After an emotional goodbye in Hyderabad, Perry and I boarded a short-ish flight to Delhi, the capital of India. Before we had ever really done much planning for this adventure, getting to Delhi during this week was on the calendar. Why, you might ask. Well, every year India celebrates a festival called “Holi” that we really wanted to make it to on March 11th. You may have heard or seen this festival. The U.S. has a 5k race that started several years ago called the “Color Run” that is based on the festival. During Holi, people purchase colored chalk and throw it all over each other along with shooting water guns and throwing water balloons filled with colored water. It’s even more fun than it sounds.

And the best part about this week in Delhi and getting to celebrate Holi? My cousin, Megan, and her husband, Josh, met us in Delhi to join in on the fun. It was fantastic to have them along. We had a blast!

Delhi is a pretty interesting city. Though I had visited it for a few days about 8 years ago (2012) with my Mom, I really didn’t remember much about it if I’m honest. All I really remember from that trip was visiting the Taj Mahal, going to a tiger and elephant sanctuary where we didn’t see any tigers or elephants, and eating a beef burger at the Hard Rock Cafe because I hadn’t had beef in months (its pretty difficult to come by in a small Hindu town like Ongole). Other than that, not much.

Just during our drive from the airport last Saturday, Perry and I started to quickly realize that Delhi is pretty different from Hyderabad and especially Ongole. It’s big, it’s much more modern and western. It’s cleaner. And it’s a lot greener with trees and flowers planted in so many places. Yes, it still has the same chaotic nature of India, but it’s also a little tamer in some areas of town. The other side of that is that neither Perry nor I have ever really been a true “tourist” in India. We’ve always come to visit SCH and spend time with the people we love there, but we haven’t really done any major sightseeing in this country (aside from my short 2-3 day trips to Delhi and Kolkata in 2012) .

So needless to say, we were excited to start exploring Delhi and spend time with Megan and Josh.

We hit the ground running and had a week packed with activities. Out of our six full days in the area, we spent four in Delhi and then took day trips to Agra and Jaipur on the other two days.

Delhi is full of all kinds of sights that are filled with history. We spent our first day exploring Old Delhi and seeing the area of the city that is the oldest and reminded me most of my beloved Ongole with it’s crowded streets and chaos.

While in Old Delhi, we visited the Jama Masjid Mosque, the largest mosque in all of India. It is a huge complex and has a minaret that you can climb to get views of the sprawling city all around you.

We went to the Red Fort, which was built around 1639 by the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan. It has some beautiful buildings within it from when it was used as a palace for the then-fortified capital city of Shahjahanabad.

We visited Raj Ghat, a memorial and park dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi, that is located where Ghandi was cremated after he was assassinated in 1948. It was so peaceful, beautiful, and a little haven from the craziness of the city outside.

That afternoon, we had a food tour where we got to taste some Indian fusion food throughout the city like momos and shawarma- foods that were once not native to India but have since migrated to the country where Indians have added their flair and flavors to them. It was all so delicious and super fun to explore the city with a local and learn about the food.

Our next day was spent in the southern part of Delhi where we first visited a site called Qutub Minar. The construction of this huge complex was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak in 1193. It contains several tombs, a mosque and a 239 feet tall minaret that towers over it.

From there we ventured to the Mehrauli Archaeological Park where we were able to visit several old tombs and monuments throughout the park. Megan and I even got to play some cricket with some young boys who let us take turn at bat. It was super fun even though I still don’t understand the sport at all…

That evening, Perry and I separated from Megan and Josh to the Saket area of town to meet up with some super special people. While we were in Hyderabad, one of my amazing girls was being adopted. Her sweet Momma had made the trip to India to attend court and bring her home starting at the end of February. Unfortunately, we were never able to see her or meet her Mom while we were south. It seemed like we were always one day behind them where they would leave one city when we arrived. I was honestly a little heartbroken, but I was so happy that she was being adopted and just told myself that I would hopefully get to see her in the States one day. Well the Lord in His kindness once again turned my sadness into joy. When we arrived in Delhi, I was texting with her Mom, checking in on the process, how things were going, and when they would be able to get home. And guess where they were?!? DELHI! Craziness, right?! I was so excited. Her mother allowed us to meet up with them and take her sweet daughter to dinner while she packed their bags to catch a plane to the U.S. that night. How cool is that?! My heart just about burst with joy at getting to spend time with her once more and getting to meet her Mom. So, so cool and a dinner that I will treasure forever.

