Who I am
Martí Micolau

Author and references

"India is a dream. It is a spiritual quest. It is an intimate journey into the womb of the human species. Depending on the context, it can represent extreme poverty, dizzying economic growth, a frenzied quest for success. There is no other place in the world. world that can so faithfully reflect the nuances of the human soul. A huge country, the seventh in the world by geographical extension and the second by number of inhabitants. It hosts more than a billion people. Despite the extreme state of poverty in which too many Indians still live, the country boasts the second largest economy in the world (after the Chinese one) for annual growth. In my opinion, a demanding trip like this must be prepared well in the sense that I believe we must take into account - before going there - a whole series of elements: what kind of travelers are you?, where do you want to go, what you want to see, how much effort are you willing to do etc. and to avoid going home and saying the usual things like: what a disaster! certain things "give f astidio "we might as well stay at home and see India on TV: the most important aspects? "strong" are not seen and, above all, the smells are not smelled. "Below I will try to tell you about our adventure in India, hoping to be able to grasp the most important features and to help all those who want to visit this country

Below is our itinerary:


1 day

September 12th

With Lufthansa flights Naples-Munich-Delhi, we arrive in the Indian capital in the late evening. The heat ? awful. Waiting for us the agent of the agency who puts a beautiful garland of flowers around our necks. Just a beautiful and unexpected welcome! We immediately learn to say hello in the Indian way: we put our hands together at the chin and make a small bow saying Namast ?. With the minibus of the agency we arrive at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, really excellent (with careful surveillance: metal detector and luggage control at the entrance!) And, having had lunch and dinner on the fly, we limit ourselves to a healthy refreshment in the room to overcome the time zone change. Sleep takes over .......

2 day

September 13 DELHI

Meeting with our guide Suresh Kumar, a nice little dark skinned man who makes a great impression on us: he seems very prepared and above all? so smiling! The minibus, which we share with a couple of young married traveling companions, enters the streets of Delhi that are teeming with people in the midst of chaotic and noisy traffic! First stage of the visit? the "P? great Indian mosque, the Jami Masjid, built between 1650 and 1656, which stands on a hill. A steep staircase leads to the large arched entrances under which horses were sold and jugglers performed. Today there are sweets sellers, "shoe keepers" and beggars flock to it. Obviously we are forced to take off our shoes and wear the "slippers" that the agency provided us (excellent service) and also Bianca is required to wear a shirt complete with hood (provided by the keepers) .... Detail not to be overlooked : to ... shoot videos and photos, in India you pay! Minimal sums, few rupees, but you pay!
The courtyard, a square of 28 m, can? hold up to 20.000 people and close to the ablution pool in the center, c '? a platform (dikka) on which, before the advent of loudspeakers, there was a person who repeated the words and actions of the imam for the faithful too far from the pulpit. The two thin minarets flank three domes covered in white marble. Under the arcades many faithful who, from women in brightly colored saris to children with bright black eyes, show us this people with a very mild appearance. The mosque? "open" or rather we also pray under the arcades and in these places we come across praying faithful and someone ..... sleeping! We move to the relatively close Red Fort (Lal Qila) the imperial citadel which owes its name to the red clay bastions built between 1638 and 1648. We enter through the Naqqar Khana the main gate in front of which stands the Diwan-I- Am the pavilion of public hearings. The throne, an inlaid canopy? on a platform, while the prime minister, the Vizier, sat on a marble bench at a lower level. To the rear are the Rang Mahal residence of the first wife of the ruler and the royal apartments. The pavilion of the throne of the Peacock, the Diwan-i-Khas, unfortunately no longer hosts? this wonderful object which was in solid gold with precious stones set which was brought to Persia by Nadir Shah after the sacking of Delhi in 1739.

We have lunch in an excellent restaurant and have the first approach to Indian cuisine famous for its aromas and the fragrance of the spices that are the basis of each dish. Curry, the Indian spice par excellence,? composed of several herbs including turmeric, cardamom, ginger, coriander, nutmeg and poppy seeds. In the northern regions, lamb dishes are common including rogan josh (lamb curry), biriyani (chicken or lamb with orange rice sprinkled with sugar and rose water, tandoori (chicken marinated in herbs and baked in an earthenware oven called tandoor).
Later we will make a list of the specialties? indians enjoy!

Next stop is the Humayun Mausoleum in red sandstone with white marble decorations built between 1565 and 1573 in a large park. The building ? of noble and grandiose aspect, and? important for the history of Indian architecture, being the forefather of the Mughal-style buildings culminating in the Taj Mahal in Agra. A large double marble dome covers the room of the tomb, a simple marble sarcophagus, placed in the darkness. Other monuments arise around such as Humayun's favorite "barber's tomb" and the octagonal tomb of Isa Khan, very refined in its forms where there are jalis, stone racks that became a characteristic of the Mughal style.
The rest of the day? dedicated to the Qutb Complex located in the archaeological park of Meharauli full of green areas that in antiquity? it was a hunting area of ​​the sovereigns but what then, during the English domination and still today? very popular with rich and famous people of Delhi.
The element that dominates the whole? the famous Tower of Victory, Qutb Minar, built in the 72.55th century 14.40 m high with a base diameter of 2.44 m and the one at the top of only 1311 m. In 1206 the construction of another tower was begun, the Alai Minar, which was supposed to have a double height but only the first floor was built. Other characteristic constructions are the Quwwait-ul-Islam mosque begun in whose pillars are decorated with typical Indian motifs, and the th century iron column, originally a flag pole in honor of the goddess Vishnu, a tribute to the Indian metallurgy as it is not affected by rust. On it there is a very ancient writing in Sanskrit in gupta characters.
Dinner at the hotel with other specialties? Indian, and then a well-deserved rest. Tomorrow awaits us Varanasi, the ancient Benares, city? sacred place of Hinduism on the Ganges river.

