British relic that runs along the lake and connects Tallital to Mallital. This mall separates a more popular district in the South from the resorts and other luxury hotels in the North.

Throughout its east side are hotels, restaurants and vendors of all kinds, while the West Bank is a nice pedestrian promenade. Taxi drivers and boat rental companies complete the picture of a village turned towards tourism at the beginning of the season. At the end of the lake, before reaching the large resorts on the heights, is the commercial heart of the city.

It is the bara bazar where butchers and vegetable sellers compete for the least square with the dhabas, the sellers of various trinkets and the general store. There are like true caves of Ali Baba. This lively and dense neighborhood gives way, when approaching the shore of the lake, to the Tibetan market, much smaller and where locals mainly sell clothes.

In the same neighborhood, there is also a beautiful mosque, a gurdwara and a temple dedicated to Naina Devi. The many churches dating from the colonial era are a little further up the heights where there is also a Tibetan gompa. Being tired and as the end of the day is approaching, we decided to return to the hotel. After a coffee we are back at the resort for a lovely evening with friends! We have a meal before falling into a deep sleep.

Day 3

We left early enough to get fresh air. Before returning to Delhi, we took the cable car to the Snow View Point site. Located at an altitude of about 2270m, it is one of the most attractive tourist sites of Nainital. This site is about 3 km from the city. The summit offers breathtaking views of the beautiful city and the snow-capped mountains in winter.

We began our ascent in the wooded Nainital heights, crossing villages which were in fact neighborhoods a little distant from the main center but very heterogeneous, colorful, and whose inhabitants watched us pass with a sympathetic curiosity.

Unfortunately at this time of the year, Nainital is very foggy and from up there we could see a pervasive fog. On the other hand, during the short cable car ride, we were able to fly over the many colorful houses in the heights of Nainital. It helped us to hike to the top of Naina peak, formerly China peak at 2611 m. In the middle of the pines and trees, we were able to enjoy a beautiful walk and even had the chance to watch a family of wild langurs.

Our meeting with a very friendly mountain guide of the region, allowed us to know a little more about the region, and to reach the summit via the paths of goats, on the ridge and the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views! We found a clearing in the middle of the forest and settled there for a picnic. We had a wonderful view on one side of the snowy mountains and on the other hand was the langurs who ate at the top of the trees!

We stayed at the top for a long time, enjoying the great outdoors. Then we went back down to Nainital, after a cellar stop. The return was much longer allowing us to make a loop via the slope of another mountain. We took advantage of the late afternoon to eat in a little Tibetan restaurant and stroll along the mall before heading back to Delhi.

Sightseeing in Swayambhunath and Boudhanath Stupa

The monsoon appeared but luckily it ended at dawn. However, we had it also in the room, because when showering the shower hose fell down and water began to come out as it was a source directly from the pipe. We called at reception and all the boys were soaked. Thank goodness we took it with humor and we managed to plug it all together until the plumber arrived. In the end they changed our room and we left the hotel quite late.

But we were going to keep on getting wet. The streets of Thamel are not paved. They are sandy and when it rains a mud is formed. In this case, it was directly a swamp, because there is no sewage system and the water entered to the stores of the basement of our building.

When we reached the street, to the amazement of everyone who waited in all the places on the street to get out, we started to walk with water on our knees. At first I was evaluating some other possible route, but when I did not find it, I rolled up my pants and followed, with applause from the whole street.

Fortunately the floods only affected that exact stretch. We continued walking and go for breakfast in a pastry shop and have a cheese croissant, a lemon cheesecake slice and a cinnamon roll. We had to manage the trekking permits at the tourist office.

It could be done in Pokhara, but it was something that we wanted to get rid of as soon as possible in case complications arose. We took passport photos at one studio and we wandered around watching the daily life of the Nepalese.

So, we walked to the Nepal Tourism Board with a map of the city we had bought. We arrived around 1:00 pm and they were just starting their lunch hour. So they made us wait for an hour, which we took advantage of to fill out the forms for the TIMS permits and the ACAP, which are necessary for trekking in the area of ​​the Annapurna, as was our case.

With the process done, we asked the girl at the counter what was the best way to get to Patan. She told us that it was best to take a public bus that stops almost at the door of the office. We just had to ask what was going to Lagankhel. We did this and there was not the slightest difficulty. They are small white vans with a man who travels clinging to the door ajar and shout.

We saved a lot of money by traveling almost always by local bus instead of taxi and the experience was much more enriching. The people are very nice and anyone will try to start a conversation and want to know more about our life and what Nepal is like. Once in Langankhel, we had no difficulty getting to the Patan Durbar Square.

The surrounding buildings already show the beauty that awaited us. For things like that, I wanted to go to Nepal. We enjoyed the buildings, which were also quite affected by the earthquake, with a better appearance than that of Kathmandu.

There was a smell of small town, with locals sitting in the square commenting on the news. In fact, a couple of grandparents asked us where we were from. With the visit made, we continue to wander through the streets of the town looking for a place to eat. We ended up randomly on the inside terrace of a place with a fairly familiar look.

We asked for the momo, and in addition, a vegetable spring roll and chicken rice, accompanied by soft drinks. There we found that asking only momos was enough, since they usually always put about 10 units per serving. We ate well.

At the edge of 5 o'clock in the afternoon, we wanted to go to the temple of the monkeys to Swayambhunath, to the west of the city. We assumed that the combination of public transport was quite complicated. We took a taxi, something expensive, but at the end the same price to go from the airport to Thamel and in this case it was a similar distance.