After two days of exploring, it was time for us to get to experience one of the biggest reasons why we had come to Delhi: Holi Festival. Our day honestly started off a little slow. A lot of Holi is celebrated with family and friends, which we obviously don’t have in Delhi. So at the recommendation of the internet and our food tour guide, we bought tickets to a Holi Party that was taking place at a hotel. When we got there, in true Indian fashion, they were still setting it up and there were just a handful of foreigners sitting around looking confused. So we decided to leave and walk to a store to purchase some colored chalk. Along the way, as we wound through the residential streets to the store, we started coming across kids and families who were out celebrating and allowed us to join in the fun! The best part was when we came to a small park where a bunch of neighbors were out dancing and “playing Holi”. It was a blast! The women invited Megan and me to dance with them while Perry and Josh played with the boys with the water guns. SO MUCH FUN! By the end, we were covered in colors and water :)

After returning to the hotel party for some lunch, we eventually ventured to the India Gate area of town where we walked around and played with our colored chalks and just enjoyed the day. We got lots of looks as foreigners covered in chalk from head to toe, but it was a blast! I don’t think this is a day that any of us will ever forget! And my and Megan’s hair isn’t letting us forget it anytime soon either as our hair might still be slightly dyed blue, green, pink and purple about five days later…hopefully it will wash completely out soon?? :)

Our next day, we had booked a tour for a day trip to the city of Agra, which is located about 3 hours southeast of Delhi. It was a long drive, but it allowed us to visit a Wonder of the Modern World: the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal was finished in 1648 after 22 years of construction. Many people think that the Taj Mahal is a palace, but it is actually a mausoleum built by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after she died. The complex also has a mosque and a “guest house” on each side of the Taj. It really is so beautiful and iconic. There were people everywhere as you would expect, but we still had a wonderful time, especially when our tour guide made us do a “photo shoot” in front of it. So funny. Even though I had visited the Taj several years ago, it was really cool to be back and see something that India is so proud of.

While in Agra, we also visited two other sites: the Agra Fort and the tomb of I’timad-ud-Daula (aka the “Baby Taj”).

The Agra Fort is huge and quite impressive. It was built from 1565 to 1573 by Emperor Akbar. It was used as a defensive fortress by the Mughal emperors. It was also where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son after he staged a coup against his father to become emperor. Shah Jahan lived out his last days here on house arrest where his window looked out across the Yamuna River, and he could see his beloved Taj Mahal to remind him of his wife.

The “Baby Taj” was really interesting to see as you can probably guess from its nickname that it resembles a smaller version of the Taj Mahal. It had amazing painted walls inside and was a mausoleum for Itmad-ud-Daula, a Persian official for the Mughal emperors.

After a long day in Agra, we headed back to Delhi to get some brief sleep before we did another day trip the next day to Jaipur. Together with Delhi and Agra, Jaipur forms the “Golden Triangle” of cities in northern India. I had never been to Jaipur, but I am so glad that we made the trip despite the 4.5 hour car ride each way. The city is located southwest of Delhi, and though it makes for a very long day in the car, it was totally worth visiting.

While there, we visited the Amber Palace, City Palace Museum, Jantar Mantar (Royal Observatory) and saw several other pretty sites along the way.

