Shiva’s Empire of Contradictions – An Eye on North India

The Indian subcontinent stands for long distances, is home to millions of people and was once the cradle of a unique early civilisation. In particular the dynasty of the Great Moguls and their sophisticated comprehension of Indo-Islamic culture and architecture formed the country. On a more than four thousand kilometres long journey through North India sights are literally lining the streets. Starting in Calcutta, the journey lead to the sacred city of Varanasi and further on to Indian classics such as the Agra-based Taj Mahal or Fatehpur Sikri, the abandoned former capital of Great Mogul Akbar. In the West scenery is getting more and more meagre, though the wealth of cultural treasures is still on a high level, if even not higher. For example Jaipur’s and Jodhpur’s world of palaces and forts gives an idea how highly developed India’s civilisation once was. The ride’s grand finale was a visit to Abhaneri’s superbly symmetric step well, Deshnok’s bizarre rat temple and Amritsar, home of the amazing Golden Temple and heart of Punjabstate that is bordering with Pakistan in more or less peaceful way; the special border closing ceremony being held every evening near Amritsar gives proof of that.
One thing in the beginning: I have seen many places and countries in the world; I met hundreds of nice people and experienced lots of different situations. I am thankful for that, but India turned all things upside down within one week only and if there wouldn’t have been normal people sharing their food with me on the night train while trying to make first contact in broken English, then I surely would have packed my stuff quite quickly again to go back home as the experiences I made while travelling as part of the Indians were quite extreme and unhygienic. The phrase “few culture and lots of shock” nails down everything as the former Indian high civilisation once might have been outstanding, its memory and all things called cultural-social values connected with that are nowadays not a part of everyday life though; everyone is just trying to survive somehow. No other country in the world can be so unbelievably dirty and unhygienic but also at the same time rich of cultural goods and culinary gems like India. More about that and of course also lots of positive things are told in the following articles. Please also take my article about travel experiences into consideration as there I am getting to the bottom of some social impressions as well as my partial choice of harsher words.

Behind the Scenes of the Golden Temple
Travel Report - North India - Behind the Scenes of the Golden Temples at Amritsar
Amritsar is not really what we call sunny city and if its annoying urban traffic gets additionally involved, then this town can be everything but inviting. Though it is home to an island of calmness, a place of absolute dignity being is able to touch the soul of even the hardboiled among us. Let yourself take on a journey into the world of the Sikhs and their Golden Temple.
Built of eternal Love
Travel Report - North India - Agra and Taj Mahal
There is no question that Taj Mahal is one of India’s biggest touristic magnets, if not to say the most impressive. To build this masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture, country and people got exploited in an unequalled way. Workers and architects left the world a unique monument behind, whose actual origin is leading back to the poppy flower. Fortunately at greater Agra dirt and unhygienic circumstances take a backseat; however it gets replaced by another big annoyance, tourist rip-off. After hard bargaining it’s helping travellers though as pearls like the 450 years old ceiling fresco of Chini-Ka-Rauza, the picturesque Baby Taj as well as the famous Agra Fort can be easily explored. From the latter one you can enjoy a marvellous view to Taj Mahal.
Out of (Traffic) Control
Travel Report - North India - Calcutta
Becoming overwhelmed by horrific traffic, getting in touch with Bengali cuisine, following Mother Theresa’s footprints and getting to know India from its dirtiest side right from the start is what a visit to Ganges delta based Calcutta, a 16 million people big metropolis, is always good for.
Ghost Town of the Great Moguls
Travel Report - North India - Fatehpur Sikri
The holy town of Fatehpur and the former royal residence Sikri are a unique world cultural heritage. It is a sheer miracle that the building at both sites are in a very good shape, hence visitors from all over the world can get an intimate insight in the way of life at that time. Architecturally both places are a dream, have a wonderful layout of lines and opulent ornamentations. Where else if not here people can get a sense of how the Indian sovereigns once ruled the subcontinent.
Shiva’s Cistern
Travel Report - North India - Abhaneri Step-Well
In Rajasthan water is a very valuable good. To store it for the most possible time while still having access to it, Rajasthanis built wells into the ground. The most spectacular of its type is located at the village of Abhaneri, a 1200 years old step well made of dozens of staircases and highly symmetric structures leading into the earth.
Rajasthan’s Pink Panther
Travel Report - North India - Jaipur
The city of Jaipur is one of Rajasthan’s biggest gems. Besides unique cultural achievements such as world’s largest sun clock and extra-ordinary buildings like the wind palace, water palace or the Amber Fort, the city scores much more by its authentic hospitality. If you’re on the hunt for a good deal in terms of high quality fabrics and clothes, then Jaipur has plenty of best Pashmina, Kashmir and silk carpets on offer at very good prices.
Stinking to Heaven high
Travel Report - North India - Varanasi
No other scene could be more Varanasi-like than leaving an auto rickshaw thoughtlessly parked by its driver and sinking right into fresh cow shit until the knuckle. For many people this city is the most emotional and versatile place in India and many of its impressions are throughout positive and authentic. Though this postcard-like showcased holiest city of the Hindu definitely also has some downsides.
Cloud Nine for Rodents
Travel Report - North India - Rat Temple 'Karni Mata'
At the Karni Mata Temple located at the West Indian village of Deshnok all things called spirituality are seeing a very special incarnation when no cows, no monkeys and also no rivers but four-legged rodents are getting worshipped. This sacred monument near the desert town Bikaner is widely known as the Rat Temple.
Where Shiva and Allah are shaking Hands
Travel Report - North India - Jodhpur
In Rajasthan’s Jodhpur two different realms are meeting each other when India and the Arabic world are getting closer together. The city scape is clearly dominated by 500 years old Mehrangarh Fort, while in old town’s narrow lanes life is buzzing as hell, in particular at the Old Market.
Flexing Muscles with the Neighbour
Travel Report - North India - Attari/Wagah border closing ceremony
India and Pakistan are not really tying the bonds of friendship. The course of the border line connecting both countries is located not that far away from Amritsar. The border closing ceremony held at the Attari/Wagah border post is a novelty as both parties don’t let the nuclear threat come up.
When the Mouth is on Fire…
Travel Report - North India - Culinary India
There is no doubt, the Indian cuisine is one of the most diverse and richest on this planet. Doesn’t matter if vegetarian or meat lover, candy enthusiast or dessert abstainer, India will take you on a journey to the world of fine spices, elected ingredients and delectable indulgences. Looking for some names and in particular what to eat? Then just read on here
Like Yin and Yang…
Travel Report - North India - Travel Experiences
When someone comes from back on a journey, then there is lots to talk about… The photos included in the articles above cannot reflect all details of life, for example experiences made when travelling India by train. Also here you can get some photographical suggestions plus advices in terms of small presents, spices and fabrics.

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