I had always daydreamed of going to India one day. I think my fascination with India started years ago when I was researching different types of religions. I was always particularly drawn to the Hindu faith. Not hard considering it’s the oldest religion in the world and 3rd largest in followers behind Christianity and Islam. And what I like the most about Hinduism is that it is a heterogeneous religion. Hinduism has no traditional religious order, centralized authority, governing body, or prophets. And while I never opted to follow any particular organized religion, I appreciate and respect many of the traits.
My best friend was traveling for work and had indicated she would be traveling to Thailand and then India on her trip. So I immediately jumped at the chance to parlay this into a good reason to finally visit India! When we talked about dates, I decided to travel to India solo for the first week or so and that we would then meet up once she arrived. So I immediately started my research (I’m a planner!) on the massive subcontinent that is India.
I did a ton of research online as I was initially concerned about traveling solo as a female. I will detail all of my experiences while in India over multiple posts, but I will say up front that my concern was misplaced. I experienced the warmest and most helpful people while in India, especially when I was there alone! If you’ve ever been scared to travel somewhere new solo, do it! Obviously common sense should always apply wherever you go but I can say my time in India was amazing and I’m so happy I did it!
I left Atlanta on Saturday afternoon and flew through London, arriving just after 1am on Monday, Delhi time. Once I landed, I realized I never updated my original reservation for the homestay I selected to include Sunday night. Thankfully they were very accommodating and were able to take me. I opted to stay in Sardarjung Enclave, which is located in South Delhi. The area was very nice and I loved the place I stayed at (Avatar Living – no paid endorsement….they were just so sweet and amazing!).
India is the land of temples! There are more than 2 million Hindu temples and more than 300,000 Islamic mosques! I decided for my first full day in Delhi to venture out and check out some of the tourist spots.
First up was India Gate.
Since it was my first day and I was still trying to adjust to the time change, I opted to head back to the area I was staying in and found a local restaurant. But it was also my first time trying some Thali.
Satiated, I walked through the neighborhood back to my homestay so I could get ready for the next day.
For day 2, I decided to keep it low-key since I knew I had an early morning scheduled the next day. I started off by checking out Lotus Temple. The Lotus Temple is such a cool design! It was designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba and opened in December 1986. The temple is a Baháʼí House of Worship and like all Bahá’í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all, regardless of religion. The building is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad “petals” arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides with nine doors opening onto a central hall with a height of slightly over 34 meters and a capacity of 1,300 people. Not only is it the only Baháʼí temple in India, it’s the only one in Asia. And it uses solar power – pretty cool! I really enjoyed walking through the gardens surrounding the temple. It’s free to visit and it’s a nice peaceful oasis in Delhi.
Like most temples, photography is not allowed inside. What I can tell you is that the interior is very sparse aside from the chairs but it’s still beautiful given the shape of the structure itself. And the exterior is even more cool when viewed from above. I’m not a drone user but here are a couple of pics showing the exterior and interior of the temple.
After the Lotus temple, I had my Tuk Tuk driver suggest I check out the Iskcon Temple. He dropped me at a very nondescript location near an overpass and I walked through a park (I think) before I finally spotted it. I suspect he dropped me off prematurely but hey, it was a nice day so the walk was enjoyable.
The Iskcon Temple is also known as Sri Sri Radha Parthasarathi Mandir, a Vaishnav temple of Lord Krishna and Radharani. It is situated at Hare Krishna Hills in South Delhi. ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) or Hare Krishnas are followers of Vishnu, one of primary deities of Hinduism. ISKCON describes Krishna as the source of all the avatars of God. Thus ISKCON devotees worship Krishna as the highest form of God, svayam bhagavan, and often refer to him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead in writing, which was a phrase coined by Prabhupada in his books on the subject. To devotees, Radha represents Krishna’s divine female counterpart, the original spiritual potency, and the embodiment of divine love.
After the Iskcon temple, I decided to check out one more temple. I headed about 45 minutes away to Swaminarayan Akshardham, a breathtaking Hindu temple.
The main attraction of the Swaminarayan Akshardham complex is the Akshardham Mandir. It rises 141-feet high, spans 316-feet wide, and extends 356-feet long. It is intricately carved with flora, fauna, dancers, musicians, and deities.
The Akshardham Mandir was designed by BAPS Swamis and Virendra Trivedi, a member of the Sompura family. It is entirely constructed from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble. Based on traditional Hindu architectural guidelines (Shilpa shastras) on maximum temple life span, it makes no use of ferrous metal. Thus, it has no support from steel or concrete.
The mandir also consists of 234 ornately carved pillars, nine domes, and 20,000 murtis of swamis, devotees, and acharyas. The mandir also features the Gajendra Pith at its base, a plinth paying tribute to the elephant for its importance in Hindu culture and India’s history. It contains 148 life sized elephants in total weighing a total of 3000 tons.
Under the temple’s central dome lies the 11 feet high murti of Swaminarayan seated in abhayamudrato whom the temple is dedicated. Swaminarayan is surrounded by images of the faith’s lineage of Gurus depicted either in a devotional posture or in a posture of service. Each murti is made of paanch dhaatu or five metals in accordance to Hindu tradition. The temple also houses the murtis of Sita Ram, Radha Krishna, Shiv Parvati, and Lakshmi Narayan.
This place is nothing short of STUNNING! While no electronics are allowed inside, I’m sharing some of the photos of this breathtaking mandir available online. I HIGHLY recommend visiting this place – it is serene and feels incredibly spiritual. I loved it!
Wrapping up day 2 solo in Delhi, I headed back to my homestay so I could get a good night’s rest. The next day I had an early pickup – headed to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. So exciting! Stayed tuned….