The Amber Palace was absolutely beautiful. Its construction was first started by Raja Man Singh in the 17th century, and is a huge complex of palace buildings where the royal family of Rajasthan (the state where Jaipur is) lived. We really enjoyed exploring it and learning the history behind it. It also had beautiful views over the city of Jaipur, which was neat to see.

Rajasthan still has a royal family that lives in Jaipur. While they do not really have any political influence today, they do still kind of ceremonially represent the state even after their royal privileges were abolished in 1971 by the Indian constitution. The family still resides in a palace within Jaipur, and they have opened up a large portion of it to the public after converting it into a museum about Rajasthan’s history. Part of our tour allowed us to visit the museum and learn more about this important area of India’s history.

We also visited Jantar Mantar or Royal Observatory located in Jaipur. It was fascinating and was completed in 1734 by King Sawai Jai Singh II who was really interested in astronomy. Almost all of the instruments are still accurate today including the largest sun dial in the world, which can tell the time within 2 seconds!

While in Jaipur, we saw a number of other small but important places as we drove through the city like the Hawa Mahal (“Wind Palace”), the Jal Mahal (“Water Palace”) and Meena ka Kund Baoli (step well). We also enjoyed just seeing the hustle and bustle of everyday life for the local people. Jaipur has a large population of camels and Asian elephants that live there. So that was pretty interesting to see just walking around the city…

After a super busy week, we sadly reached our final day in Delhi. We spent this day exploring New Delhi and seeing some of the sites that we had missed earlier in the week.

Our first stop was to the Agrasen ki Baoli which is another step well hidden in Delhi. The step wells were used as a way to store rain water during the monsoon season each year. India gets lots of rain during the rainy season but during other times of the year, water is sometimes in short supply. These step wells obviously aren’t used in that way any longer, but they make for some pretty photos nowadays.

We visited the Akshardham Hindu Complex, which was pretty interesting to see. It is the largest in the world and was opened in 2005. While we’ve seen huge and elaborate churches, mosques and cathedrals throughout our travels, up until this point we had yet to see any kind of Hindu temple of this size. It was really beautiful. You can’t take anything inside, not even your phone, so we don’t have any pictures except from the outside, but it’s worth googling if you’re interested to see the inside.

We went to the World Heritage Site of Humayan’s Tomb, which is said to have inspired the Taj Mahal. It was completed in 1572 as a mausoleum for the 2nd Mughal emperor of India: Humayun, who reigned from 1530 to 1540 and again from 1555 to 1556. Though not quite as elaborate as the Taj, it was still pretty impressive to see and explore.

 Our final stop of our time in Delhi was at the Dilli Haat Bazaar where we walked around and saw amazing arts and crafts from all over India. The artisans are so talented, especially the henna lady!

We were SO sad to have to say goodbye to Megan and Josh and send them back to Russia as we left for our next destination. We had the absolute best time with them this week and are so thankful that they decided to join us in this crazy, chaotic country that I love. Hopefully it stole a little piece of their hearts as well. I know the four of us will always treasure our time together there and the memories we created.

As I reflect on our two weeks in India, I’m reminded of two quotes by Mother Teresa, the incredible woman whose story first drew me to this country almost a decade ago, that I love: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” And “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today.”

In these uncertain times of coronavirus and tornados (in Middle Tennessee) and chaos and everything else that we’re all already dealing with in our lives, I hold onto these quotes and hope that I can live by them. I hope that I can always do small things with great love towards each and every person that I come in contact with while remembering that I cannot change the past nor control the future. I have only today, and it is enough. We do not know what the future will bring, but I trust in the One who holds my future in His faithful and steady hands.

So for today, I’m thankful for time spent with people I love in a country that will forever hold my heart. I’m looking for ways to encourage and love others when they need it most. I’m reminding myself that I cannot change this crazy world or fix it’s problems. And I’m trusting that our God is faithful and knows just what we need. May all our anxious hearts be stilled and filled with peace as we find small ways to trust and love today.


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