Delhi interlude

I took advantage of a four hour stop over in Delhi to have a sightseeing tour that took in some of the buildings and monuments that I had missed on my visit of five years ago. And very photogenic it was too, the Commonwealth Games makeover still fresh and clean to the eye of the unwary visitor. For this Imperial/Mughul fairyland was not like being in India at all, well not any India outside of a film set anyway. I can’t say that I was very impressed: Surely some more balanced type of civic renewal for the Capital would have been possible? Was it really necessary to produce such a stark contrast between the haves and the have nots that they could almost be inhabiting different planets?

Sarvesh from the company that had arranged my rail travel accompanied me for this little tour and, yes, we did have a “too expensive” air conditioned car for the ride. When I told him I wanted to see the Ashoka Pillar, he admitted to not being sure of its location. “Surely you know that one” I said “it’s on your banknotes, after all”. There followed an entertaining interlude while we negotiated some narrow back streets, occasionally stopping to ask directions from bemused bystanders by showing them the little lions depicted in the corner of a hundred rupee note.

We did indeed find the Ashoka Pillar. An edict that proclaimed Buddhist principles across most of India more than two hundered years before the birth of Christ, it was set high upon the structure that Firuz Shah Tughluq had built for it in the fourteenth century. The only problem was that it didn’t have three lions on the top. Actually, that wasn’t the only problem because I also failed to get a properly focused close up after all that trouble. Much to my embarrassment I discovered later that the FOUR lions (there is one out of view round the back) used to top another pillar that stands more than 500 miles away at Sarneth. There are in fact many other pillars and inscriptions dotted across India and into its neighbouring countries which is only to be expected in view of the importance Ashoka set by them.

The language of the pillars was not deciphered until the 1830s by James Prinsep, an Englishman. The work of the Asiatic Society founded in eighteenth century Calcutta (Kolcott) has long been of interest to me so I’m hoping to make a visit when I head out that way next week. Perhaps I’m just desperate to find something of lasting value, besides the railways, left to India by the British.

Oh well, at least I didn’t mix up the Ashoka Pillar with the Chandra Gupta Iron Pillar of the Qutb Minar complex, a very common mistake if Google Images are to be believed. You can see that one in picture 93 of the India 2006 post.

Postscript: this has been uploaded two days and one dental implant later. I’m doing fine.


  • Sandy says:

    Ah! what a way to avoid pain after a dental implant–distract yourself roaming through the city searching for a particular sighting of a landmark.

  • Kees says:

    Really amazing travel pictures. Pretty soon it will be simpler to list the places you have not been to vs those you have been to.

    That’s the first topiary elephant I’ve ever seen. Not easy to make a self supporting trunk like that.

    The world sure is filled with old things ….all with a history and the many people who made it all happen and left their little bit for the future to enjoy.


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