On our second day in India we found another driver who we liked much, much better. He had a turban on and was dead stylish which, at least to me, marked him as a Sikh. I have a ton of Sikh friends and I know first hand what incredibly good and honest people they are, so when I saw we had a cool young guide I knew we were set!
When he saw that I was interested in going to a Gurdwara (a Sikh place of worship) he took us to a stunning one in the new city. With glowing white walls and gold domes that sparkled under the searing sun, the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib was a beacon of cleanliness emerging from the brown rubble of Delhi. We removed our shoes and walked across the white marble courtyard towards the entrance. Before we crossed the threshold, music could be heard from within. It was a beautiful anticipation.
Upon entering there is a wall of wrought gold spanning from the floor to the high ceiling. Intricately carved patterns in shimmering gold provided the backdrop for a trio of musicians playing devotional songs. The centerpiece of this spectacle was a bearded man waving a type of fly swatter called a chauri over their sacred living book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Even with the music and all of the people there was a deep peacefulness here. I could have just sat down for hours and just breathed in the solemnity of this place.
Walking outside there was a very large body of water surrounded by a colonnaded square. This was holy water and we were encouraged to stoop down and brush it over our heads and to sip from it. As I cupped my hands and brought a few drops of the water to my mouth the guide said that people come and bathe here to wash away thier sins or bad karma. That even people with skin diseases come and bathe in the water in hopes of a healing. I immediately sealed my lips and let the holy water dribble down my chin. I wiped the water away as quickly as I could lest it sneak into my mouth, trying to be inconspicuous and thinking of all the horrid afflictions that have troubled these waters. As much as I want the blessing, leper flakes floating in the water make me think twice.
We walked slowly around the basin, just taking in the beauty of the place. It was a real respite for the senses, much needed in the bastion of sensory overload of Delhi.
Our next stop was the magnificent new Akshardham Temple. A Hindu temple built only about ten years ago, it has been compared to Disneyland. I only got that impression because of the cleanliness and symmetry of the structure. No pictures are allowed and indeed cameras and phones need to be checked upon admission just in case you get tempted. To call this temple grandiose would be somewhat of an understatement. The temple is surrounded by water and colonnaded pathways. Inside of the temple was a shrine that looked like the inside of a Faberge egg. All pastels and gold, it was intricately done. Every second that passed I would see something new. When I first laid eyes on it I didn't even see that it was in pastels, the ornamentation was so distracting. As I delved deeper I saw the various shades of pinks and lilacs, light blues and mints hidden in the gold.
Around the outer circle of the temple were beautiful statues of Ganesha, Shiva, Parvati, and many other gods of Hinduism. The ceilings were domes carved within an inch of their lives. I personally felt like the center of the dome was the point of the third eye when I meditate and the geometric patterns repeated around the circumference were the beautiful shapes that emerge when I am in deep meditation, "in the zone". Each dome was a different expression of this feeling I get. It was lovely to see this with eyes wide open, not with eyes closed trying desperately to cling on to that fleeting feeling that lasts too short.
India is a country of many religions, not just the obvious one, Hinduism. There is much more to explore here, I cannot wait to delve deeper.