3 day

September 14 VARANASI (Uttar Pradesh)

Uttar Pradesh covers a large part of the floodplain of the Ganges, the Doab, on which other large rivers and their tributaries flow. Almost all major cities? of the state arise on the banks of these rivers. It is a state rich in history and traditions and on the banks and at the confluences of its rivers the most important rites and celebrations have been held daily for millennia. sacred to the Inds ?. The pilgrimage to Varanasi the city? eternal of India? the North Star of each ind? observant. The appearance more? surprising of the city, at first glance,? the extraordinary crowding of temples and palaces on the west bank of the Ganges River - the main of which are off-limits to non-Inds? - while the eastern shore? totally deserted and sandy. Millennia of floods have caused this curious arrangement. The Inds ?, how? known, they believe that dying in Varanasi is a guarantee of extinction of Karma and therefore of liberation from the cycle of rebirths, why? the city? brings together all the virtues? purifiers present in other centers of ritual pilgrimage.
On the Ghats, the stairways that lead down to the water, c '? those who wash clothes next to those who pray, those who shampoo themselves next to those who scatter the ashes of the dearly departed. Those who place on the current offerings of flowers and food arranged on large leaves, those who simply await death, dusty Sadhus, the ascetics, who expose their medieval corporal mortifications and cold Brahmans, the priests, under large parasols that dispense sacred mantras to pilgrims. Attending these scenes so? intimate can? be embarrassing to some or attractive to others, but? however useful to remember the substantial indifference of the Inds? in this regard, who generally, while they are engaged in rituals and prayers, react to our presence on the river with the same interest reserved for any fish fauna.

We transfer in the morning to Indira Gandhi airport in Delhi from where an Air India flight takes us to Varanasi in a little more? of an hour. A pleasant surprise on board: the economy seats are all full ... they move us to business class! So lucky! Transfer to the Taj Gateway hotel and lunch. We stop in a factory for the Zari manufacturing, woven with a warp in golden or silver metal thread. The silk brocades woven with this technique are particularly famous; the predominantly Muslim weavers are called Karigar, which simply means Artist. We observe the looms both the traditional ones and those that operate with punch cards and obviously we witness an exhibition of goods, quite expensive, which are offered for sale. We buy a small tapestry depicting Ganesh, the elephant god, and some pashminas.

Origin and meaning of the word? Pashmina?
Pashm? ? a word of Persian origin and means? wool ?, which reached India together with the technique of knitting scarves and l? the word ? was used to indicate cashmere. The word? Pashmina? therefore it derives from? pashm? and precisely indicates a cashmere product. Since the nineteenth century, following the export of these cashmere shawls to Europe, the word Pashmina is? also widespread in the West as a synonym for a particularly fine cashmere shawl.

In the afternoon aboard a rickshaw? pedaling through the streets of the city? that offer us a truly unique collection of people, shops of all kinds, colors, smells, chapels. votives and above all the sacred cows, many but many sacred cows, we arrive on the western bank of the Ganges

The pilgrimage to Varanasi the city? eternal of India? the North Star of each ind? observant. The appearance more? surprising of the city, at first glance,? the extraordinary crowding of temples and palaces on the west bank of the Ganges River - the main of which are off-limits to non-Inds? - while the eastern shore? totally deserted and sandy. Millennia of floods have caused this curious arrangement. The Inds ?, how? known, they believe that dying in Varanasi is a guarantee of extinction of Karma and therefore of liberation from the cycle of rebirths, why? the city? brings together all the virtues? purifiers present in other centers of ritual pilgrimage.
On the Ghats, the stairways that lead down to the water, c '? those who wash clothes next to those who pray, those who shampoo themselves next to those who scatter the ashes of the dearly departed. Those who place on the current offerings of flowers and food arranged on large leaves, those who simply await death, dusty Sadhus, the ascetics, who expose their medieval corporal mortifications and cold Brahmans, the priests, under large parasols that dispense sacred mantras to pilgrims. Attending these scenes so? intimate can? be embarrassing to some or attractive to others, but? however useful to remember the substantial indifference of the Inds? in this regard, who generally, while they are engaged in rituals and prayers, react to our presence on the river with the same interest reserved for any sudden noise. On a boat led by a taciturn oarsman named Pannalal we skirt the shore along the Ghats, the steps that lead to the river, where pilgrims bathe and where the holy men preach to groups of faithful admiring the magnificent palaces that line the river. It is almost evening and we discreetly approach the place where the cremations take place. High flames illuminate the figures of the gravediggers and strange smells of incense, burning wood and burning meat spread in the air, corpses waiting on bamboo beds. and covered in bright colored cloths ....... Dante's vision! We return quite shocked by the scenes seen but aware that we have to measure our power to endure unusual visions in Europe. Meanwhile on the Gath Manikarnika from which we started, yes? an immense crowd gathered to attend a religious ceremony also seen by people on the boats moored along the shore. As we go ashore an unexpected rain breaks out suddenly and we, without any shelter, literally soak ourselves in water. We try to take advantage of a very crowded shelter with little result indeed a sacred cow tries to join the group with generous thrusts ....... Giocoforza we can not help but welcome it ......? sacred! But not ? over. Should we get back on board the risci? pedal but the water that now, almost like a river in flood, flows with a lot of impetus along the descent and that reaches us to the knees does not allow us to make this transfer and our guide wisely gives us a rickshaw? motor with closed cockpit that brings us back to the hotel. We are soaking wet and only luckily the laundry of the hotel saves us with its drying machines but for the shoes we have to use the hairdryer that we find in the bathroom of our room. Unscheduled adventure. What some ind god? wanted to purify us having understood that we are great sinners? Who knows ?! To console us, a lavish dinner! Tomorrow morning wake up at dawn to attend the rite of ablutions.