We drove through impossible streets, very narrow and in the middle of brutal traffic. Finally we arrived not long after and we began the ascent to the temple by its rickety stairs full of monkeys. We pay for the entrance and although also in works, we enjoy for the first time one of the impressive Nepalese stupa in white, gold and surrounded by colorful banners.

From the top of the hill, there are also breathtaking views of the whole city. We spent a lot of time wandering around that magical environment and before nightfall, we walked back to Thamel. It is not too far away, and you will see many everyday scenes of those that we love.

One thing we loved is not getting involved in a tourist environment. We do not meet any Westerners all day until we reach Thamel. We toured different travel agencies with the intention of booking the bus to Pokhara on Friday. Many were closed at that time, but we were looking at one and a young boy who was just leaving told us if he could help us.

We told him what we were looking for and he took us to a very enthusiastic apartment. He told us that he had studied tourism and that just that week he had opened his own agency and that we would be his first clients. He is a guide for the trekking of Manaslu.

He was happy to help us with the bus tickets without taking any commission in exchange for helping him start the bus agency with positive comments on Tripadvisor. All I said was that we wanted an air-conditioned bus, and so he called a contact and got them.

After browsing for a while by souvenir shops, and after showering, we went to dinner at a restaurant right next to the hotel with a very good look, although totally oriented to tourists. It was recommended in the Lonely Planet. The decoration was beautiful, in wood, with plants and candles and we had paneer tikka and Nepali barbecue chicken.

For dessert we ask for a lemon cheesecake. Everything was great and we enjoyed dinner with a chill out music in the background, which was more expensive than the morning meal, but at a very good price for our pockets. We retired to sleep in our new room. It was surrounded by nightclubs and the music was thunderous until the wee hours of the morning. Luckily, we were too tired to not give up.

Sightseeing in Swayambhunath

Day 2

We woke up early to see the morning rituals at Pashupatinath. The day before, the guy from the agency, recommended us to go before 9 and take a minibus in the Jamal area. We walked there and took a bus that left us at Pashupatinath. The truth is that we were a little disappointed.

There was a small temple, some offerings, a pile of water, flowers and people from there. We went down the street and we did not see much, and we could not believe it was just that. A little disappointed, we stopped for another van in the direction of Boudhanath. Then we would discover that what we had seen was not the real Pashupatinath.

Before entering, we look for some trekking clothes through the alleys around and without realizing it, we end up inside the square. The stupa is really impressive, the largest in the world and one of the most revered by Buddhists. In fact, the area is the residence of many Tibetan refugees.

We begin to surround it clockwise like the rest of the faithful and we marvel at its dimensions and colors. The place gave off an energy that could be felt. We had breakfast, but in the covered part, since at times it drizzled. There are many restaurants with magnificent views but we opted for that and it was a success.

Inside we were alone and ate at a traditional low table with cushions. My girlfriend ordered a honey and lemon tea and some apple pancakes and I had a masala tea with banana pancakes. When leaving the square, we saw a large procession and decided to join the faithful for a while. It is very interesting to listen to their chants and see the intensity with which they live their religion.

When we got away from the main street, we went back and asked to reach the Tibetan monastery of Kopan, located on top of a hill. It is a very popular destination among Buddhists and Westerners looking for a spiritual retreat. As we had time, we decided to walk through alleys.

At the beginning of the road, an elderly gentleman wearing a heavy basket of vegetables and nuts on his head beckoned us to follow him, because we were going in the same direction. We began to understand each other by gestures. My girlfriend offered to help with the basket, but he declined nicely.

We continued with the rise and it was time to separate. Suddenly, he took a piece of newspaper, made a cone and filled it with peanuts that he had in his bag. We told him it was not necessary between smiles, but he insisted and we took them. These things are what bring true value to a trip.

Soon, we reached the point where all the buses and taxis that go to Kopan on that side of the mountain stopped. It was quite hot and the last section was hard, but we managed to get there and were greeted by the chants of the monks who came from the inside. Of course, it is a privileged enclave and it is worth taking a walk around the gardens.

Although they are not spectacular, the tranquility that is there is appreciated to rest from the hustle and bustle of the city. We thought that the visits would take us more time, especially that of Pashupatinath. So we did not have more visits scheduled for that day until the night, when we wanted to go back to Boudhanath to see its other side.

Having left the hotel very early, we had finished before lunchtime. So we decided to return to Thamel by taxi and we made the purchase of trekking pants, a Tibetan bowl and some bracelets, t-shirts, magnets, postcards. We stopped by the hotel to stop shopping and shower. The heat was not suffocating, but it did show. We ate late at a fairly small place in the vicinity of the Durbar square, a chow mein and a couple of vegetable sandwiches.

We walked back to Jamal to get another van to Boudhanath. On the way we met some brothers of Lumbini who were traveling to see Kathmandu and were very interested in talking with us. We talked about travel, Nepal, the education system and life. They made the trip very pleasant.

The Boudanath area was much busier than in the morning. We went back to wander to enter the square and decided to have lunch on one of the rooftops while watching the sun go down. This time we chose the opposite area of ​​the morning and enjoyed a banana pancake to share, a ginger and lemon tea and a sprite.

Boudhanath kept hypnotizing me. The night fell and although I expected the square to light up more, the atmosphere continued to be fascinating. We were so happy that we decided to have dinner there and we decided on some chicken momo and chicken chow mein, which did not sting. In a couple of days we learned that everything that was veggie was also spicy. It was very good considering the place where we were.

We walked through the square at night before returning to the main street with the intention of taking a bus to Jamal. It was little more than 9 and the area was beginning to be deserted and unfortunately none of the buses were going downtown. We walked to the height where Pashupatinath was and there we ended up taking a taxi to Thamel.

