Aaaah….New Delhi! It brings a wave of sensations and emotions. This capital is a concoction of mixed experiences for the traveler. Spiced with rich history and over salted with modernity, New Delhi is a curry to sample but not to indulge. Our stay here is brief. It is our meeting ground—an opportunity to gather our wits, get to know our fellow travelers and begin our spiritual adventure.
The breathtaking Swaminarayan Akshardham embodies 10,000 years of Indian culture in true grandeur. The beautiful complex was built as a tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830) and it honors the devas and rishis of Hinduism. Primarily a house of worship, it is also a spiritual campus dedicated to devotion and learning. The 100-acre property, inaugurated in November 2005, showcases the essence of India’s ancient architecture, vibrant traditions and timeless messages. Whether in awareness of Hinduism’s ancient principles or in admiration of the beauty of God’s abode on Earth, a visit to Akshardham is a spiritually enriching experience.
If you choose to come early, visit Old Delhi to meander its crowded alleyways and explore the local markets. It is a shopper’s paradise here. A walk through the stores and stalls will stimulate your senses from dawn to dusk. The main street is lined with countless vendors selling everything you can (and can’t) imagine. Scarves, bags, jewelry and more fill each shop, giving the impression they are about to bust at the seams. The range of fruits, vegetables and spices on display is something to experience in person. Even if you have no intention to purchase anything, you will leave Old Delhi with something in your hand. If it is not a trinket, then it will most likely be a delicious samosa from one of the many cafes.
The great mosque of Old Delhi, Jama Masjid, is the largest in India with a courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. Built from 1644 to 1656, it required more than 5,000 workers and cost one million rupees. Jama Masjid was the final architectural extravagance of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. The highly decorative mosque has three great gates, four towers and two 40-meter minarets striped with red sandstone and white marble. Originally called Masjid-i-Jahan-Numa, meaning “mosque commanding view of the world,” its common contemporary name of Jama Masjid means “Friday mosque.”