4 day

September 15th

Wake up at 4.00 ..... Traveling? even sacrifice! On the banks of the river, here seven hundred meters wide and flowing imposing, for countless centuries, every morning at sunrise, thousands of pilgrims flock from the most? remote provinces of India. The whole frame of the Gath? crowded with devotees preparing for morning prayer and everyone? absorbed in his religious acts as if he were alone; an infinite variety? of figures, movements and colors gives the show a magical aspect. Each one of them goes down into the water, plunges and generously rubs his body with the sacred water, sometimes drinking a sip ..... Nobody minds us intruders gathered as they are in religious silence and meditation. Unforgettable show! How unforgettable will it be? the path that the guide makes us do along the road that goes back to the top? del Gath between piles of wood that will be used for the cremations anxiously arranged in good order by the workers, sacred cows, and many chapels, or temples, if you prefer, from which religious songs come out. Let's go back to the hotel and then transfer to the airport for the flight that will take us? in Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh.


5 day

KHAJURAHO (Madhja Pradesh)

September 16th

We stay in an excellent hotel, the Taj Chandela and, as in all the hotels of the Taj chain, also in this the bathroom? separated from the room by glass and roller blind ....
We have lunch and immediately travel to the archaeological area with the temples erected from the th to the th century AD. They are relatively small but decorated with cycles of beautiful sculptures, often of an erotic theme. The guide of the place through a mirror identifies the most? interesting exalting the Kamasutra as in the classical Hindu culture,? present the precise objective of pursuing a harmonious self-realization, without neglecting any aspect of earthly life. ? therefore prescribed that it seeks three objectives:
1. Artha: Well-being, both physical and economic;
2. Kaama; Desire, pleasure and its fruition;
3. Dharma: the ethical sense that seeks a balance between artha and kama.

Sull? Artha? been written there? Athasastra by Kautilya, a treatise on political art, while on the Dharma? the Manusmirti, or the Code of Manu, has been drawn up. On the desire, however, the famous Kamasutra.
In the western area, the temples of Khajuraho, for the most part in sandstone, scattered in an open space without walls, rise on large platforms often with four corner temples and are characterized by a high base with elaborate moldings that emphasize their vertical momentum. Following the geographical location, the Khajuraho complex is divided into two sectors, the pi? important of which? the western one which includes the Varaha, Lakshmana, Kandariya Mahadeva, Mahadeva, Devi Jagadamba, Chaunsath Jogini, Chitragupta, Parvati and Vishvanatha temples. The pi? splendid and impressive, as well as? paradigmatic of style,? the Kandariya Mahadeva, with its Shikhara, the tower, 31 meters high, dedicated to Shiva; on a cruciform plan, it originally had four other shrines at the corners of the platform. Soft, sensual, elegant and provocative at the same time: the erotic sculptures of the temples of Khajuraho, India, arouse amazement and an undeniable erotic thrill in the beholder. We remain admired why? observing those couples intertwined in various embraces, we forget that they are stone statues: are the bodies of lovers like this? lithe, their hugs so? passionate, to seem alive and true. The woman? protagonist of a sensuality? natural, exhibited with grace and malice, but always? ? subject ?, never? object? sexual. Equality between man and woman in the world of kama was an established fact; bench? discriminated against in other aspects of social life, in the field of sexuality? and of love the ind woman? he had the same rights as man, and therefore the same right to pleasure.
In fact, the Kamasutra writes:? the species not? different, the groom and the bride ask for equal pleasure. So? the woman? to fondle so that it reaches pleasure first ?.

In the eastern area outlined by a surrounding wall there are some Jain temples and in front of the entrance there is a building used as a reception for pilgrims, with colorful clothes that have come down to dry.

Dinner at the hotel and then at the Kandarya Cultural Center where we will attend a show of traditional Indian dances. It pays to book in time.

6 day

ORCHA (Madhja Pradesh)

September 16th

Departure for Orcha, 191 km. The first trip by minibus but there will be others ..... more? long .... We cross characteristic villages crossing groups of pilgrims on the road and after a technical stop in a modest motorway restaurant but where luckily we find the flag of India (we collect flags of the nations we visit) and another for lunch , we arrive at Orcha which stands out in the middle of the countryside, on an island produced by a bend in the Betwa river, an ancient rajput stronghold, forgotten by history and by men but full of real architectural gems. We walk towards the site, encountering on our way a kind of temple with inscriptions represented "swastikas". I already had seen similar decorations in China on Buddha statues. I ask for explanations from the guide who only partially informs me. Not happy with Wikipedia ....

The Italian term "swastika" originates directly from the Sanskrit masculine noun svastika (devanāgarī स्वास्तिक) which indicates in that language, among other meanings, the design of a Greek cross with its arms bent at right angles (卐 or 卍), a religious symbol and propitious for the original religious cultures of India such as Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. In Sanskrit this term has numerous meanings indicating, among others, a "bard who welcomes", "a crossroads of four roads", "the crossing of hands or arms on the chest", "a bandage in the shape of a cross ", the" rooster "," a precious object in the shape of a triangular crown "but, above all, in the meaning of" propitious object "or the design / symbol of a Greek cross with arms bent at right angles which, according to the majority of the orientalists, it would represent the solar disk.