The music of the hotel next door did not stop ringing, but we did not take long to fall asleep.

Sightseeing in Swayambhunath

Bhang Ki Thandai - A Special Drink for Holi

The bhang has become synonymous with Indian festivals. So much so that bhang based preparations have become an essential ingredient of Indian festivities as important as Holi Festival. In Holi, the festival of color, drinks and food is impregnated with bhang. The thandai, the pakoras and the vadas, all hide that secret and sacred ingredient that helps to intensify the festive spirit of Holi.

We arrived in Maheshwar around 9:30 in the morning from Omkareshwar. We took a bus that was supposed to leave from Omkareshwar at 6 o'clock in the morning but left half an hour later and the driver stopped continuously for no apparent reason other than having a tea or chewing tobacco. It was fun, I guess because we were not in a hurry.

This local bus costs 65 rupees per person. We were struck by the fact that in this area buses stop a lot in sacred places, like small temples on the edge of the road, and leave offerings like flowers or incense. When we passed a bridge that crossed the river Narmada the bus stopped and threw flowers into the water along with a small prayer.

The bus stopped us on the main road of Maheshwar, so we had to walk about 5 minutes to get to the area of the fort where most of the accommodations are located.

To stay, we chose a guest house for 500 rupees in one of the rooms at the top. After breakfast, we visited the fort and the ghats. We saw children carrying water guns with their colored faces and clothes. This was only the beginning. Locals made us wet and colored more. It was all fun. Many greeted us with the intention of putting some color on our hands or face. The Holi is one of the most important celebrations in India and is done to welcome spring.

The previous night bonfires are lit all over the country. Traditionally it is said that spring can cause colds and fever in the population. So throwing colored powder has a medicinal meaning. Traditionally those powders were made with flowers and medicinal herbs prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors. Nowadays the colored powders that are bought on the street are artificial dyes and have nothing to do with those that were used in the past. It is easy to see groups of men sharing a bottle with the drink called Thandai, which contains marijuana.

The Bhang is a preparation made from leaves and chalices of cannabis plants. It can be smoked, ingested, chewed or prepared in infusions. Its intake causes a slight feeling of euphoria.

The history of this plant is closely linked to the history of mankind. Over the years, their shoots have been cultivated for medicinal purposes, their stems used to make fibers and their seeds to make food.

In India the bhang is associated with Shiva and plays an important role in religious life as a sacred intoxicant. The bhang was first used as a toxic product in India around 1000 BC and soon became an integral part of Indian culture. In the ancient text Atharvaveda, bhang is described as a beneficial herb that liberates anxiety.
The bhang preparations were sacred to the gods, particularly to Shiva, who, according to legend, discovered the transcendental properties of the mixture.

In imitation of Shiva, many sadhus use bhang to propel and attain states of transcendental meditation. In India, there are many popular traditions and superstitions associated with bhang. Many believe that stepping on a sacred leaf of bhang can have negative effects for the person and that dreaming of the sacred plant augurs good omens.

The Indians also firmly believe in its medicinal properties, using it to cure fever, dysentery or heatstroke. Taken in its proper measure energizes the body and clarifies the mind. One of the most popular variants in India is bhang lassi, a drink made from fresh leaves and cannabis seeds and a yogurt milkshake with spices.

In areas of tourist predominance like Jaisalmer, Pushkar or Puri, it is easy to find shops dedicated to the legal sale of bhang. Although if there is an official center of bhang lassi it is Varanasi. There, in its famous ghats, it is very common to find a large number of men dedicated to the preparation and sale of bhang lassi.

Another variant, very popular in northern India, is bhang ki thandai, whose essential ingredients are bhang and thandai, a cold drink made with almonds, rose petals, ginger and spices such as garam masala of clove, cinnamon and cardamom, among other ingredients. The bhang can also be ingested in the form of spicy balls called "golees" or "halva" a dough made with butter and sugar.

The powerful intoxicating effect of the bhang forms an important part of the Holi celebration, a festival that knows no restrictions. Its consumption is especially rampant in the north of the country, where it is celebrated with a special enthusiasm.

Due to this festivity, most of the shops and restaurants are closed. We noticed that we asked in a hotel for a room, they showed us one. We liked it and we were going to keep it, but the man tells us that it would be closed from the next day since that day was Holi.

When we crossed the walls of the fort and arrived at the ghats, we liked what we saw. It is a large area where people enjoy bathing in the Narmada River, which carried much more water than there was in the area of Omkareshwar. The buildings and small temples that can be seen here are very well preserved, as well as the stone carvings and the numerous steps that are around. We also visited the palace, although it is not very spectacular, probably because the queen who lived there was quite austere and did not need grandiose buildings to do her job well.

Maheshwar was the capital of the Malwa for a period of time, after which the capital was moved to Indore. The word Maheshwar in Hindi means "Great God", an epithet of Shiva, and the locality appears in the accounts of the Mahabharata.

This town is a good place to rest and relax, but we only stayed one night. Our next destination would be Mandu, which is quite close, so the next day we get up early and take local buses.

3 Days in Calcutta: The City of Joy

Our weekend trip from Kolkata is taking shape alone. The destinations are presented. The road is marked and we only agree. So it happened with Calcutta. It was not in our plans. Several people had recommended it to us. Why not give it a try? We left Bodh Gaya on a hot night. We were anxious, worried, tired and not knowing what to expect.

We arrived at the Gaya train station. We got on the train and searched our seats. They were occupied by a family. It is very common in India to find your seat occupied. Many people travel without a ticket and they move among the seats that are free. This was not the case. The family tells us that those were their seats. Sure enough, we looked at our train ticket and we had been confused by the date. Our train was for the next night. All this and the train had already started for Calcutta.

