IIT Guest Houses

You meet the most interesting people while eating at an IIT Guest House.

Each campus of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) has a Guest House, essentially, an on-campus hotel in which they house visitors.  I have stayed in the Guest House of IIT Delhi, Kanpur, and Kharagpur.  The guest rooms are basic, but each is nice in its own way. The dining room, at least in those I’ve visited so far, is set with large tables for 8-10 people and the food is served buffet style or family style.  Thus, guests sit and eat together.  As a result, I’ve met many fascinating people. Read on!

IIT Delhi guest house.
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IIT Delhi

A visit to IIT Delhi.

Today I visited the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Delhi [location].  I enjoyed my stay at the Guest House and my conversations with faculty and students in the department.  

IIT Delhi: the computer services building.

Before breakfast I took a walk around campus, capturing a few photos.  It is a beautiful campus, though much smaller than the other IIT campuses.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Varanasi and the Ganges

One of the oldest cities in the world.

Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world, is an ancient, spiritual city on the bank of the River Ganges. For thousands of years, Hindu pilgrims have made their way to Varanasi for a ritual cleansing in the river, at one of the many riverside ghats [location]. Read on!

Varanasi: sunrise on the Ganges, and a floating diya.
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Agra is more than the Taj Mahal!

After our early-morning visit to the Taj Mahal [location] we returned to our hotel and spent the rest of the day visiting other sights in Agra. Inded, the city of Agra [location] has many interesting sights other than the Taj Mahal! We visited the Itmad-Ud-Daulah, the Agra Fort, and a marble-inlay shop. Read on!

John and Mara greet the hotel guard at ITC Mughal, Agra.
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Taj Mahal

Overwhelmingly impressive, stunningly beautiful.

Everyone has seen the canonical photos of the Taj Mahal, all beautiful, but none of them really prepare you for the experience of visiting the place yourself.  The Taj is, quite simply, stunningly beautiful, exquisitely crafted, and a marvel of engineering and art, nearly 400 years old. It is made entirely of white marble, exquisitely carved and inlaid with semi-precious stones.  All of the colors and design work you can see (up close) are inlay, not paint.  Even the arabic letters conveying quotes from the Koran are inlaid stone. Read on!

Family photo at the Taj Mahal! Mara, Pam, John, David, Andy.
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On to Agra

On the road to Agra, we pass thousands of pilgrims.

We’re moving upstream against a river of humanity, as we drive eastward toward Agra. We’ve just left Rajasthan and entered Uttar Pradesh.  On the other side of the road is a steady flow of Hindus, walking 200km or more on their pilgrimage into Rajasthan. On Monday there is a huge 9-day holy festival (Navratri, I believe), which we’re told will attract 100,000 pilgrims on foot and 100,000 more by train, plane, or car.  Along the roadside, individuals and organizations have set up tents, chairs, water stations, and food, as a charitable service to the pilgrims.  The people are cheerful, waving colorful red banners and chatting among themselves.  A few children ride on bicycle carts, but most folks balance their few travel needs on their head. 

India. Ranthambore to Agra. People.

Today began before dawn, so we could catch an early morning train from Ranthambore to Bharatpur; our driver picked us up there for the two-hour trip to Agra.  Along the way we visited Fatehpur Sikri, the capital of the empire of India from 1571 until 1585 [location]. This impressive city, made almost entirely of red sandstone, was built by the Mughal emperor Akbar, son of Humayan (see blog entry about Delhi) and grandfather to Shah Jahan (who built the Red Fort in Delhi and the Taj Mahal, among other things). “Fatehpur Sikri is regarded as Emperor Akbar’s crowning architectural legacy” [Wikipedia]. Akbar, a Muslim like all the Mughal emperors, was remarkably cross-religious, marrying a Hindu princess from Amber (Jaipur, which we visited a few days ago) as well as Muslim queens.  He is a fascinating and deep character, though; read his Wikipedia page for much more.

the 5-story Panch Mahal at Fatehpur Sikri.

The patio of one courtyard embeds a huge game board, on which members of his harem were the ‘pieces’ that could be moved about the game board. 

See photos of our journey and of Fatehpur Sikri.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Ranthambore National Park

A safari in the heart of India.

Ranthambore National Park [location], named for the 1,050-year-old Ranthambore fort within, is a sprawling 400-square-kilometer reserve for wildlife. It is most famous for its population of Royal Bengal Tigers, which currently number 36. We were lucky to see one up close, but there are many other beautiful animals and birds, including jungle cat, spotted deer, sambar deer, antelope, wild boarlangur (right), crocodile, turtle, egret, heron, stork, peafowl, treepie, kingfisher, parakeet, lapwing, and ducks.  Not to mention many, many homo touristicus, crammed into 20-seat topless buses and wielding cameras. Read on – we saw a tiger! and See lots more photos.

homo touristicus, in 20-seat open buses.
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Jaipur to Ranthambore (Rajasthan)

Rajasthan is a colorful place.

The drive from Jaipur to Ranthambore only lasted about four hours, but was a fascinating trip through rural Rajasthan. I was able to capture many pictures of farm and village life.  Although only a fleeting glimpse, it was an interesting peek into a lifestyle that, in many ways, appears to be similar to the way it has been for hundreds of years.  Camels are the primary pack animal, the scythe is the tool for harvesting wheat, and pounding and shaking the way to separate wheat from chaff.  The roadsides are lined with cowpatties drying in the sun, to be used as fuel for cooking fires.  Many are packed into dung-and-straw boxes – some decorated quite attractively, to keep them dry even during the monsoon.  We passed a camel train of gypsy nomads.  Children wave from their front yards.

A common pack animal, camels are often decorated (Jaipur).

Read on…

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Jaipur, a city with tremendous history.

Jaipur is a fascinating city [location].  One thousand years ago the Hindu kings built a huge fort and palace, surrounded by an 18km wall, on the nearby hills.  They ruled the area for 900 years, and the current king is the 40th generation of the same family!  About 400 years ago, they moved their palace to the valley – due to difficulty in maintaining a good water supply in the hills – forming the planned city of Jaipur. The current maharaja (king) is, of course, only a figurehead, but the forts and palaces are stunning. Read on!

the Amber Fort, just outside town.
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Back to Delhi

First stop on a tour of northern India.

We returned to Delhi, where we met up with Pam’s sisters Amy and Karen, and niece Louisa.  We’ve embarked on a tour of northern India, specifically Delhi, Jaipur, Rathambore, Agra, and Varanasi. Read on.

Top of India Gate.
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