Orcha was the capital of the Rajput dynasty of the Bundela, which ruled the area between the Narmada and Yamuna rivers and which, occupying the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Delhi Sultanate, and the consequent small autonomous Sultanates, extended its domain up to this area. Orchha, which means hidden, was founded by the chief Raja Ruda Pratap on a previous settlement, which surrounded it. of walls and which link? with an arch bridge.
The fortified citadel stands on a rocky promontory surrounded by wooded countryside and the Betwa River. Is it an island of peace and tranquility? and a magnificent example of a medieval fortress where the walls and turrets enclose gardens, pavilions, temples. A place as enchanted as it is neglected. ruined buildings, pavilions, hamams, walls and doors connected to the city? from an impressive paved street with 14 arches are all there? that remains of the ancient splendor.
The best preserved building? the Jahangir Mahal, built in 1606 by Maharaja Bir Singh Deo to commemorate the visit of the Mughal emperor whose name it bears.
This palace, considered a milestone in the history of Indian architecture, synthesizes the Ind? and Islamic, as a tribute to the great ruler. Entering from the East there is an original entrance flanked by elephants, which leads to a large courtyard surrounded by three floors of private apartments with balconies, reachable by narrow and very dark stairs. The corners of the ramparts are topped with domes and house rooms, terraces, chhattris, (umbrella pavilions), and jalis, stone grates, which give the huge complex a light and fresh look. This splendid building at pi? levels has 132 rooms in the upper parts and as many in the basement. The sandstone structure? embellished with lapis lazuli inserts. At the exit we meet strange characters: two players and a decorated guy who "blesses" in his own way Bianca who makes him an offering. India amazes more and more ?! I encourage the players to dedicate their performance to me! Something similar happens almost on every trip ...

Transfer to Jhansi train station, only 14 km away (here too we find sacred cows!), Where we take the Shatabi Express train that will take us? in Agra. Porters take our trollies that I anxiously follow framing them with the video camera until they are loaded on the wagon ...... you never know! The train, although late by a good hour, isn't it? then as bad as we thought. Air conditioning, bottles of water we are given in abundance and the undoubtedly decent toilets. Of course we have also seen regional trains full to the improbable literally taken by storm by travelers! We arrive at the Taj Gateway Hotel in Agra, very nice, have dinner and then relax at the bar. Tomorrow many things to see.

7 day

AGRA (Uttar Pradesh)

September 17th

Agra is located in the center of a rich and culturally very diverse territory. During the th and th centuries it was the capital of the Mughal empire. From here the emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan ruled their vast kingdom. After the decline of the Mughal dynasty, Agra was conquered by the Jat (The Jat people (Hindi: जाट Jāṭ, Punjabi: ਜੱਟ Jaṭṭ) are a historical Indo-Aryan tribal group originating from the Punjab region)., By the Maratha (one of the main people of India, famous in history as Yeoman warriors and champions of Hinduism (their homeland is the current state of Maharashtra) and finally by the British.

We visit the Taj Mahal in the morning, the most? famous monument of India, construction begun in 1632, finished in 1648, commissioned by the Great Mogul Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1631. From the Great Gateway, monumental entrance of 1648, in red sandstone with decorations and Koranic writings in marble white surmounted by twenty-six white marble domes, you enter the garden that frames the Taj Mahal, divided into four by two avenues and the four parts divided in turn into four. A long longitudinal basin (Charbag), in which the Taj is reflected, leads to the monument crossing the entire garden interrupted by the lotus basin. The monument rests on a seven meter high square platform of white marble, with a side of 102 meters. At the four corners of the platform stand minarets, again in white marble, 46 meters high, surmounted by chhatri. The central part of the monument, with an octagonal base,? 60 meters wide and? covered by a roof placed 35 meters from the ground while the dome? at 60, 50 meters. The mausoleum all in marble of a dazzling whiteness,? adorned with an extraordinary and refined design on the surface, a splendid showcase for its refined aesthetics. Its construction required 41 million rupees, 500 kg of gold and 20.000 workers who worked on it for 22 years. As it is also a place of worship, we have to remove our shoes and put on our slippers to enter. It is not possible to take videos and photos and we can only admire and remember what we see. The cenotaphs of the sovereigns are protected by metal grids and below them are the actual tombs.
It is a sublime garden tomb, close to the Islamic idea of ​​the garden of Eden. Its perfect proportions and exquisite decorations have earned it the definition of "prayer, vision, dream, wonder". Continue to Sikandra where the Mughal Emperor Akbar had a mausoleum built inside a park. Four monumental portals post to the four cardinal points lead to a beautiful garden where fallow deer and monkeys live and where cute squirrels also meet. The main portal? in red sandstone inlaid with white marble polygons and finished with a polychrome inlay of white marble, black slate and colored stones. At the corners of the mausoleum there are four marble minarets, precursors of the rear ones of the Taj Mahal. The actual tomb is located in a domed sepulcher in the heart of the building, illuminated by rays of light coming from an arched window. A low door at the end of the access ramp ensures that each visitor bows his head in respect .......
After a lavish lunch consumed in the hotel, we go to a factory of marble objects inlaid with semi-precious stones. The processing of these beautiful artifacts? entrusted to the expert hands of artisans who engrave white marble with very sharp metal points and then insert the stones into the grooves traced. We try to imitate their expertise ..... At the store then we buy a nice dish, at a fairly high cost (240 euros ...), but I can also include two decorated elephants!