Amidst the worry of not traveling all night in the corridor, the solidarity and kindness of the people appeared. A young man talked to the ticket checker and explained our situation. After several failed attempts to collect a fine, he assigned us some seats. We arrived in Calcutta confused.

Kolkata art wallpaper images travel Bengal

After a somewhat chaotic train ride, we arrived in the morning in Calcutta. Calcutta was renamed Kolkata a few years ago. Before we were warned, again and again, Calcutta would be very chaotic and especially in the traffic, I should be careful. The city reflects the human existence from all sides and has something familiar and heartfelt.

She is gray, chaotic, desperate and at the same time colorful, warm, distinguished, intellectual, and cultured. There are chic new neighborhoods and shopping malls sprouting up everywhere. This is where tradition and modernity meet. Calcutta is the city that is most western I found of all visited so far. Not only for its physical appearance, with buildings such as the Victoria Memorial, but also for the infrastructure, its people and why not say its prices.

The Howrah station is a bit out of the way, which is why we looked for a ride into the city. In Kolkata, there is a metro, which does not stop in Howrah, nor at the airport. The bus schedules are not understandable for an outsider and so we were back in the taxi as the only option arrived. When we got out of the station building, we were also offered a ride. That was way too much for us and also our cash was a bit short.

Luckily, the police have opened a prepaid taxi stand. There we say our destination, pay for kilometers and get directly into a taxi. That way you cannot be ripped off. Although the queue was very long, our ride was written. We pass the Howrah Bridge, built in the early 1940s. It is 650m long and has eight lanes to span the river Hooghly, one of the branches of the Ganges that flows into the Bay of Bengal.

Our welcome to Calcutta could not be better. We were surprised by the monsoon rains as soon. The taxi then went to Sudder Street, the traveler's corner of the city. We got off the taxi that left us in front of the hotel that was recommended in our Lonely Planet guide, which becomes our bible during this trip. It was 8 o'clock in the morning but all cheap hostels were still closed.

It's hard to check in at some hostels, get a rickshaw or even have breakfast or a chai. My accommodation of recent visits is still closed and there is not much happening in the area. So I wait. The lodge is actually far from modern and clean, but the rooms and beds are okay for the price.

There is a nice roof terrace where you always meet interesting travelers. This is a good reason to stay here. After the lodge opened its doors, a board read: Everything is full. But when I asked it turned out that there are rooms, but they have not been cleaned. So I got a room after half an hour.

We see the metro station and tram (yes, the city has a tram). Calcutta is for that, to get lost and to be walked. To visit the neighborhoods and know the differences. All this, but without leaving aside the religious part of India. So I enjoy the next days by just walking through the city. On leaving, we see chickens who quack in their baskets closed by nets.

In the Lenin Sarani road, it is the street of tools. Here, each district has its specialty as in the Middle Ages. I enter a local restaurant for biryani and roasted tandoori chicken. It is a traditional restaurant with its separation in cabins for groups. I pass Tipu Sultan Mosque and its cupolas, but unfortunately not highlighted with its stalls around it. I come across Raj Bawan, a neoclassical palace, seat of the Bengal government with its large palm avenue leading to it.

My path leads me to the area around the BBD Bagh, the former center of power of the English and a true treasure trove of colonial architecture. Far from this din, it is the Writer's Building that I discover built in 1776 for the young employees of the East India Company. In 1882, it was transformed into a Corinthian style, with its red bricks and its baroque statue at the top. It is currently the seat of the Government of West Bengal.

I go into the fascinating and chaotic lanes of Barabazar, old Chinatown and beyond into its narrow streets and hustle and bustle past its innumerable shops, watching the permanent parade of bag-carriers on the head or on a cart, pulling, pushing through the crowd like sailboats sailing in the surf of this human tide. More life and chaos than here is not really possible. One cannot but have claustrophobia in these streets.

My hotel was on a busy street selling all sorts of food and other items. From there we could walk a bit to get into a beautiful park with a lake. Along the way, we noticed how clean the streets were and how well-groomed the traffic in Calcutta was. This was probably because there was a separate pedestrian walkway, so pedestrians and cars were less likely to get in each other's way.

A taxi drove me to the neighborhood near China Market and there I started looking for the synagogue. It's not that I was so keen to find her, but I got into the game of looking for her, because when you search for something in a city you do not know well, you discover thousands of things on your way.

In fact I walked for 3 hours along the lanes around China Market, assisted by different, laughing companions, who first took me to the Greek Orthodox Church, then to the beautiful Armenian Church, inlaid with white marbles and nestled in a garden buried in a neighborhood of very old alleyways.

Then we walk pass the beautiful Nakhoda Mosque, built in red sandstone, its arcaded balconies, its porch surmounted by green cupolas like bulbs rising in the sky. I taste coconut water and fresh coconut meat that the merchant cuts me with his machete with a prompt and precise gesture. Then I noticed the red building of the synagogue in front of which I had gone 5 or 6 times. It was closed only today. I explained that I came to photograph it and that I was doing a report on the Asian synagogues. Someone made a phone call to the Rabbi of Calcutta, to explain, and ten minutes later I found myself in the synagogue, with all the chandeliers lit, and the fans running.

After the park, we visited two temples. The first is Kalighat dedicated to the goddess Kali. According to the guides, it is the most sacred place in Calcutta. We were told that every day a goat is sacrificed here. Legend has it that in antiquity sacrifices had also been made with humans. According to the importance of the temple, there was also a lot going on.

