Rajdhani Express – I – That feeling of Indianness on Republic Day !

From a trip to the South of India, the second leg of our 19 day vacation in January 2017 took us to the North of the Vindhyas, to Delhi. We have family living in Delhi and combined a local sight seeing trip along with visiting family. We timed it around Republic Day because staying in Delhi on Republic Day is a childhood fantasy coming true !

From highway to runway 

After cruising on highways and railways over all these years, this writer took a literal leap of faith by turning towards the runway ! For the first time in living memory, this writer boarded a flight. Some 25 years ago, the writer, as a 2 year old was dragged along with the luggage by parents visiting Kashmir and taken on a flight to Srinagar but 2 year olds have as much memory as the luggage and so the thought of boarding a flight was terrifying. All the worst case scenarios played on the mind till the moment of boarding the flight. However, all was well and the flight experience turned out to be eventless and even fun. It was a sunny afternoon, so we couldn’t even keep the shutters open. The few times we managed to peek outside and look at the fluffy clouds were amazing. At the end of it, the writer thinks the flight journey felt like sitting in a Volvo bus to Rajamundry ! With the fear of flying gone, one could now look forward to travelling to places where taking the runway is easier than the highway. Of course, we will always swear our allegiance to the highway !

We landed in Delhi around 7.30 PM, the day before Republic Day and headed straight to our family’s place, this is one trip where food and accommodation were well taken care of. The evening was spent relaxing with family.

Civics textbook comes alive

There is a “sentiment” in Delhi, we were told, that it rains in the city every Republic Day. True to that, we woke up to a light drizzle on the morning of Republic Day, we would have loved to go and see the Parade but our family insisted it was too much of a labour and we were better off watching the Parade on TV. It was a funny feeling to imagine the Tricolour being hoisted a few kilometres away !

After an early lunch at home, we stepped out to explore Delhi and were welcomed with a heavy shower ! From between the rain drops on the window glass, we could see the National Flag fluttering everywhere.

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We also spotted the military Dare Devils returning from the Parade, it felt like we had spotted celebrities !

The plan was to visit Akshardham but before that our cousin gave us a drive through tour of the power centres, Akbar Road, we jumped in our seats when we saw a building with the name plate “Suresh Prabhu” ! Then we drove past Rajpath though we weren’t allowed anywhere near the main stretch, we could drive in the nearby lanes, when India Gate came in view, we almost stopped breathing for a second ! Rashtrapathi Bhavan, Supreme Court – the Constitution, Legislative, Executive, Judiciary, it was like our Civics textbook coming alive, “We the people of India”, we wanted to chant ! The cousin was thoroughly amused that we looked at everything wide eyed like someone who had just seen a city for the first time. When you see the national capital for the first time, you are allowed to behave like a bumpkin.

Akshardham on a rainy afternoon

We then drove to Akshardham, crossing the Yamuna, was another moment for us. We couldn’t stop because it was raining heavily. By the time we reached Akshardham, the rain eased a bit and we took the long walk to the temple from the parking lot.

We were visiting Akshardham after a trip to the amazing, sculpturally rich temples of Tamil Nadu, each with atleast 1000 years of history. That is probably why, though, we found the Akshardham temple beautiful architecturally, somehow, it didn’t create that feeling of awe in us. Photography is not allowed in the premises, so we cannot bring you pictures from our visit.

The one thing we were keen on seeing was the “Sanskruti Darshan”, which is a boat ride through an exhibition of the life and times of Vedic India. But, to visit that, one has to buy tickets for 2 other exhibitions, one a philosophical talk  on how you can sculpt your life with your own hands and another 45 minute film on Swami Narayan. We skipped the second one and headed straight to the Sanskruti Darshan.

The Sanskruti Darshan was definitely worth a visit. A mechanised boat takes you on a ride as you see the exhibits depicting life during the Vedic times. The boat then takes you through various golden ages in India’s ancient history, the epics, Mauryas, Guptas and so on. We liked the experience and at times you felt like you had been transported to those times, the visit was even more special for us because it was a day of celebrating India. At Akshardham, this is a “not to be missed”.

We stepped out of the Sanskruti Darshan and were caught in a downpour, we wanted to wait out the rain but it didn’t seem to stop even after 15 minutes and so, we threw caution to the rain and ran towards the next nearest shelter and then to another and another, enjoying getting drenched in the heavy downpour. We finally stopped at the canteen and wanted to grab a bite. Someone had suggested the Kichidi at Akshardham but it turned out to be tasteless, as was the coffee but it all adds to the experience, so no complaints from our end.

It rained all the way till we reached the exit, by then, we had totally given into the rain and loved getting drenched, some joys never age !

A short visit to meet family in the concrete jungle of Ghaziabad and we headed home.

“India is my country”

On the way back home, we once again drove by India Gate and Rashtrapathi Bhavan. It was past sun set and the India Gate was lit up with the national colours. What a sight it was !

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There was a slight drizzle and a cool breeze, as we tried to click that picture and stood gazing at the India Gate, it was like the most romantic moment of our lives !

To our right was an even brightly illuminated Rashtrapathi Bhavan, glittering in the rain washed night.

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The entire road leading to Rashtrapathi Bhavan and the India was blocked by police barricades. The security was high with police everywhere but we managed to place our camera between the barricades and click this picture of the Rajpath on the Rashtrapathi Bhavan end.

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This was another click of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan from a distance, we wished we had brought a bigger lens with us.

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Nearby was a board by the CPWD, displaying Republic Day greetings decorated with flowers. Behind the board, we could still see the seating arrangements from the morning’s parade.

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It sort of felt surreal to imagine that the parade that we grew up watching religiously every year was held at that spot earlier in the day. Even if you don’t attend the parade, standing at the Rajpath on Republic Day is sure to give you a high, a high of being an Indian. “To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion”, we repeated every day in school, so many years later, we wanted to reiterate it and mean every word of it.

We have our flaws as a nation but that feeling of Indianness, ignited again on an important day like Republic Day at the place where it all happens, is priceless !

On the way back home, we stopped at the Shiv Murti Mandir near the airport.

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There are other huge idols of Radha Krishna and Shri Ram, all idols were beautifully illuminated. There was a light drizzle and cool breeze, we loved the effect and the peaceful environs.

Info tidbit

  • All the information about visiting Akshardham is available at their website http://www.akshardham.com
  • If you plan to attend the Republic Day parade, we suppose passes are made available at various counters around Delhi like India Gate, Red Fort, Tourism offices, that’s what we understood from the internet.
  • Our people didn’t encourage us to attend the Republic Day Parade because they said there would be too many restrictions, traffic and security, one had to walk atleast 3 kilometres to reach the venue and unless one reached very early, there would hardly be any seating and it would not be possible to view anything properly. Readers who have attended a Republic Day parade, do share your experience.

 

 

 

 

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