KASHMIR PARADISE ON EARTH ?

Kashmir Dal Lake

It was a two day drive from Manali to Srinigar, and most of the second day we were driving in Kashmir on the heavily guarded N1, with tanks, police machine gun posts and truck loads of Indian soldiers on permanent convoys along the road. This route just had to be kept open for political reasons.

On the road to Srinigar

The Foreign & Colonial Office advice at the time was only travel to Srinigar by plane , however, friend and tour operator Abid assured me that driving up highway 1 or N1 was perfectly safe. These days the FCO advises against all travel in and to Kashmir.

On the road to Kashmir
tributary to the Indus river

Any insurgents who made it from the border to the highway would have attacked the Indian soldiers first and not a passenger car anyway. That’s what we told ourselves. As the world one can safely visit becomes smaller each year, and as there are more conflicts starting than are solved, there might never be another chance to visit Kashmir.

Dal lake Srinigar

The best place to see the Valley is from the Shankaracharya Temple on top of the Zabarwan Mountain. From this ancient Hindu temple in Srinigar one can see a great part of Kashmir valley. Mountains, the foothills of the Himalayas, on three sides and the lake in front with it’s multi coloured boats. I am not sure if I had mini Stendhal moment because of the beauty of the view or I was feeling a little light headed after the 250 steps to the top; but the prospect in front of me sparked a desire to explore.

Dal Lake

The Kashmir valley has been settled since Neolithic times and one can only wonder what man and woman, over 5,000 years ago thought of this paradise, an amazingly fertile and lush valley with lakes, a river and surrounded by mountains. I can understand why early man needed a plethora of gods to attribute the creation of all this beauty, one would not be enough.

Shalimar Gardens Srinigar


Shalimar Gardens Srinigar

I can comprehend why the Mughal’s called Kashmir ‘Paradise on Earth’, coming from their usual hot dry homelands. Here they laid out a series of formal gardens, amongst them the famous Shalimar Garden, fed by Himalayan streams and nurtured by perfect weather. These gardens are full of beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs. The valley is famous for tulips. There were a few Indian tourists, a perfect place for a honeymoon perhaps, and keeping a watchful eye were the armed soldiers.

Mughal Gardens


Mughal Gardens Srinigar

Although I try not to read about places I visit beforehand, other peoples views often cloud how one actually sees a place, but visiting Kashmir one arrives with with a number preconceptions. The bloody conflict between Hindus and Muslims and the days of hippies on houseboats in the seventies the most notable.

Jhelum River Srinigar

I have friends who had stayed in Kashmir back in the seventies and listened to stories of houseboats, hippies and cheap weed. I’m surprised it wasn’t free as by the side of the road on the drive up to Kashmir enormous clusters of marijuana plants grew wild. A weed indeed.

Bridge over Jhelum River Old Town Srinigar

The houseboats are still there and at around £10-20 a night for a double room they are still cheap and the tranquil life on Dal Lake watching the boat traffic glide by is one of the best ways to pass ones day.
These days though there are no hippies to be seen, in fact I saw no western tourists at all.

Srinigar Old town


Srinigar old town

6The big elephant in the valley so to speak, is the presence of the Indian army and the often fatal riots. It is something that once known dictates the way one sees everything in Kashmir.
But more of that later.

Loose Tea Srinigar


Srinigar

The absence of tourists means the old town of Srinigar has reverted to its pre tourism state with locals a little surprised to see westerners.

Old Town Embroidery


Old Town.. Embroidery

Shops are for the inhabitants not the tourists who don’t come anymore and small businesses thrive with a shoe shop next to blacksmiths, an embroidery shop next a tea merchant, instead of tourist shops. Watching carpet weavers in a local factory, working on old wooden frames in time long tradition is mesmerising.

Carpet weaver Srinigar


Carpet weaver Srinigar

Here it is the men who embroider and weave, age old skills passed down from father to son.
The old town of Srinigar has some spectacular Mosques.

Playing courtyard of
Jamia Masjid, Srinagar

My favourite is the Khanqah Shah Hamdan Mosque, a beautiful building quintessentially kashmiri,
important for the beautiful and intricate traditional wood carvings and painted green exterior.