We move to the Agra Fort, a world heritage site of humanity? UNESCO and also known as Lal Qila, Fort Rouge or Red Fort of Agra.
Surrounded by the Yamuna River, the monumental fortress owes its name to the material used for its construction, red sandstone, first mentioned in 1080, and the first sultan who moved? from Delhi to the fortress was Sikandar Lodi around 1500. It is one of the strongest forts important and representative of India, thanks to its location and construction since? ? surrounded by a ditch of water from the river. In the past, the treasures of the state were preserved and it was inhabited by different emperors. Akbar the Great (1542-1605) wanted to make Agra the capital of the Mughal empire but arrived? in the fortress only shortly before his death. The walls are grandiose, with a moat between the outer and inner walls.
Amar Singh's Gate? the main entrance, of l? of the drawbridge over the moat waters. The central court? on arches, with a roof resting on shelves decorated with unique carvings. The surrounding rooms are richly decorated with carvings.
Right c ?? a living room, behind the apartments of the Rajput Princess, with niches for the deities? Hindu, on the left the harem and in front of three other rooms, the Akbar library. His eldest son, Salim, later became Jahangir or lord of the world, became emperor at the age of? 36 years old, decor? Akbar's palace with smooth stucco and gold paintings and added equally luxurious rooms to the north, behind the long facade. Leaving the Jehangir rooms, you reach the three white marble pavilions. The central one with five arches? the Khas Mahal, the private palace of Shaha Jahan.
The two side pavilions are those of the favorite daughters Jahanara and Roshanara.
Elongated curved roofs of Rajput tradition, translucent marbles that filter light but not heat. Ceilings in gold and blue and where tapestries and portraits hung on the walls. Outside the air was cooled by fountains and perfumed by flowers.

Around the Anguri Bagh or Garden of Life lived the women of the imperial house, in the sandstone rooms built by Akbar. The royal baths were in the north-east corner, equipped with two antechambers called Shish Mahal or Palace of Mirrors, why? covered with mirrors that reflected candlelight. The series of buildings, on the marble platform, show the refined taste of Shah Jahan such as the Mussaman Burj or octagonal towers and the exquisitely inlaid rooms that form a mini-palace intended for Mumtaz, with courtyard, bathrooms, living room and terraces. Shah Jahan left the Khas Mahal and passed through here to reach the private audience hall. Pi? ahead, upstairs and overlooking the wide platform by the river with two thrones, is the spacious and beautiful Diwan-i-Khas or Private Audience Hall, decorated with beautiful hard stone columns. Under the Diwan-i-Khas the fabulous royal treasure was kept. Below the platform are the riverside rooms, the Malchchi Bhavan or Akbar's fish house, in whose spacious garden the courtesans held special bazaars, unique occasions for public courtship. According to the legend, here Jahangir meets Nur Jahan and Shah Jahan his Mumtaz. At the end of the visit, the majestic Diwan-i-Am or public audience hall, made entirely of sandstone with a style that? a perfect mix of Persian and Indian architecture.
Back in the central courtyard we come across monkeys and the usual nice squirrels. Bianca feeds them in the palm of her hand. Cha cute show!
Last visit ? the Itimad-ud-Daulah's Tomb defined as a "casket of marble jewels" built in six years from 1622 to 1628 by will? of daughter Nur Jahan. The complex ? a brilliant combination of marble, mosaics, set stones and inlays. Structure ? It has been defined as innovative by stylistically representing the transition between the impressive sandstone architecture of Akbar and the sensual refinement of Shah Jahan's Taj Mahal. The garden of the complex overlooks the east bank of the Yamuna River where we see fishermen at work. Back to the hotel. Tomorrow Fatehpur Sikri 37 km away and then again 213 km to reach Jaipur.

8 day

FATEHPUR SIKRI (Uttar Pradesh)

September 18th

We arrive at Fatehpur Sikri, the imperial capital abandoned in 1585, but in excellent condition thanks to Lord Curzon vicer? British from 1899 to 1905. Fatehpur Sikri or 'Citt? of Victory '? a city? fortified town founded in 1569 by the great emperor of the Mughal dynasty Akbar. The city? palace atop a rocky ridge, confined within the walls on three sides and a lake was designed in the styles of Hindu, Jain and Islamic architecture, with red sandstone, which? also "Sikri sandstone". The city? ? accessible through a series of doors erected at various points along the wall bordering the fort.
The gates are in particular the Chandanpal Gate, the Agra Gate, the Tehra Gate, the Lal Gate, the Delhi Gate, the Birbal Gate, the Gwalior Gate, the Ajmere Gate and the Chor Gate.

A few historical notes
The great emperor Akbar had no heirs. He has visited many places offering prayers and seeking blessings from the saints. A Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chishti, in the village Sikri, predicted the birth of a son and the emperor, after the happy event, showed him? his gratitude with building a city? in honor of the Saint and called it? Fatehpur Sikri. "Fateh" in Persian language means "victory". After the death of the Sufi saint, Akbar erected a tomb of the saint in red sandstone. The monuments and structures at Fatehpur Sikri are reminiscent of the great emperor's artistic sense and holistic approach. Influence of Indian embellishments? very represented. Due to the lack of availability? of water was abandoned by Akbar soon after its completion in 1585.

Some of the main attractions of the city? I'm:

Pachisi Court: The square owes its name to a game similar to the ludo that the women of the harem used to play.
Diwan-i-Aam: A room intended to host public gatherings and meetings? one of the most? essentials of the palaces of ancient times, an elaborate pavilion originally covered with precious carpets that was used for public ceremonies or large celebrations.
Diwan-i-Khas: The private audience room? the imperial pavilion where the royal members discussed business privately. It is a simple square-shaped building with four chhatris on the top. The central axis, supported by carved corbels (shelves) on which rests a circular balcony from which four walkways radiate. ,? inspired by the buildings of Gujarat.
Panch Mahal: This is a five-story structure that served as the home of noble ladies who used to enjoy the cool evening breeze. The upper part of the structure? large domed chhatri. In total there are 176 sculpted columns supporting the floors.