The taxi costs us 100 and leaves us very close to the temple. Before arriving at the temple we walk a few blocks from markets where they sell all kinds of flowers, stamps, precious stones and incense. All offerings for the goddess. On the road, we can already breathe energy. You do not have to enter to feel it. But we also enter.

We saw a long line of people patiently waiting their turn to be in front of the idol. We got in line. The passage was slow and the place was closed. The heat and the incenses were unbearable. Even overcrowding. The people have another concept of distance, and in a row that tries to be ordered, they are placed side by side, touching the chest with the back. All this situation did nothing but increase fatigue and perspiration.

Arriving almost ahead we see that all the people make a small donation to the priest. He blessed them and painted their foreheads with a red color. We take 10 rupees and have them on hand to keep up with the celebration. We also advance, giving 10 rupees. He grabs them, keeps them, and says it's not enough. We refuse.

We get to the subway and go to the Tourist Office (which is hidden on the other side of the city) near Victoria Memorial. There we get permission to visit the Marble Palace tomorrow and some brochures with information about Sikkim and Darjeeling.

We passed the Birla Planetarium and enter the Victoria Memorial. It was erected to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Victoria. It is a white monument in English style with a dome, no less large and rooms devoted to painters and explorers. Other rooms exhibit modern art from a local school. Next door is the Queen's fortepiano and the model of a beautiful colonial sailing ship.

We see manuscripts, sacred books of Tibetan Buddhists, a letter from Tagore in 1920, posted from New York. In another room, two French canons captured during the Battle of Plassey are exhibited. In another room, we see paintings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries landscapes and portraits of Johan Zoffary and Thomas Daniell.

The life of Calcutta is described in images and texts from the empire to independence. It tells the story of the wealth and prosperity of the East India Company. We see a beautiful fabric embroidered with elephants, horses, little characters in the round around a rose window. Rajendra Lal Dutta is considered the father of homeopathy.

Upstairs in a circular balcony, its columns and coronation frescoes, its floral motifs revolve around the dome and its sun with lily flowers. Around the monument, we walk through beautiful parks and gardens. We bought a map of Calcutta. From there we went to the Botanical Garden by taxi, crossing the new Vidyasagar Setu bridge.

This garden that serves as an urban park, is a large extension of grass and trees from different countries (almost all tropical in the northern hemisphere). It extends over many hundreds of meters and is a haven of peace. The sun plummets and there are few shadows that can be taken advantage of. So, after trying to see some curiosity, we go straight to enjoy the jewel of the garden, the Banyan Tree.

It is a variety of Bengal fig tree, which has the distinction of not having a central trunk. The whole living being is sustained by its great roots, up to 600 branches fall to the ground giving it the subjection of true vegetable pillars. It is beautiful and very curious to see since you try to discover the trunk, but there is not. The oldest part is believed to be more than two hundred years old. We return to Birla temple only after sunset, but we were lucky that it was still open and lit up.

We went for some flip-flops and we took a taxi to the planetarium. Because we did not wait for the session in English, we got into the session in Bengali. The planetarium is very austere, but I liked it a lot (it's my first planetarium and that weighs). The audiovisual does not kill but I liked the representation of the stars in its huge dome. The photo exhibition was very old. In short, it was great.

We take a taxi to the hotel. Then we went by taxi to Fairlie Place near the GPO building, next to the ferry, where they have a ticket office. We bought the tickets from Calcutta to Siliguri, on the Kamrup Express. We took this train because there were no seats on the Darjeeling Mail train. Calcutta has sidewalks, something we will find only in Delhi and Mumbai. We eat some spring rolls and two non-alcoholic beers.

Before going to the hotel, we bought two beers, in a store that is on the corner. It is an odyssey to get a beer. After coming back on the roof I was supposed to meet some interesting travelers as expected during the first day and a wild party should begin. Now I stumble into a wild party at the end of which we all end up at night in the Tantra nightclub. This is considered the best club in the city. I was amazed that we had even been let in.

Although we had all done well before but were already well drunk. Actually, the club costs a lot for Indian standards but they did not want any money from us. Here was really the party. Electronic music was mainly played on the two dancefloors. The floors were packed and everyone was wildly dancing.

This was madness by Indian standards. Especially the number of women there was impressive. I have not been to an Indian club for many years, but in the past, they were more of a men's event. Only the drinks prices frightened us off a bit. So my first evening in Kolkata should last until the morning hours. But in the next few days, I should take it easier.

Kolkata wallpaper images travel Bengal

Day 2

The birds, the cries of the seagulls mingle with loud voices, cries, horns. We had a breakfast, good coffee and then went to the metro station 3 km away. It brings us to the northern part of the city center. After a tired, but the interesting walk of almost two hours, we arrived at the Marble Palace, a beautiful white marble palace with neoclassical architecture and Corinthian columns.

It really looks like the lair of some old earl, with old marbles and everything in the dark. A statue of Queen Victoria sits in the center, surrounded by vases from Japan, China from the Min Dynasty. We see musical instruments like tampuras, a sarod played by the famous Ravi Shankar. On the patio, besides idols of Kali and Saraswati, in the Garden, there are cages with gray parrots and a red and blue flaming.

The next room features a crystal chandelier from Czechoslovakia, a bored Venus statue, a piece of furniture made of four red velvet chairs. We see paintings of the wedding of St. Catherine of Rubens and a Madonna and the child of Sassoferrato.

We then go to the dance room with its large wall mirror, its clocks and, at the exit, we see a beautiful hookah finely decorated. The Marble Palace has the charm of an old-fashioned palace that seems to have frozen like these clocks in the days of splendor of the Maharajah. By another taxi, we go to the Girish Park metro station. After two more stops, we reached the Central metro station.

