After the Sikh Temple I decided to go and see the Red Fort. It is a vast compound and more than a little intimidating.
It was a cool and foggy morning and we drove through the traffic to a parking lot near the Red Fort. There the driver passed me on to a ricksha driver (bicycle), since he could not get any closer to the Fort and it was too far to walk. So I sat in the ricksha, being joggled through the human masses that were packed skin tight. Everyone looking for somebody to buy some of their junk, their food, their drinks, or to just stare at this being from the moon.
The ricksha driver dropped me off in front of the actual gates of the Fort. Surprise: there were thousands of people there, thousands! And when I looked closer, I found that apart from the people who were just milling around, selling something or trying to pick your pocket, there were actually thousands again standing in a line a mile long, in single file, so orderly that I started staring at them! Waiting for what? To get to the ticket booth, of course! Immediately my heart sank. I was not going to wait in line patiently for three hours to see that Fort! So I walked around a bit, when a security officer stopped me and said: no waiting in line for foreigners. He took me to another ticket booth where no one was waiting and I could buy my ticket. Of course my ticket cost me 250 rupees while the Indians still only paid 10 rupees. Don’t you think we ought to pass a law that Indians in the U.S. should pay 25 times the admission price for events than locals do? Anyway, that bugs me every time.
If you enlarge the photo of the Women’s Quarters, you will see that those three buildings above are lined up: Women’s Quarters on the right, Royal Apartments in the middle and the Exclusive Audience Hall on the left, where the Emperor met with his most trusted nobles. Agra Fort had the large Audience Hall where Shah Jahan’s fabled Peacock Throne was allegedly located. While here at Agra Fort in the Private and Exclusive Audience Hall, it is also said that the “legendary Peacock Throne”, one of Shah Jahan’s seven jewelled thrones, was located. So what do we believe?
The Red Fort was built by Shah Jahan, the 5th Emperor of the Mughal empire. This is the same Emperor who built the Taj Mahal. Construction began in 1639, took nine years to complete and was the seat of Mughal power until 1857, when the last Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was dethroned and exiled.
You have seen the police barricades at the entrance of the Red Fort. After I was led through the barricades, past the patiently waiting and onlooking Indians, there was a security check for purse and body. Security checks are everywhere. At every hotel, bank, office building and museum. Really tight security. The Indians are taking this seriously, since so many people were killed in the Mumbai hotel bombings in 2011. Just this past week the Indians intercepted a boat from Pakistan, which was full of explosives. The terrorists blew it up when they were caught, and died in it. (I hope this is a correct representation of that incident. I am too busy to pay too much attention to the news, although the paper, “hindustantimes”, is delivered to the room daily).
On the way home we stopped at a Government run store for Indian goods. I didn’t stay long or buy anything. But it’s hard. Every day I see more things I need! Urgently!
One of these first evenings, after having dinner at the hotel, I visited one of the lovely stores here on the second floor. It is a company from Kashmir, specializing in scarves and shawls. I learned that there is a better wool than Cashmere. As you know, Cashmere is the wool from a goat. Pashmina, however, is the wool from the goat’s chin beard, and quite a bit softer and much more expensive. This company here in our hotel produces all their goods in Kashmir. They are third generation owners and have 30 stores alone in Delhi. I spent almost three hours there, until after 10pm, it was extremely interesting.
This is what I learned: there is Pashmina, single ply Pashmina, double ply Pashmina, looser weave Pashmina and tighter weave Pashmina, for the scarves and shawls which get embroidered. Then there is machine embroidery and hand embroidery, adorned with mirrors or other embellishments, and plain. There is Pashmina mixed with silk, silk mixed with Cashmere, with regular wool (from a sheep) and with cotton. And on and on……. Some of these treasures can cost you thousands of dollars. Some patterns are woven in (handwoven of course), some are applied and some are painted. I could probably go on all night….. It might bore too many people.
So enough for Day a Three. Stay tuned.