Khanqah Shah Hamdan Mosque


Khanqah Shah Hamdan Mosque


There was a relaxing atmosphere as I joined the locals enjoying the late afternoon sun while drinking sweet tea that was being given to everyone in the Mosque’s courtyard. Lots of smiles all round.

Khanqah Shah Hamdan Mosque

Dal Lake is a remnant of a post-glacial lake and is classified as sub tropical covering 20 sq kilometres to a depth of between 2.5 to 8 metres.

It is important to the region for fishing, water plant production and tourism with one end lined with carved wooden houseboats.

Dal Lake

The essential tour on a shikara lake boat takes one to the many backwaters where kashmiris live on houseboats as well as brick constructions on banks of land. The fresh fruit and vegetable seller calls on all these little backwaters where also there are floating general stores and even a floating tourist emporium.

Dal Lake back creeks

Life is lived on the river banks with groups of men in the early evening smoking shishas and whewing the fat. Gliding through these little rivers, where all traffic is by boat where it is so quiet that a fish breaking the surface is a loud disturbance. Dal Lake is sometimes called the Venice of the East.

The last 30 years has seen an explosion of both insurgent and domestic attacks on the Indian Army, mostly as a retaliation for a hardline and bloody approach from Delhi.
“The trouble with the English, is that they don’t know their history, because so much of it happened overseas”( Rushdie). Here’s a shortened modern history of Kashmir.
The British desire for a quick handover of India after the second World War lies at the root of Kashmir’s current situation.
It isn’t easy to get to the bottom of why the British forced through partition in 1947, rather than the planned June 1948, and in Kashmir’s situation has led to another 75,000 deaths since.
Throw the stupidity of Mountbatten, right wing Hindu ideology, Nehru’s desire to keep Kashmir with an 80+% Muslim population within India’s borders and Kashmiri muslim’s desire for an Independent state, into a big pot with not a sane man to be seen and you have today’s mess.

Each continues with the same propaganda. The British ignore it, Pakistan wants it, Kashmiris want independence and the BJP will kill to keep hold of it.
Kashmir is another of the end of colonialism fiascos. Mountbatten was chosen as he was perceived as sympathetic towards the new labour government, but he was a weak man and frankly the worst possible choice.
His wife Edwina, the ‘notoriously promiscuous vicereine’, shortly after their arrival started an affair with Nehru, who having been born in Kashmir was determined to keep Jammu and Kashmir in the then planned partitioned India. Edwina put pressure on her husband to acquiesce to Nehru’s plans for India. Both disliked the Muslim leader Jinnah, who was the only player who supported Britain during the Second World War.
The path that Mountbatten went down against the advice of Ghandi, and bringing forward partition by nearly a year without new borders between India and Pakistan being discussed led not only today’s continuing violence in Kashmir but to the mutual genocide that resulted from a hasty British withdrawal from India.

Kashmiris want Independent State


For Nehru fate stepped in when when the Maharajah of Kashmir, Hari Singh fearful of a Muslim takeover ordered his forces to fire upon demonstrations in favour of Kashmir joining Pakistan, burned whole villages and massacred innocent people.
Under Hindu rule the muslim majority suffered oppression in the form of high taxes, unpaid forced labor and discriminatory laws. Consequently a revolt began in the Poonch region against oppressive taxation by the Maharajah who promptly appealed to Nehru and Mountbatten for help.

Kashmir Srinigar Summer capital

This seems to be the key moment in Kashmir history..Mountbatten with Nehru would help as long as Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. Once the Instrument of Accession was signed the Indian army moved in, and has been there ever since. The United Nations was involved in arbitrating the dispute and after cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of Pakistan troops,India would then have to appoint a plebiscite administrator nominated by the United Nations who would conduct a free and impartial plebiscite.
India has never allowed a referendum on the Independence of Kashmir. Indian intransigence
Karen Sinh , Hari Singh’s son, born Cannes now resident and corrupt Board member of the Aurobindi ashram is a Senator trying to push controversial article 35a on Jammu & Kashmir , disenfranchising women and giving Hindis more residency property rights. Read my blog on Pondicherry and the scandal at the ashram. https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/pondicherry-a-beautiful-city-and-scandals-at-aurobindo-ashram/

The Kashmir valley is achingly beautiful, the peace of Dal Lake and the colours of the sky and mountains ..could have stayed longer much longer.