We then head to the area of ​​College Street where stands the Boi Bazaar, the book market. We arrive on foot in this neighborhood and nothing suggests that we enter the universe of the bookstore. I pass by plumbing shops, sanitary equipment and then suddenly, at the corner of the street, the stalls of the booksellers begin. Some tiny, others vast and proud to display their longevity since 1885. The most recent ones stand directly on the sidewalks, the books acting as walls, the vendor at its center like a statue of Shiva.

This is the excitement, students mostly looking for the latest computer book or the latest law manual. It is also the place of secondhand works at unbeatable prices. In Boi Bazaar, there are also books of literature and books for the youth. Everyone finds his account provided they read Bengali, the majority language of these publications.

Between the stalls, on carts or contrite stalls, sellers sell donuts or refreshing drinks because in India food is omnipresent. Universities and schools are located in this area, like the famous Presidency College, Sanskrit College, Scottish Church College, Bethune College, Calcutta Medical College, Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Vidyasagar College, Hindu School, Scottish Church School, Bethune School, adding if it was still needed a stone to Calcutta's reputation of intellectual city.

As for the Coffee House of College Street, it is a mythical place of rendezvous where the spirits of Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Manna Dey, Amartya Sen, Mrinal Sen still hover.

There we headed for the Chinatown of Calcutta. Arriving there, however, we discovered that there are hardly any Chinese living there anymore. As a result, the market did not look Chinese, just Indian, but that was okay. Now it is one of the Christian areas of Calcutta where you can celebrate the end of the year and Christmas. Once again, everything was sold on the market, including balloons.

Near this neighborhood, a congregation of Mother Teresa began to move. Today there is a small lot of everything. In China Town we see buildings of typical Chinese classical construction with huge gates to allow the entry and exit of elephants. Some of its streets are full of the small hand rickshaws, those of the movie "the city of joy". They remain abandoned along the walls of the buildings in very long rows.

At one of the stalls, we also got solid plastic bags. I always have the fear when flying that my backpack with a buckle gets stuck somewhere and breaks. That's why I like to pack. We got the two sacks for 30 rupees, so it does not matter if they break.

Another good walk until we take a taxi that leaves us at the hotel. I take a shower and rest a little. Once again I had no real plan for my trip. Of course, I wanted to eat good food, do some shopping, visit some friends and see something new, travel to some new region. My best food stalls are still in the same places.

I am glad to see the cooks who have been working here for many years now. Some of them were still kids when I first ate there and now they are adults. I immediately felt at home after the warm greetings. I had long had to do without Kolkata street food and could not get enough now.

We enter the Indian Museum with neoclassical architecture. Large statues at the entrance lead to the Bharhut Gallery. We pass under lintels and large porticos carved in red sandstone in with their floral and animal motifs. There is also the reconstruction of a Buddhist stupa with its drawings of women carrying a branch, hugging a tree, praying.

We reach the Gandhara Gallery, a magnificent votive stupa. We see Buddha statues sitting, rising, praying and frescoes representing the submission of King Apalala. This part comes from Afghanistan and North Pakistan. Jataka tales are described. We go to the Kushana archeological gallery. The period of Guptas, Palasenas and other regional dynasties is traced through the sculptures of these different eras.

We see carved pillars depicting Yakshis slaying demons and a colossal bodhisattva. We see a Buddha rubs bacchanal scenes, rather erotic and a statue of Ganesha. We see stupas with scenes from the Buddha with a young ephebe man. We see a bust of Brahma, the creator with three damaged heads, Rahu and the other three planets. Marici has 8 arms and three heads!

We see the goddess Tara, Vishnu on his mount, his portray Garuda. We also see different Buddhas with a lying Mahaparinirvana! We see Shiva, Vishnu, Bhairava and Ganesha in dancing poses and strange shapes like the 10th century Sardulavyala with lizard heads, and of dinosaurs. We also see Jain sculptures and others from South India. The Holi festival or festival of colors is represented.

Southeast Asian sculptures are on display. They were influenced by the Gupta and Pallava periods. Garuda is the bodily instance of the deity Vishnu. We enter the Coins Gallery. Coins are presented from the beginning of the Christian era to the present day. On their faces, are represented Gupta emperors, Mughals, Greeks, sultans.

Upstairs are other galleries with the gallery of prehistoric animals. We see a giant and strange turtle and the terracotta gallery of the Mauryan period where jars and pottery are presented. The Invertebrate Gallery shows a turtle, a deer and a giant fossil. A room is devoted to a printing exhibition on fabrics, the Safarnama and Kalamkari saris. These are contemporary paintings. These works come from a museum in Mulhouse.

After the zoo with animals from all over the world, there is a room devoted to textiles and a house facade with a carved wooden balcony. We see the 10-armed Marishusura mardini from Jaipur. Nataraja is a representation of Shiva as a cosmic dancer to prepare the creation of the world of Brahma. We see pottery, ceramic vases with blue tones of flowers and silverware with enameled silver and encrusted gold coins.

We see a reproduction of the Taj Mahal in ivory but nothing beats the truth! A room is dedicated to Egypt. A mummy of women and a pharaoh lie in the center of the room. There are statues of Akhenaton and Tutankhamun and a superb sphinx in front of his pyramid. There are many English archaeologists, explorers. I find Champollion and his hieroglyphics.

Nearby was a model of the Tower of Silence. We left the museum and continue to take a walk. I buy samosas and something to drink. I leave it and continue to the port, just to see the MV Nicobar, a large moored ship and I come back to the large cable-stayed bridge at the foot of which I discover, crossing the railroad, the Prinsep ghat. I see again the Ganges, its barges and its green branches drifting. Another invitation to travel.

