Pilgrimage of Hinduism, Baha’i, and Kebab

It was a day like any other in India. We woke up, showered and ate our breakfast in our hostel, all under the false assumption (and hope) that the air conditioning would follow us outside. It did not. On the day we planned to spend the most time outdoors, India treated us with what seemed like the hottest day yet.

We started with the hostel’s complimentary breakfast that we had become used to over the past two days, getting a mix of American and Indian cuisine. However, as a sign of how fed up the hostel owners were, we were only given four breakfasts for six people. But we made due, and quickly scarfed down our meals in time for the religious tour Hersh had planned. We met our driver for the day, blasted the car’s A/C, and were on our way.

Armed with cameras, ice cold water bottles, and the knowledge of our trusty tour guide Hersh, we arrived at the Akshardham temple. Made entirely of hand carved stone, the temple is an artistic masterpiece, named in the honor of Swaminaryan Akshardham. Having been requested to remove our shoes, we made our way as quickly as possible into the temple and off of the hot stone under our feet. Inside were sculptures made of pure gold to the Hindi gods, and at the center, a large golden representation of Akshardham himself. As we walked around the interior of the temple, we were greeted with images and objects from his life, detailing his life and his journeys bringing Hindi teachings to the world.

Our next stop was the famed Baha’i spot of worship, the Lotus Temple. We had survived the heat from the first temple and enjoyed our air conditioned ride to the lotus temple, but when we began walking towards it, the sun beating down on us was nearly unbearable. Before we could make it to the temple itself, we found the information center which we saw was partially underground, offering cool air. For some quick relief and to gather information on the Baha’i religion, we stopped in.

We were greeted very warmly and told to have a look around. We learned of the journeys and teachings of Baha’u’llah and how he brought the Baha’i religion to the world. Baha’i is now one of the most prominent and widely practiced faiths in the world. There are temples in 5 out of the 7 continents, the U.S. Temple being located in Jared’s hometown, Evanston IL.

We finally worked up the strength to go back outdoors and make our way to the temple. The huge done of the lotus towered over us and as we got closer, it became even more apparent how large it actually was. They also requested that we remove our shoes before entering the temple, but they had laid out a long woven mat to step on, sparing our feet from the hot stone. Being an active temple, there were many there to pray in the huge hall. We sat in a back pew and took in the marvel of the monument to the Baha’i faith.

When we left the temple, we were greeted by a two women handing out pamphlets and information about the religion, and struck up a conversation. We asked about all things Baha’i, it’s origins, practices, requirements, and walked away just seconds before launching into what would have certainly been a heated debate about evolution and the creation of man.

Just to get it on record, our driver for the day was a certifiable bad@$$. He would appear and disappear like a phantom. On our exit from both temples, having no idea where we had parked, we wandered blindly towards the parking lots. After walking about ten feet onto the asphalt, he would appear as if he had been walking with us the whole time, and lead us straight to the car. Ninja.

After ninja-ing us away from the lotus temple, we had some extra time and decided to check out the highly recommended (by Radhika) market, Delhi-Haat. Being a government owned market space, the stores rent was much lower than a normal market, and thus the prices were markedly lower. Taking full advantage, we partook in souvenir shopping, furthering our haggling skills. After having a shop owner to offer me a better price than one I had proposed (ninja-ed), I felt we had conquered the art of haggling in the world capital of price negotiating.
Shop Owner: 50 rupees each
Me: I’ll take 2 for 80 rupees (40 rupees each)
Shop Owner: no no, not enough. 3 for 100 rupees (33.3, repeating of course, rupees each)
Even though I am certain that this was still extremely overpriced and he still made a nice profit, I felt as though victory was mine.

After we left the market our driver quickly found us and herded us back to our car. It was finally the time we had all been waiting for (especially Jared): we were off to find the legendary kebab restaurant, Karim’s. Infamously difficult to find (especially for tourists) we knew we had our work cut out for us. Fortunately, our ninja/driver offered to show us the way through the busy market in Old Delhi to our kebab-nirvana.

We parked about a 10 minute walk away from our remote destination and began our walk through the crowded streets. After ducking into a back alley within a back alley (which we certainly never would have found on our own) we found it, the famous home to the 400 year old Karim family kebab recipe. At this point our driver said he was leaving us and would find us when we exited, leaving us all a bit uneasy. After trying to convince him to join us, we decided to rely on his ability to pick us out of a crowd, and continued on without him.

The Karim family started their kebab cuisine over 400 years ago, being the cooks for the mosque just a street over. After centuries of perfection and practice, they did not disappoint. Ordering 2 full tandoori chickens and a few kebab skewers, we began our feast. After removing every bit of meat from the chickens (thanks to Steph) devoured the delicious food. We were full and satisfied with the brilliantly spiced and cooked food, the perfect finale to our Indian food extravaganza.

Our last stop before heading to Thailand was back to the hostel to grab our bags, say goodbye to the hostel owners, and meet up with Hersh’s cousin Vikram. After a bit of relaxing and talking in the hostel, it was time to make our trek to the airport (which Vikram was nice enough to come along and guide us through).

Sitting in the airport waiting for our flight to Bangkok, we sat back, had a quick drink, a toast to India, and readied ourselves for our next adventures.

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Comments
4 Responses to “Pilgrimage of Hinduism, Baha’i, and Kebab”
  1. Jude Mahler says:

    The girls look so cute in their saris. Jared looks kind of glum. Is it the heat? What’s up with that? Are you OK, Jared?
    Love Jude

  2. Ami Costello says:

    I agree with Jude, those saris are cute on Ali and Steph. Love the pastel colors you picked. Thanks for another interesting blog Ali. You all passed the hot weather test, altho Jared and Ryan look weathered out in one of pictures. I could only imagine Cliff feeling the same. Cliff, get in the picture! I want to see you! Hi Hersh!
    Take care children,
    Ami

  3. Ami Costello says:

    Thanks Ryan!! Nice blog.

  4. Diane briggs says:

    Another excellent post! Sounds like you’re a born shopper Ryan! I’d like to see pictures of the guys in their Indian attire, did you purchase anything for yourselves?

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