When making plans for our trip to India, it had been a question in my mind as to (A) how much time we needed to spend in the National Museum and (B) did we need a guide? Well, we had our guide with us, but I think the answer was no, we didn’t really NEED him. There was enough information provided by the museum in the many galleries filled with artifacts for us to get the gist of what was going on, to follow the story line of Indian pre-history and early history, for example.
While the history was new to us, and very fascinating, what we enjoyed most were the artworks – the jewelry, ivory carvings and miniature paintings. We spent a couple of hours wandering through the galleries filled with paintings and jewelry.
Compared to our national museums, this one is rather small and well-contained, composed of a series of rooms forming a circle on one floor. I would say in 3 hours, you can see pretty much everything in there (that’s about how long we were there, I believe).
As we left the museum, we saw that just next door were the offices of the Archaeological Survey of India, the organization which oversees taking care of many of the priceless monuments of the country. Having spent two weeks visiting so many places renovated and looked after by the Archaeological Survey, we appreciated what they do for India, and I dare say, for the world. It is no understatement to say that on our trip, we came to appreciate that many of the world’s greatest treasures are in India.
After our time in the museum, we were ready for lunch. Vijay took us to Lazeez Affaire, a restaurant near the Lodi Gardens, which is where we were going after lunch.
Lazeez Affaire was in what I would call a strip mall, with the restaurant’s entrance between two businesses and its dining room upstairs over one of those businesses. For lunch, we ate some basic dishes – still concerned about my tender tummy, I went for some boneless chicken with a minimum of spice (which did not mean that the food was not spicy, just hopefully not too hot).
The choice of lunch restaurant provided some insight into the different styles of our two New Delhi guides/brothers. Vijay was no less competent than Preem, he just didn’t present things with the same style. Preem made things feel a little more special. Vijay seemed to wish to present things and let them speak for themselves.
The next stop on our day’s travels was to the Lodi Gardens. On our first day in India, Preem had told us of how Delhi is not one city, but actually a series of cities that were built over the centuries by different rulers. On our first day in Delhi we had visited the first city, the Qutub Minar, and on the day previous to this one, we had visited one of the later cities, Shahjahanabad of which Chandni Chowk, the Red Fort and Jama Masjid mosque survive.
This afternoon, we would visit the Lodi Gardens, which encompasses the surviving buildings of the Lodi dynasty, 15th-16th century rulers who immediately preceded the rise of the Mughal emperors. The British in the 19th century built a large garden (or we would say a park) to surround the buildings which remain from the Lodi period. Basically, there are a series of tombs and mosques that survive. During our time in the park, we would see two of these buildings.
I think what struck me the most about the Lodi Gardens is that the residents of New Delhi really treat it like a park, using it the way we would use our Central Park in New York City for example. In other words, you see numerous kids playing and that sort of thing. But at the same time, every now and then there is a monumental 15th century structure. In the U.S., if we had buildings this old, we would have walls around them and be protecting them and not letting anyone touch them or anything. Here in Lodi Gardens, there is a more relaxed interplay between people roaming the gardens and the remnants of Delhi’s ancient history.
As I said, we visited two of the garden’s ancient structures – Bara Gumbad and Sheesh Gumbad. They are near each other and have strong similarities. In fact, Vijay told us that the second building was built to imitate the first one.
Bara Gumbad is the more extensive of the two monuments. In addition to its main building (whose function is not known, I believe), it includes a mosque, a courtyard and a burial mound (I don’t believe they know who is buried there). Considering how old it is, and the fact that it is exposed to the open air (and that wonderfully polluted Delhi air), it is amazing what great shape some of the ornamental carvings on the walls are in.
Sheesh Gumbad has some lovely blue tile above its main entrance. Vijay told us that it is believed that at one time most of the building was covered with colorful tile. Apparently that is one aspect of the Lodi buildings that has not survived so well.
Apart from the two monuments, I enjoyed the Lodi Gardens for their relaxed, family atmosphere. There were colorful trash bins that reminded me of the anti-pollution pushes that we had in the United States in the 1970s.
And while much of the gardens is fairly well-sculpted, there is still some wildness mixed in, like this huge tree we saw.
Having explored the Lodi Gardens for a while, it was now time for us to say good-bye to our guide Vijay and return to the New Delhi Oberoi Hotel for a very special event, a personal cooking class with one of the hotel’s chefs.