At night, we sat in the rooftop bar of a chic hotel. There we had a great view over the city and we let ourselves go well with a delicious cocktail. We go to a Punjabi restaurant run by a Sikh near my hotel. We have Dal Tadka and Tandoori Roti. It is in a neighborhood of vegetable merchants and dry fruits. When I leave, I walk along SN Banerjee Road, where the Regal cinema is located. It is rather dark and not very attractive in its decaying building.

Kolkata wallpaper images travel Bengal

Day 3

I go to the Babughat. We go across the Hooghly River. The ghats on the river are always full of life. We get a good view of the river with the big Howrah Bridge and take a ferry to Howrah on the other side of the river. Near the river and the Howrah Bridge, we visit the city's largest flower market of Mullick Ghat. It is said that this colorful market is said to be the largest in Asia.

Hundreds or even thousands of merchants sell countless types of flowers in all colors and sizes and shapes. The market spans several large and small streets and every vacant spot is seized by the traders. The traders are in the midst of huge mountains full of colorful flowers. Innumerable baskets and sacks of flowers find their way here on the minds of men.

A wild loud trade begins before these mountains disappear again on the heads of the people. These are dimensions like I did not see before. Even smaller trucks full of colorful flowers find their way through the masses. Unimaginably large quantities of these flowers, shining in all colors, change their owners here every day. Countless traders tie bouquets, weave flower chains and arrange floral arrangements.

We looked at the area around the Maidan. The Maidan is a large park, through which also run motorways. First, we visited the Indian Museum, where there was a lot to see. Below were statues from different regions, some of which were over 1000 years old. There were also stuffed animals, fossils, rocks and an exhibition about human evolution.

Especially the exhibitions about the fossils and rocks were gigantic, but almost not worked up. The exhibits simply lay side by side on shelves and showcases, in Germany this would be a museum in its own right. We felt that an expert could spend hours or even days in the room, but it was hard for us to grasp.

Next, we head to the famed New Market. I pass by the Hogg Market, a large red brick building, a complex that houses a multitude of stalls that all seem to sell the same clothes, bags, saris, and scarves. Next door there was a hall where food was sold and in which less was going on.

Going inside is like riding a roller coaster of smells, images, and sensations. From shops and suitcases that form part of the perimeter to small food stalls passing through what in my opinion is one of the most striking areas of this market is the butcher and the fishmonger.

In these two places, the smells are intense, very intense. It is possible to see flocks of goats enter that are disemboweled in just a few minutes while their companions pass over the viscera of the previous one. The fish shop is not much better. A floor full of scales and fish remains covers every square centimeter of this area of ​the market. The fish rest on the ground and the smell becomes unbearable.

I come across a display of exotic fruits. I discover the custard, green apple, very sweet with the flesh composed of pips inside. The chiku, looks like a brown kiwi like a potato, sweet too but with more pasty, grainy flesh. The guava is like a green apple but rather taste as a tangy pear with a fragrance of kiwi.

I arrive on the esplanade of Maidan. Close by stands a tall column like a white lighthouse. It is the Ochterlony Monument or the Shaheed Minar. Along the Chowringhee Road and its congested arcades, I notice the luxurious Oberoi Grand and its Palladian style. Returning to Lindsay Street, birds fly away forming a ballet over the Shaheed Minar.

En route to the Nehru Children's Museum, I pass in front of the statue of Indira Gandhi against a backdrop of Tata Centre.

As a conclusion, we visited the St. Paul's Cathedral, a copy of Canterbury Cathedral. Inside, we appreciate this haven of peace under its immense curved dome overlooking the central nave, its windows with biblical frescoes above the altar and a monochrome green on the side walls. A girl comes to sit next to me, pray with her head in her hands.

Along the Maidan Park, the Queen Victoria Memorial appears majestic as a new Taj Mahal with its dome and white marble turrets. Through the portal adorned with two lions, we see the imposing Queen Victoria on her throne with her stern look. Opposite the monument, Edward VII's equestrian statue stands proudly in the park's central alley.

It was a momentary and magical moment. As the orange sun shifted behind the palm trees, birds roared and some piano notes flew away in the softness of the evening. We head to the Museum of Fine Arts. There are contemporary paintings, acrylic paintings on canvas depicting landscapes and portraits.

After finishing the day and tired of the trip and so much walking, we went to take a good shower and a good dinner. We enjoyed some great chicken skewers at the end of Sudder Street, although I notice that they sting a lot!

Over the course of the day, I met two funny travelers in my guest house. We decided to travel together for a weekend trip from Kolkata to the Sundarbans. We had done well with our last rupees so we could go out and dine again.

I enter one to see what is behind this closed door and this blind facade. I discover a decor of the Arabian Nights with dim lights and red kitsh decor with its large mirrors, leather chairs, ceremonial chandeliers, silver peacocks. I choose a soup with tomato and fresh coriander. Families of the Indian upper middle class are comfortably settled there.

It stings with the music I barely hear. Some guitar melodies take me into the melancholy of the end of a journey as if we were approaching a shore, remembering the long and tumultuous crossing with so many beautiful encounters, alas soaring like seagulls on the boats of the Ganges.

Kolkata is one of those cities that certainly do not leave you indifferent. On the one hand, you discover the less Indian city of India since its urban structure is far from being similar to other cities of this great country and has much in common with any large European city. Sometimes you may think you are in France or the UK.

Kolkata wallpaper images travel Bengal

Kolkata wallpaper images travel Bengal

Kolkata wallpaper images travel Bengal

Trip through the Capital on the Delhi Metro

We have slept well because we were exhausted from the previous day. We get up early and go to Connaught Place to take the delhi metro at the Rajiv Chowk stop which is one of the main stops. The blue and yellow line goes to Qutub Minar, after about 13 stations. We bought a tourist card that allows us to make as many trips as we want.