Ref;
The History of India by Burton Stein
Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin
By Akbar S. Ahmed
Thanks to Andie.





Dal lake and houseboats


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MUNSTER’S RARE EARLY MAP OF THE AMERICAS 1552

RARE MAP OF THE AMERICAS EXCELLENT CONDITION PRINTED BASEL 1552

Munster’s map of the New World

LE MONDE DE NOUVEAU..LES TABLES DES ISLES NEUFUES..

This map of the New World is often credited with popularizing the name America due to the popularity of Munster’s Cosmographia and the numerous editions published in the sixteenth century. This map is the 1552 French text edition.

The North American continent is very oddly shaped without a California landmass and the eastern region is nearly bisected by a body of water, known as the Sea of Verrazzano. The Yucatan is still shown as an island, Cozumel is named nearby as Cozumela, and the lake at Temistitan (not named in this state) is connected to the Gulf of Mexico. South America has a large bulge on the western coast, the Amazon River is very short, and cannibals inhabit the continent shown with the name Canibali next to a gruesome vignette with human limbs. The map is very decorative with Magellan’s surviving ship Victoria appearing in the Pacific. The flags of Spain and Portugal depict their respective spheres of influence in the New World. ( from Old World Auctions)
Very good later hand colour.

Excellent condition ..No repairs ..excellent margins

£4750



Ref: Burden #12, state 5; Kershaw #4d.

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MICHAEL JENNINGS ANTIQUE MAPS CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER 2017

First I wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a Great 2018.
If you are stuck for an interesting Christmas present I have added many interesting and affordable maps to my website that can be sent in time for Christmas.
An interesting blog about antique maps, and a good selection of books about antique maps, modern maps and maps in general can be found at the The Map Room here
(http://www.maproomblog.com/map-books-of-2017/)
Most people who collect maps are always interested in the lives of us map dealers. Jonathan Potter gave a talk recently at the Warburg Institute on this subject; you can read a précis of it here ( https://www.jpmaps.co.uk/WarburgInstituteTalk )
As many of you know my other life compliments my love of maps by travelling to, photographing and writing about the places on these antique maps (below link to travels in Kashmir).
Below a few of the new additions from the thousands of maps and decorative prints that can be found on my website http://www.maphouse.co.uk

AFRICA






ASIA





Balkans


British Isles








EUROPE

FRANCE





ITALY






MIDDLE EAST



THE AMERICAS


NORTH AMERICA






SOUTH AMERICA




WORLD




Please email me if you are looking for any map in particular I have many yet to be put on website or be able to find it for you.
For anybody visiting the French Riviera this winter please contact me and I can pick you up from Antibes Cannes etc, and you can join me for tea and peruse the entire stock of maps & prints.
My current blog of travels and interesting Antique Maps can be found at here https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/kashmir-paradise-on-earth/
You can see some photographs Kashmir here

P1050905

Best wishes
Michael
Michael Jennings Antique Maps And Prints
1684 Chemin De St Julien
Biot 06410 FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0) 4936 57252 +33 (0) 4936 57252 FREE
Mobile:+33 (0)610 753 988 +33 (0)610 753 988 FREE
michaeljennings@orange.fr
Follow me on twitter @jenningsoldmaps
and at facebook here

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Michael Jennings Antique Maps Autumn Newsletter

I hope everyone had a great Summer.. and are surviving what we call here in France La Rentree | the post holiday back to work blues. Below are some new not too expensive maps. I realised the other day that I have been involved in the Antique Map business for 40 years this autumn.. I started working part time for Laurence Worms at Ashrare Books in the City of London while studying for my Masters at the L.S.E. .. Now I have thousands of maps and no money.

