behind the scenes
New Delhi couldn't be more different from the city centre. It's a sort of lasting memorial to the British colonial past that ruled India until 1947. Most of the buildings were built in the last 80 years. A conscious effort has been made to maintain the imperial grandeur of the Moghul era.
New Delhi was confirmed as the capital on December 12, 1911 and it's where the seat of government has been housed since 1931. One impressive structure includes the splendid archway known as India Gate. It serves as a memorial to the soldiers who died in the first World War. The area in the vicinity of the arch is a meeting point for families and friends after a hectic day in the city. It's a great place to relax, soak up the ambience and mix with the very friendly and welcoming locals. Boat trips will cost you less than one U.S. dollar.
The surburb of Nizamuddin is where the diversity of South Delhi begins. The village is home to a small Muslim population and is a great way to really experience the local way of life. All of the people are very welcoming and are keen to show you their skills. Many offer flowers as an offering before entering the village shrine. You have to remove your shoes and should wear covered clothes to respect worshippers. The narrow maze-like alleyways en route to the shrine provide shelter and comfort for many of the older generation. Most spend the whole day relaxing and staying out of the heat of the midday sun.
The beautiful shrine memorializing Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, to whom the village is named after dates back to 1562. He was one of the saints of a religion known as Sufi, a Muslim religion. There are many religions that co-exist in Delhi. Religion is considered harmonious these days and it certainly is an experience to savor. Hinduism is far and away the largest religion in the country. For a majority of Indians it permeates every aspect of their life, from common daily chores to education and politics.
A short journey further south brings you to the Chattapur Temple Complex. The amazing temples have been built in the last 15 years, with each one representing a different god or goddess.
The complex is part of an ongoing project to build a purpose built city where the locals can visit freely to pray or worship. In a country of over 800 million people where there's thought to be at least 33 million different gods or goddesses, there is still a long way to go.
For those who thought the Taj Mahal was the most visited building in the world, think again. It's in New Delhi and it's called the Baha'i house of worship, or more commonly known as the Lotus Temple. Since its opening for public worship in 1986 more than 70 million people have visited. Thousands of people descend here every day of the year. The record is 150,000 people in one day. The Baha'i faith is practiced by 6 million people world-wide but this house of worship is open to any religion, race, man, woman, rich or poor. Its structure is often compared with the opera house in Sydney. But the reason so many people have visited this temple, apart from its visual beauty, is the freedom to pray or meditate whatever your religion.
Delhi as a whole has staggering contrasts and if you're willing to explore a little, then you can find a whole world of different cities.
Rajpath & India Gate l
Baha'i House of Worship - Lotus Temple
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