Maryam 'House: dedicated to the Turkish sultan, one of Akbar's wives.

It is undoubtedly a site full of charm for its architectural clarity.

We get back on the road and along the way, in Bharatpur, known as the eastern tip of Rajasthan, we have lunch in a thousand and one nights restaurant that is part of the Laxmi Niwas Palace Hotel built and furnished in traditional Rajasthani style.
Again on our way to Jaipur where we arrive at the fabulous ITC Rajputana Hotel greeted by a thunderous trumpet blast! We are incredulous and surprised at the welcome! Dinner, relaxation and rest. Amazing day tomorrow!

9 day

JAIPUR (Rajasthan)

September 19th

The capital of Rajasthan? a city? which was carefully planned in 1700 and which always remains attractive for the pink color with which its main buildings are painted. Jaipur, the city? of Jai or of victory, today more? known as the city? rosa, was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Jai ​​Singh II, belonging to the Kachawaha clan, who governed? the heart of Rajasthan from 1699 to 1744. Here we are at the Palace of Winds, Hawa Mahal, from 1799, which is part of the eastern walls of the City Palace but you will get a better idea of ​​it from the outside. Of course ? the building pi? famous of the city? and it is a pink areanaria facade of a palace built for the guests of Sawai Pratap Singh's Harem. The five floors rise on a high podium with a western entrance. The elaborate façade has 953 niches with latticed windows, or jalis, and balconies. The structure allowed the ladies of the Zenana, the harem, to observe parades and processions without being seen.

Now we are in Amber, founded in the 1562th century by a Rajput prince of the Kachhavaha clan in a strategic place on the caravan route between Delhi and Rajasthan which became the capital of a powerful state thanks also to the alliance of its sovereigns with the Mughals, a further cemented bond. from the marriage of Akbar with Maryam Zamani, royal princess of the family in , the fruit of which was the birth of the future emperor Jahangir. Perched on a hill in Amber Jaygarh Fort, the Fortress of Victory offers views of Lake Maota and the city? historical at the base of the hill and on the defensive walls that follow the natural profile of the hill itself.
To reach the fortress you have to go down a ramp on foot, by jeep or on the back of an elephant ... bold as we are we opt for the pachyderm even if we know of accidents that took place years ago .....
Through 5 defensive portals, after a reckless caracollata, we reach the Suraj Pol, the Sun Gate, and then we enter the Jaleb Chouk, the service courtyard added by Jay Singh II, on which also the Chandra Pol, the Moon Gate opens. , which leads to the temple dedicated to Narasimha, the Leonine incarnation of the god Vishnu. After passing the Lion's Gate, next to which stands the Palatine temple dedicated to the goddess Kal?, You enter the Diwan-i-am, the Hall of Public Audience, an imposing hypostyle construction commissioned by Jay Singh I, with a central hall with columns in marble surrounded by a double series of red sandstone pillars. The Ganesh Pol, the Gate of Ganesh, with its scenic facade with shielded arches of jalis, stone grates, and bangaldar roof - a style derived from traditional Bengal houses, with the four corners bent vertically downwards - constituted the entrance to the private quarters of the fort and from the top floor, the Sohag Mandir, studded with delicate grates, the ladies could follow the public audiences unseen. On the same level? located the Bhojan Shala, the Banqueting Hall, decorated with paintings of Indian subjects.

Beyond the door opens the garden court of Diwan-i-Khas with on the right the elegant Sukha Nivas or Sukha Mandir, Jay Singh's delightful apartments, where the main hall with splendid doors with sandal and ivory doors? cooled by a canal paved with zigzagging bands in black and white marble, powered by a hydraulic machine and leading to a small waterfall in the Char Bagh, the classic 4-sector garden.