For those who have started buying or collecting maps recently here is a link to “How to Care for your Maps”
( http://www.oldworldauctions.com/information/carefor.asp )

Below a few of the new additions from the thousands of maps and decorative prints that can be found on my website http://www.maphouse.co.uk

AFRICA




ASIA





BRITISH ISLES






FRANCE






GREECE


ITALY





LOW COUNTRIES




MIDDLE EAST




NORTH AMERICA




AUSTRALIA


WORLD

Please email me if you are looking for any map in particular I have many yet to be put on website or be able to find it for you.

For anybody visiting the French Riviera this winter please contact me and I can pick you up from Antibes Cannes etc, and you can join me for tea and peruse the entire stock of maps & prints.

My current blog of travels and interesting Antique Maps can be found at here ( https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/foothills-of-the-himalayas-simla-and-manali/ )

Tibetan Monk Mcleod Ganj India

You can see some photographs of the Monks at McLeod Ganj the home village of the Dalai Lama here https://www.flickr.com/photos/mickjennings/sets/72157685356356232/

Best wishes
Michael
Michael Jennings Antique Maps And Prints
1684 Chemin De St Julien
Biot 06410 FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0) 4936 57252 +33 (0) 4936 57252 FREE
Mobile:+33 (0)610 753 988 +33 (0)610 753 988 FREE
michaeljennings@orange.fr

Follow me on twitter @jenningsoldmaps

Posted in ANTIQUE MAPS, Antique maps..maphouse, ANTIQUE PRINTS, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FOOTHILLS OF THE HIMALAYAS , SIMLA AND MANALI

Smiling faces in Simla

The drive from Haridwar to Simla or Shimla looked a short distance on the map but as with most of Indian roads it took longer than planned. Slow means more interesting though, and 5 minutes spent in a traffic jam is 5 minutes of a short film. You are the secret observer of everyday life. Sometime before, we had waited and watched as five or six guys dug out a lorry stuck in monsoon mud under a bridge with a sign No Lorries. Something one wouldn’t normally do but actually ultimately fascinating watching a disorganised team extricating the truck..In Indian it’s called Jugga..the ability of an almost impossible situation to come right.

Drying clothes Rooftops Shimla

The last part driving up to Simla was in darkness and the fir and cedar trees and twinkling lights of the town on top of the hills and ridges reminded one of an illustration of an old fashioned Christmas card.

View across the valley..Mountain fir trees


Cars are banned from the upper part of Simla, consequently we had to walk the last part to our hotel. Visting is good for a cardo-vascular fitness programme but tough on asthmatics.

The views from Simla are stunning. The foothills of the Himalayas are unlike those of the Alps. The people are different also, they are mountain people.

Simla is unlike any other part of India. It was created by the British to be a little bit of the English Shires in the midst of an alien and sometimes hostile country where the expats lived in heat and died of unkown illnesses. Simla is a monument to homesickness. Here they constructed this faux Britain , with the huge Christ Church in the centre of the Mall, Social clubs, a Gaiety Theatre and one the largest post offices in India (to run the Empire through the summer months).

Even now it is like looking through a prism back in time to the days of the Raj. The English quarter was built on the Ridge , with it’s rows of English style shops, it’s coffee houses, but now the customers are the Indian Civil servants and middle classes who have replaced the rulers of the British Empire. The shops for the most part are the ones that existed at Independence, the Antiquarian Bookshop, sadly on it’s last legs, the Haberdashers, where I bought a waistcoat, was piled high with bolts of tweed like cloth and three or four saleswomen who knew their materials. The Indian Coffee House, exactly the same as pre Independence, with turbanned waiters and now with local businessmen for clientele.
Half shut your eyes and yes , there is Mountbatton with Nehru, drinking a cup of tea in the corner, stitching up India for their own different reasons..

The Mall now is full of smiling relatively wealthy Indian tourists of all religions from most parts of India.

The Mall Shimla or Simla these days

The upper part or the Ridge was the domain of the British rulers, starting in 1822 when the first ‘Pucca’ house was built by the political agent Charles Pratt Kennedy, and below, further down the ridge are the Indian bazaars and quarters as they have been for 150 years.

