#11 – Delhi (Gaye)

Delhi is a world unto itself.

We are staying in a green oasis on the edge of the city and on an international flight path. The sound of peacocks and birds accompanies the roar of take off. To illustrate the dichotomies of Delhi our ashram's name is Zorba the Buddha - yes based on Zorba the Greek. The leader of the ashram is completely indescribable. I won't even try; I am practising kindness.

Our bus driver arrives over an hour late to pick us up on our one day exploring the city. Delhi traffic is either a horror or a wonder depending on your perspective. Because I have a fondness for carnival rides, I fall into the later category. Our bus is not only late but a bit of a rat trap. Some seats are falling apart and the air conditioning doesn't work. Only the driver has an electric fan somehow jerry-rugged into the wiring. Traffic comes from all directions; horn-honking deafens and the number of near misses cannot be calculated. Every driver takes risks, ignores lights and traffic lanes. The cacophony of noise, movement, colour and scent assaults while it takes us over an hour to drive to the Lotus temple.

The Lotus temple site creates a welcome oasis. The grounds are green, well manicured with lovely landscaped grounds. The temple itself is simple - in the shape of a lotus flower. It is a Baha'i place of worship. I know little of that faith and enjoy a historical tour and movie in a building adjacent to the temple itself. The Baha'i honour all religious traditions focussing their energies on building peace and understanding. The simple, austere temple stands in stark contrast to the Hindu temples we have visited.

Another hour plus in the bus and we arrive at the Akshardham Temple. The contrast could not be more marked. The security was intense. I was shoved, groped (by a woman) and questioned. The temple is Hindi and completed in 2005. It is massive and intricately carved with flora, fauna, dancers, musicians and deities. With 234 carved pillars, nine domes, 20000 deities, your eyes can hardly take in the artistry. What a stunning achievement! On a lighter note, I bought a tube of organic fennel toothpaste in their shop for 30 cents in our money. Could not resist the bargain.

Because it was International women's day we journeyed to a cultural centre and enjoyed some traditional music in Sanskrit. The songs were a blend of story-telling and singing accompanied by drums and a keyboard. This was televised live and I think our group of white folk caused quite a stir.

Tomorrow - off to Daramasala and an entirely new culture and weather.

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