On the left stands the Jay Mandir - evident here the close link with the Mughal court - with the resplendent Diwan-i-Khas and the splendid Shish Mahal, Palace of Mirrors, with the Yash Mandir above, the Palace of Gloria, magnificently decorated with cards vitreous, mirrors, gilding and inlays of semi-precious stones, concluded by a terraced roof in bangaldar. Also in the same courtyard is the rather gloomy gynoecium building commissioned by Man Singh I, a true labyrinth of rooms, storage rooms, service rooms, kitchens and screened terraces.
Amber remained the capital of the dynasty until 1727, when Jay Singh II relocated? the court and the center of power in his new city, Jaipur, 11 Km further on. to the South. We also admire the Jai Mahal or "palace on the water" which seems to float on the calm waters of Lake Man Sagar when the rain during the monsoon fills the basin. Leaving the fort we find a snake charmer with his good cobra who resigned to his fate ..... does his best in giving a show ... Near c '? the City Palace Museum the imposing architectural complex which is affected by the Rajput and Mughal influence at the same time. Part today? open to the public as a museum but the splendid Chandra Mahal? still a private residence. You enter through the Rajendra Pol with its large brass doors, you enter the courtyard where the Diwan-i-Khas is located, the private audience hall that contains two gigantic silver urns of 350 kg each and a capacity of 615 liters, counted in the Guinness Book of Records, which were used by Maharaja Madho Sing II to transport the waters of the Ganges to be able to purify himself during his trip to London in 1901. The Diwan-i-Aam built on a raised platform supported by pillars, it was used for coronations, ceremonies and official receptions. Now ? been transformed into an art gallery, with some of the most beautiful pieces. beautiful of the museum. Video and photo shooting strictly prohibited .... Only the carriages in the gallery dedicated to means of transport can be filmed. A quick trip to a laboratory of printed fabrics and carpets to attend the various stages of processing and then we head towards the Jantar Mantar, the observatory, with a fascinating set of astronomical instruments. Of the five observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh II, the one in Jaipur? the pi? large and best preserved. Built between 1728 and 1734, you resemble a gigantic sculptural composition of 16 instruments and? it has been described as the "most realistic and rational landscape of stone". The impression it gives me? that it was recently made as an exhibition of contemporary sculptures, so its forms appear current. Some tools are still used. Worth mentioning is the Rashivalaya Antra consisting of 12 pieces each depicting a zodiac sign. Photos with our signs are a must! Before returning to the hotel, a trip to Galta which is 10 km away to visit the Monkey Temple. The mountains drop sheer into the Galta gorge and at the bottom of the gorge c '? Galta Kund, a religious site, actually a little in ruins, from the th century with seven sacred basins built on different levels as a pilgrimage destination. The known area? as "valley of the monkeys" that in fact we find scattered ap? everywhere in and out of the pools! Cute views in freedom ?! Along the way, the guide informs us that whoever wants can? do an Ayurvedic massage.
In India, Ayurveda (literally: "science of life")? a deeply rooted tradition for millennia. It should not be interpreted solely as a means to heal the physical when the pain? arrived. Ayurveda? a philosophy, a lifestyle and the people who embrace its principles undergo massage daily to maintain their health, to prevent disease and to respect their body and spirit. Bianca decides to do it and we go to a specialized center and since? the treatment lasts 45 minutes, the guide and I think we should go and have a good coffee? to Italian! That's right, nearby there? a bar that does it and with great joy I can finally enjoy an excellent coffee? done our way! Let's move on to pick up Bianca what? very satisfied with the Ayurvedic treatment feeling very invigorated.
Let's go back to the hotel, tomorrow a long transfer: Pushkar 150 km and after another 200 km Jodhpur.

10 day

PUSHKAR (Rajasthan)

September 20th

Pushkar? the city? sacred par excellence in India, a pilgrimage destination for all Indians. Over the centuries there have been over 400 temples and among these there is the only one dedicated to the god, creator of the world, Brahma. The city? it takes its name from pushpa (flower) and kar (hand) and is inspired by a legend according to which the lakes arose from the rose petals that fell from his god's hands. Pushkar, gathered around the sacred lake of the same name,? among the most? saints of Hinduism, frequented by sadhus (yogis), the ascetics in search of enlightenment who come in large numbers throughout the year. Sadhus are perpetually seeking meditative according to Shiva's directions to destroy selfishness, desire, and delusion, impurity. symbolically represented by a trident and three horizontal lines drawn with ash on the forehead. Even today the life of the city? flows along the ghats overlooking the lakes, temples and lively markets, and you can breathe an air of profound spirituality.
But the majority of pilgrims visit the holy waters of the city's lake? holy (where Ghandi's ashes were also thrown) and performs ablutions from dawn to dusk. Switch from one ghat to another s? and already? for the steps that run along the lake, separated from the noise of the city? from a curtain of beautiful crumbling white and blue buildings, it fills the soul with peace. Strictly forbidden to photograph people ....
We visit the temple dedicated to Brahma. Although part of the triad of the pi? important, the creator god is not? much celebrated and the temples dedicated to him are rare. With red and yellow flowers and small colored sprinkles in one hand, 5-10-100 rupee bills in the other, each person pushes in the attempt to get in front of the confused image of Brahma to put their gifts in the hands of the attentive brahmin who readily separates the gifts for the god from the money for himself, thus earning to live on. (The pastes applied to draw it are considered "refreshing" and are applied to the ajna chakra, the point of concentration of spiritual energies in the center of the forehead, between the eyebrows. Tilaka is believed to be a source of spiritual comfort and protection from evil spirits. , bad luck and evil forces Photos and videos are forbidden but we have immortalized the blessing of Brahma, during the ceremony with a Brahmin who marks our foreheads with a red mark called tilaha. (It is believed that the tilaka has a healing and protective function. ).
Lunch in a restaurant and continuation to Jodhpur, 200 km where we stay at The Gateway Hotel.

11 day

JODHPUR (Rajasthan)

September 21th

If Jaipur? the city? rose, could Jodhpur be called the city? blue, for the typical blue color of its houses. Initially the color indicated the house of a brahmin why? many centuries ago, according to tradition, some of them painted their houses this color after discovering that it kept mosquitoes away, and then it spread. Today Jodhpur? the second city? of Rajasthan, but from many points of view not? changed compared to the old city? fortified that developed at the foot of the Meherangarh Fort.
Its fifteenth-century walls are in fact intact, interspersed with massive doors and the city? old ? an enchanted place with narrow alleys, splendid havelis, ancient and sumptuous residences, and medieval water cisterns. The city? ? also known as the "city of the sun" which it enjoys all year round. Let's go to Mehrangarh Fort, one of the most? vast strongholds of India, on top of a 125m hill. It was built in 1459 by Rao Jodha, the sovereign who was also responsible for the foundation of the city? of Jodhpur. The fortress was greatly enlarged at the time of Jaswant Singh (1638-78) and the palaces within it form a complex set of interconnected courtyards, halls, corridors.
A steep zigzag ramp on the west side of the hill leads to seven monumental gates. On the seventh door are imprinted the palms of fifteen wives of the Maharaja who committed Sati or threw themselves on the funeral pyre of her husband. As soon as you enter on the right we find the white marble throne on which? every ruler of Jodhpur has been crowned since the 1590th century. The Moti Mahal (Palace of Pearls) and Phool Mahal (Palace of Flowers) are respectively from 1730 and 36 and have a beautiful pictorial decoration and windows of pierced stone as well. finely to look like lace. The walls surrounding the complex are 21 m high and m thick. On the battlements there are cannons in excellent condition from various eras, some Indians, others Persians, still others Turks. Inside the fort there is a museum with interesting collections of musical instruments, miniatures and royal sedans.