Below the Ridge & Mall

Word spread of the wonderful cool summers and importantly away from the ‘native plains’, and with the progression of better roads, rentable villas, theatre and a summer meeting place for the Raj’s elite, led finally in 1863 to Simla being declared the summer capital of the Raj. A mock tudor Town Hall, Law Courts, shops and mainly Parsi businessmen followed.

Rare Books The Mall

The 1857 mutiny had passed Simla by with hardly a shot being fired so it was seen as a safe place for women to spend most of the year , and great marriage alliances of the latter part British rule were made here. Kipling spent four summers here in the 1860’s, drawn in part by the newfound cultural importance of the town.

Fine cloth Shimla

Waiter The Indian Coffee House

The latter part of the nineteenth century, with the ever increasing bureaucracy of running an empire, resulted in the constuction of a railway to Simla, linking into the expanding British built network , bringing up the many civil servants, the viceroys contingent and all the diplomatic entourage from Indian States to sovereign countries, to Simla for 6 months of the year. The journey from the winter capital in Calcutta took three or four days.
From about 1870 for 60 or 70 years one fifth of the worlds population was ruled from this small town clinging to a ridge in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Fun Shimla

Always smiling Shimla

Today Tourism has replaced the Summer influx of the machinary of Empire. On the Mall and upper ridge there are no beggars, no poor Indians ,it has been sanitised. The mainly Tibetan porters carrying immense loads on their backs are the only vestiges of old school Indian labour.

Sikh Barrister Simla

The weather is so British with sun and mist the same day, and if one ignored the mountains you could be in any midlands market town, except with a few more smiling faces.

The Post Office .Shimla..he Telegragh office that during the Raj ran 20% of the world’s population.

Shimla


Shimla


…..

Manali was only 170 miles from Shimla but after driving all day we arrived at dusk to find newish hotels lining one side of the road into town, the other luckily was a compulsively watchable torrent of a Himalayan river.
Manali might be a short distance from Simla but it was like being back in India after a quick stop in another land. Here were mountain people , smaller perhaps and with broader faces.
The British Raj used Ethnicity, Religion and the Caste System to divide and rule in India and in Simla they created for themselves a place that reflected the mother country rather than India. Importing Parsi businessmen, Sikh administrators and elite civil service Hindus and Simla is a continuing reflection of that Today. A car free, beggar free cosy market town on top of a ridge. But in Manali it was back to religion, Temples and a Tibetan monastery. Holy men begging, TucTucs wizzing and round street food .. India!

Manali the new Mall

Manali new Mall

Back in the sixties Manali was a happy hippy , dope smoking destination with an old town of beautiful old houses at over 2000 metres altitude.

Sadhu Manali

Tourism followed with many odd facets. Manali is a stop on the road up to Ladekh and Indian Tibet and also a smuggling and distribution centre initially for cannabis. From the seventies both Indian and Foreign drug mafia have been fighting for control leading to a long list of murders ( some British ) commited both by each other and probably the police, who found planting dope on hippies and demanding fines supplemented meagre pay. For the last twenty years Manali has become a destination for young trekkers, seekers of spirituality and drugs, and more recently Israeli youth who arrive after military service for freedom, drugs and sex..Apparently the Israeli mafia now control most of the drug trade, and buy off most of the local police and politicians. Murders and disappearances in this area have given the area the name Valley of Death.

Honeymoon Manali

It is also a honeymoon destination for young middle class Indians and the little cafes next to river in Old Manali offer pretty views. The 500 year old wooden triple tiered Hidimba Devi Temple in the forest harks back for Hindus to the beginnings of the religion as essentially consisting of forest shrines. The small forest is a protected part of a once great forest of old Deodar trees.

Hidimba Devi Temple 500 years old
Manali

The other side of the Beas River down in the Valley is Vashist village home to one of the older Hindu temples.
Many Sadhus , Holy men make the pilgrimage to one of Hindus oldest temples.

Vashist village Manali

It is said that a temple has stood on this site for 4,000 years.
Vashisht, both Temple & Village were named after Rishi Vashisht one of the seven sages of the Hindu religion. Legend has it that the saddened Rishi Vashisht after learning that his children were killed by Vishwamitra tried to commit suicide. But the river refused to kill him. The river was therefore named as Vipasha which literally means ‘freedom from bondage’. It was later shortened to Beas River.