The price of the tickets varies according to the route and they sell tokens that are chips that we have to return when leaving the metro. The metro is clean, with air conditioning. The bags are checked when entering. It is interesting that there is a coach that is only for women and children at the beginning of the train marked in pink.

After getting out of the station we take a rickshaw to Qutub Minar. It is the tallest brick minaret in the world and a leading example of Islamic art, being the oldest Islamic monument in Delhi. The Qutab Minar was built on the ruins of Lal Kot, the red citadel of the ancient city of Dhillika. There are columns originating from the ancient temple on which part of the complex is based. These columns show sculptures of gods whose faces are destroyed.

Located within the Qutb complex, it has a height of 72.5 meters. Its diameter at the base is 14.3 meters while at its highest point is 2.7 meters. The Qutab Minar has been considered a World Heritage Site by Unesco. At present, there is still speculation about the authentic purpose that led to the construction of this monument.

Inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan and with the desire to surpass it, Qutbuddin Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, initiated the construction of the Qutab Minar in the year 1193 but he could only complete the base. His successor, Iltutmish, added three more floors. The work was completed in 1368 by Firuz Shah Tughlaq.

The evolution of the architectural styles between Aybak and Tughluq are evident in the minaret. The minaret is built with red sandstone, covered with elaborate carvings and verses from the Koran. Before us it looks majestic. The remains seemed interesting to me. Our visit also coincide with an excursion of school children who joined us. I suppose we were more fun than the teacher. Their laughter, their shouts and the joy reflected in their and photos.

We see the iron pillar, one of the most curious metallurgical phenomena in the world. This pillar has a height of 7 meters and an approximate weight of 6 tons. It was built during the Mauryan Empire, and is the only piece of the ancient temple that was erected in the complex that still stands. It is believed that it was used for astrological purposes. It has an inscription in which it is explained that it was built as a tribute to Vishnu and in memory of King Chandragupta II.

It is strange that although about 1,600 years old it does not present any type of corrosion. Now it is surrounded by a fence and can not be touched. Qutub built his mosque around this pillar. It took us about an hour to visit. Another thing about the place that traps us and hypnotizes us is that fantastic reddish brown color that surrounds everything that already puts the icing on the cake the sun falling on the minaret. What also calls my attention is the large number of planes that fly over the place while we are in it.

We take the opportunity to take the last pictures and enjoy the views a little more. We went back to the Qutab Minar Metro Station to go to Humayun's tomb declared World Heritage Site by Unesco. We go down at the Jor Bagh metro station in the yellow line. They are the garden tombs of the second Mughal emperor and some of his nobles. There are circular or orthogonal structures. The environment is a haven of peace.

We go back to take a rickshaw to the stop of the blue line of the subway to go to the Lotus temple or Kalkaji Mandir metro station. It is 3 o'clock in the afternoon and the air conditioning of the metro is appreciated. The Lotus temple is of the Bahai faith and represents a lotus flower in white marble surrounded by a pond of water. The entrance is free but we have to enter barefoot.

Our next destination is the bazaar and the Jama Masjid where we arrived down at the Chadni Chowk metro stop. In this area the environment is indescribable. It's an amalgamation of loose wires everywhere, with dirty and messy chaotic shop stops. There are numerous food stalls.

We ask on the street how to get to the mosque. Finally we took a rickshaw this time without a motor to go to the spice market. I was reluctant to take them for the effort that drivers have to make. To get there we crossed a large part of the bazaar.

The spice market that is a part of Chadni Chowk called Khari Baoli was created by a princess in 1650 and is organized into sections. There are alleyways below the buildings with hollows where people are with the spice sacks of turmeric, cilantro, chili, curry, tea, with lots of bright colors and smell of spices. The cleanliness, obviously, is conspicuous by its absence.

We then went through the sections of clothes, saris, cosmetics, jewelry, hairdressers that are a little more neat, without being anything special because the streets are still unpaved. I took advantage to buy bracelets and tatoos. In shopping we can bargain as much as we want. I like to bargain.

We head to the Chandni Chowk metro station and head to the Rajiv Chowk metro station. Connaught Place is one of the largest financial, commercial and business centers in Delhi. In the past it was the seat of the British and its surroundings are a pride for the city. Its construction began in 1929 and ended in 1933. The inner circle was called Rajiv Chowk and the exterior Indira Chowk. Today, Connaught Place is one of Delhi's most vibrant business districts, and rental or purchase of its offices are among the most expensive in the world.

The area of ​​Connaught Place is recognizable on any map of Delhi, since it is a large circle with radial roads that extend in all directions, like the spokes of a wheel. It is a well-planned area where the first underground market of India is located, the Palika Bazaar municipal market. The outer circle is known as Connaught Circus and has restaurants, shops and hotels. The central circle has offices and small restaurants.

The central park of the Connaught Place has long been a venue for cultural events, and it still is today. We take a walk all around. In addition to all the shops that there are, there are many street vendors. Many of the clothing brands that are concentrated here are imported so their prices are high. As for restaurants and leisure although there are fast food restaurants, there are also many exclusive clubs.

Towards 7 pm we returned to the hotel because we had all day in dance and began to accuse the tiredness. We showered and went down to a chill-out style rooftop restaurant that is near the hotel for dinner. We ate thali with chicken, curry, dal, yogurt. It's not bad and I asked for Afghan chicken with a very soft cream. We ended up playing a guitar and drinking some beers and some masala teas on the roof, with the owners.

Trip through the Capital on the Delhi Metro