The Shish Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) and Rang Mahal (Painted Palace) are decorated with mirrors and inlay work. The Armory? in the Sileh Khana; the Sardar Museum contains examples of medieval sculpture. Other rooms contain antique furnishings from the royal apartments including miniatures, musical instruments, royal sedans and precious cradles. The Jhanki Mahal, or Palace of Looks, a building reserved for the women of the fort, derives its name from the splendid latticed windows, the Jalis, and its balconies, jarokha, through which the ladies could observe the surrounding world unseen. The motifs with which these grates are sculpted are very refined and there are over 250 different ones inside the building, each identified by a different name.
From the top of the battlements of the fort you can see the Jaswant Thada, a white marble mausoleum built in 1899 to house the cenotaph of Maharajah Jaswant Singh II. Inside is a gallery with portraits of the rulers of Jodhpur. We leave for Ranakpur, 200 km and along the way we have lunch in a characteristic restaurant, welcomed by a "holy man" who gives us the usual blessing on our foreheads saying WELCOME !.

RANAKPUR (Rajasthan)

We continue to Ranakpur where we visit the Adinath temple, the Chaturmukha Adinath Temple, a real ode to Rishabhadeva (Rishabha, also known as Adinatha) the traditional founder of Jainism. The three-story marble building? placed on a high platform and has an unusual 4-sided plant. Does the unadorned appearance of the exterior not prepare the visitor for the incredible explosion of complexity? architectural and artistic interior. As you enter, gradually the vastness? of the structure, the architectural balance and symmetry will envelop you completely. The beauty of this temple? truly indescribable. The temple ? very big. It stands on a 60m x 62m basement like a fortress and a flight of stairs leads to the central entrance which has a fairly small door, in order to defend against raids, beyond which a bright and magnificent space suddenly appears to us, and the splendor takes your breath away. We have to take off our shoes and put on the usual slippers ........
The delicacy and accuracy of the sculptures combines perfectly with the breadth offered by the building's 1444 columns, each decorated with unique motifs. Four huge images of Adinath in white marble face the 4 cardinal points in the Sancta Sanctorum. I have extensively documented myself on this Jain temple, finding a plant and an accurate description of the environments:

The 100th century temple? of very complex architecture. Square in shape with sides of 4 meters, it has 4 entrances placed at the cardinal points and 4 internal temples at the north and south entrances. Other 4 internal temples correspond to the corners of the temple, while in the center there are 2 large groups of pillars with niches and balconies. The interior ? partially 3/4 floors and the roof? with small domes. Large historiated rose windows divide the ceiling into square parts. The interior in very white marble? completely covered with relief decorations. All this gives me an unforgettable emotion and then I notice that the number "", "my" number, occurs with an incredible frequency! At the exit we are welcomed by our dear friends monkeys always present everywhere!
We set off to Udaipur where we arrive in the early evening at the Trident Hotel, the most? big city hotel? very well kept, welcomed by two girls in traditional costume who "mark" us as usual the forehead!

12 day

UDAIPUR (Rajasthan)

September 22th

Nestled in the Aravalli Mountains, Udaipur, the city? of the dawn,? considered by many to be the most? romantic city Indiana. The city? old ? composed of a labyrinth of narrow streets bordered by tall houses, whitewashed and decorated with traditional paintings in bright colors, latticed windows, jalis, or multicolored stained glass, alternating with magnificent Havelis, the residences of traders or landlords, equipped with large courtyards interior. The main road leads from the Hathi Pol, the gate of the Elephants, in the north, to the imposing City Palace, which dominates the shores of the lake and the city. It is an impressive building made up of several internal palaces, built in the Rajput style with extensive concessions to the Mogol, most of which are still inhabited by the royal family. Unlike the Mogol palaces, which prefer buildings with one or at most two floors, the Rajput courts have some parts at pi? levels, a legacy of the ancient Prasada, the tower structure traditionally home to the royal apartments. Built in granite and marble, the Palace is articulated around courtyards and gardens dotted with fountains and open pavilions and? consisting of numerous structures added over time to the original built by Udai Singh. You enter from the Great Entrance of 1600 and go towards Porta Tripolia. Between the two there are six portals-scales in which the Maharana was weighed in gold and silver which was then distributed to the poor. There are two museums, one state and one personal of the maharaja, actually? uninteresting. From the terraces you can enjoy the view of Lake Pichola on which two islands, Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir stand out; on the Jag Niwas are two summer residences of Maharaja Jagat Singh, from 1746, now joined to form that wonderful hotel which? the Lake Palace. Along the other artificial lake of Udaipur, the Fateh Sagar, various gardens extend; the pi? famous? the Sahelion ki Bari, with the lotus flower basin watched by four marble elephants and the black marble pavilions immersed in the flowers. During the visit we meet a group of girls whom I invite to send greetings to Italy. They welcome the invitation and with a resounding "CIAO ITALIA" we say goodbye from Udaipur. Lunch at the hotel and then we move to the airport. Our flight to Delhi? in the early evening at 16.05 local time. We arrive in Delhi at 17.25 and we go to the Radisson Hotel, a wonderful hotel, what will I see? unfortunately guests for a short time: the plane to Munich will leave? tomorrow.

13 day

September 23th
Last tour for Delhi just to collect the latest sensations that this immense city gives. Lunch and then to the airport. Our adventure in Rajasthan? finished ....

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