Young Sadhu Vashist temple

Sadhu Vashist village Manali

The Village with mountains above, the river below does have an aura of tranquility.

Vashist village Manali

The other significant influx into Manali has also happened over the last thirty years. Tibetan refugees from Chinese Tibet.

Tibetan refugees Manali

Manali has one of the largest concentration of Tibetan refugees in the area mainly living around The Gadhan Thekchoking Gompa monastery near the centre of the new town.

Tibetan refugees Love in a Foreign land Manali

The Temple and surrounding area is so colourful , with flowers everywhere. I found a blue locked up open shed with prayers, prayer flags, amulets and many small memories of a previous life in now Chinese occupied Tibet, very moving.

Memories and hopes locked away Tibetan Prayers Manali

Tibetan priests Manali

Manali brings in Hindu Sadhus and Tibetan priests, tourists, honeymooners, truck drivers on their way to Ladakh..a really cosmopolitan region.

Mountain women Manali

Rotary Club Shimla


Indian War Memorial Shimla

Snacks Manli

Wood carving Famous in Manali

Vashist village Manali

Manali ha over 70% literacy


Colou
Manali

The Lads Manali

Manali

Posted in India, India 2015, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MICHAEL JENNINGS ANTIQUE MAPS SPRING NEWSLETTER


I hope everyone survived Winter. Spring is now in full bloom here on the Riviera.

The dates for the excellent London Map Fair for 2017 are a little later than usual and it will take place at the Royal Geographical Society on Saturday June 17 and Sunday June 18.

See http://www.londonmapfairs.com/ for details etc.

The latest posting by Joe McAlhany of Old World Auctions extols the geographical accuracy, affordability and the collation of town plans and areas of the World not found in previous publications. A monument to nineteenth century enlightenment The article can be seen here.( http://www.washmapsociety.org/000/0/9/8/22890/userfiles/file/Knowledge%20Is%20Power%20to%20the%20People%20-%20SDUK.pdf )

Also a very interesting article from the New Yorker on maps & literature can be found here (http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-allure-of-the-map )

Below a few of the new additions from the thousands of maps and decorative prints that can be found on my new tablet friendly website http://www.maphouse.co.uk

AFRICA



BRITISH ISLES


ASIA



EUROPE

ITALY






Blaeu’s Monumental Colisseum

FRANCE


MIDDLE EAST



AMERICAS NORTH & SOUTH



WORLD


And alot more on my website

Please email me if you are looking for any map in particular I have many yet to be put on website or be able to find it for you.

For anybody visiting the French Riviera this summer please contact me and I can pick you up from Antibes Cannes etc, and you can join me for tea and peruse the entire stock of maps & prints.

My current blog of tavels and interesting Antique Maps can be found here https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/back-to-delhi-and-on-to-haridwar/

Haridwar
M jennings

For those of you following my travels, I am a little behind but my latest blog contrasts the Muslim community of Old Delhi and Hindu exuberance at Haridwar. the blog can be seen here

Best wishes

Michael

Michael Jennings Antique Maps And Prints
1684 Chemin De St Julien
Biot 06410 FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0) 4936 57252 +33 (0) 4936 57252
Mobile:+33 (0)610 753 988 +33 (0)610 753 988
michaeljennings@orange.fr
Follow me on twitter @jenningsoldmaps
Links to Antique map & travel blog https://mickjennings.wordpress.com

Posted in ANTIQUE MAPS, Antique maps..maphouse, ANTIQUE PRINTS, Rare maps, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

BACK TO DELHI AND ON TO HARIDWAR

Old City Delhi

I always found going back to Delhi exciting and this blog is an amalgam of back to Delhi from Nepal, and ten months later back to Delhi from France before a road trip up to Kashmir, which apparently was on the FCO blacklist of things not to do.
I remember a couple of months before leaving Chandni Chowk metro station and heading up to the Red Fort we must have smelled of ‘new arrival’ and looked like two rabbits caught in the headlights of full glare of raw India. Looking over to the south with trepidation was the edge of the old City of Delhi with it’s warren of streets not really wide enough for modern vehicles but teaming with rickshaws and people and above all noise. Then I thought that wandering the streets of the old city was perhaps a little too daunting especially as the short distance then between the Metro and the Fort was fraught with hasslers for money, peddlers of Indian tourist trinkets, and a very free guided tour of the 800 metres to the Fort.

Cycle rickshaw Delhi Old City

After a couple of months of India including the unique experience of Varanesi and the fading humid tumultuous Kolkota I must have smelled of India as now exploring the old city, the beating heart of the capital, nobody hassled me except for kids wanting their photographs taken. In fact the opposite, people smiled, artisans and even butchers were keen to show off their skills.

I have a great affection for Delhi. It’s a vibrant city or two cities and I was pleased to be back.

Young muslim girls

The old City of Delhi along with Jerusalem and Varanesi is one of the longest continually inhabited sites in the World and despite having become extremely crowded and dilapidated, it is still is the soul of Delhi and the market place for jewels, beads, brassware and weaving.

Fun


The old city is pretty much a Muslim enclave but there are important Jain and Sikh temples and St James Church ( or Skinners Church) near the Kashmiri Gate had up until the 1857 Indian mutiny a sizeable British population around it. For the most part the Hindu and Muslim populations get on well It is probably Indian politicians, and recently Modi’s BJP party who stir up trouble. Modi’s choice of leader for Indias most populous state Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, has been described even by the Hindu press There are no two ways of saying the obvious truth. Installing such a divisive and thuggish figure at the helm of India’s most populous and volatile state is a terrible, terrible decision.’

Waiting for work

The tortoise and the hare .Boy running, Bicvcle and scooter

The old city took in many muslims from other parts of India during partition as it was probably safer there than other parts of Northern India. The city historically was peopled by centuries of immigration especially the Persian and Turcoman craftsmen and labourers who worked on Shah Jahan’s magnificent buildings..Mosques including the great Jama Masjid in the centre of the Old City and the Red Fort with it’s beautiful Marble pavilions, on the North Eastern Corner.
Near the Red Fort a charity hands out lunch each day for the poor. But the flip side though of crowded streets, heat, lack of social services, health care and especially mental health is that one comes across some unpleasant third world sights.

Old City Man lying in the street


The Urdu language emerged from the Urdu Bazaar section of Old Delhi, and today is spoken by about 100 million people in India Pakistan and now Britain.

Proud Father

The open air butcher’s shop

The Jama Masjid Mosque is raised above the rest of the Old City and one can sit on the steps outside and look out over the crowded narrow streets and all the action. The inside of this beautiful sandstone building the plaza with a large pond in the middle is an oasis of serenity in comparison with the city below.

Jama Masjid Mosque


Whole family groups seem to inhabit their own corners and spaces. One such group, dominated by one rather agressive guy, of about 10 adults and 20 children was straight of Dickens’s London with it’s Faginesque leader and his troupe young thieves. I sat fascinated watching for some time.

Fagin


Jama Masjid Mosque


The Old City with it’s narrow streets, thousands of small shops, on -street fast food and a Chai shop on every corner, lots of smiling faces and life played out in the open is such an entertaining and life affirming place to hang out.

Off to school in a Tuc Tuc


Our two friends arrived late at night and somehow we were ready for an early start to Haridwar .

Early one morning the sun was shining
We were standing by the side of the road..
Waiting for our tour driver,
Heading off to the Himalayas

Bathing at Haridwar

Pilgrims off to Haridwar

All four of us and our luggage squeezed into one of those stretch Toyota tourist cars and we did head off to the foothills of the Himalayas. The 220 Km journey, our last on India’s hot plain, took most of the day. The terrible roads with no discernable rules, and occupied as much with Holy Cows as with cars and lorries is as tiring for a passenger as a driver as one is incapable of closing ones eyes. It is not just fascinating India sliding by but the survival need to warn the driver of another cow, a lorry in the outside lane doing 15 miles an hour or a family wandering in the middle of the road..all the causes of accidents can be found in any 250 metre stretch of Indian road.
We finally arrived in Haridwar after torrential monsoon rains.

ridwar  Ganges

Haridwar

Of course it’s India and our driver had little idea of where our hotel was. Yes he had visited before with Indian tourists and knew the cheaper hotels that lined the main road outside town, but Abid had put us up in the Radisson Blue out of town to the west of the Ganges..We spent a good hour driving around, through enormous lakes of water, fearing that we might never make it to the other side. No one we asked seem to know where it was but finally we found it by luck.

Pilgrims in the rain

Haridwar is the first Indian city on the Gangetic plain (that stretches across India) that the Ganges arrives at after the Himalayas..It has been a holy site for millennia ever since nectar was dripped onto to the waters by the gods. There has been settlements here since 1,800 bc.

Haridwar


Haridwar is a triply blessed as it is linked to all three major Hindu Gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar. With all these mythological links attached to its name, it’s little wonder why Haridwar is often referred to as ‘gateway to god’. Pilgrims believe that they can go to heaven by getting their salvation after a holy dip in the river Ganges at Haridwar.

Haridwar

Colours of India Haridwar

Haridwar in the rain and grey skies is not exceptionally pretty but the colour of women’s saris and the general colours of India, even on a dull day bring life to a place. The Ganges river is diverted into a canal that runs through that part of the city with all the temples. Overlooking all is a huge statue of Shiva.

Haridwar


Praying Haridwar

It rained on and off for most of the day we were there, but the presence of thousands of pilgrims in groups or just a family having so much fun bathing and purifying themselves in mother Ganga that one forgot about the weather and was carried away with celebrations. Hindu pilgrimages and festivals are so so colourful and full of joy that one cannot help but be caught up in this rapturous moment of other people’s lives

Serious pilgrims shave before bathing

The water is fast flowing here and there are chains across the river for those swept away to try cling to.

The ghats or steps down to the Ganges was full the day we were there as there was a major festival a few days before. Families and groups of friends were washing away their sins and having a great time as well, there were so many happy smiley faces.
People queued up to give offerings at the many little shrines barely 1 meter square, with little statues of gods and with their own priests. Religion is a business as well.

Shrine with many gods

We were invited to be blessed, a little prayer for each of us based upon brief information we gave about family and circumstances and a Bindi or red spot was placed on our foreheads after accompanied by a little sweet. Only a few annah was asked for, unlike some places like Pushka where one could be hussled for your life savings.

We left about lunchtime and the sun had arrived and it was so much warmer.

Babu Haridwar


The sun had bought out a great collection of Babus or Holy Men and they found comfortble seating on the bridge. As everyone had to cross the bridge over the Ganges back to Hotels or campsites it was a propitious spot. They were not actively begging but open to donations.

Happy Baba Haridwar

Holy Man Haridwar


Relaxed Babu


We came back that evening for the Ganga Aart . This ceremony at the Har Ki Pauri ghat is famous across India. Everyday hundreds of people come here for the ceremony. During some festival days it is visited by more than million people in a day. The Ganges is worshiped in this ceremony.
We arrived early, one tip from our driver, and managed to get a great spot right by the water directly across from the Ghat, and managed to keep it during ceremonial washing of the ground. We could see all the lights and hear the chanting from the other side.

Ganga Aart ceremony at the Har Ki Pauri ghat

Many people put little clay oil lamps ( Diyas) on leaves in the river. Bigger offerings were blessed by the priests of the Ghat. Again it rained but this holy festival overcame any discomfort.

Boy offering flame for pilgrims to light their offering at the Ganga Aart


I will always remember Haridwar for all the jubilance of a Hindu ceremony.

In the last few days we had witnessed two very different religions and they both had so much in common.. Joy and innocence.. Shame it gets corrupted

As I live at the limit of Internet access (next year Fibre optic..well they say that every year) The Photos from ther Blog are also on Flickr ..usually better quality..Click on the Pic below

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Previous blogs about Delhi
https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/return-to-delhi/
https://mickjennings.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/arriving-in-india-delhi/

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