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Tilak Nagar

TN intro

 

Week four in Delhi and the lucky last in India. (Yes, I was contemplating extending our stay on the subcontinent, maybe swinging over to Calcutta for a quick look see, but in the end I decided to stick to the original timings and press on westwards to Istanbul tomorrow.)

Having touched briefly on Islam, Hinduism and the Jains over the last three weeks, I wanted to spend our final week here taking a look at the third largest religion in India, Sikhism.

So I nipped over to the biggest Sikh temple in Delhi before heading west to the largely Sikh neighbourhood of Tilak Nagar, some 17 km from the city centre.

While 17km isn’t very far, west Delhi felt quite different to the south where our last three neighbourhoods have been. It’s as dirty and dusty, probably more so, but there’s just something I liked better. Perhaps it’s the Sikhs themselves, infusing the place with their noble principles of equality amongst all humans, no matter what caste, creed or gender.

Let’s go Tilak Nagar!

 

Part 1: The big Sikh temple

Although I usually shy away from anything remotely big or touristy, I made an exception with Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, Delhi’s largest Sikh temple, located slam bam in the city centre. As I was pretty clueless about Sikhism I thought I might meet some Sikhs there and get a heads up before hitting the suburbs. The place is impressive but I went on a Sunday when it was so crowded with devotees and tourists that I didn’t dally.

Before I left, however, I met a bride-to-be performing a pre-wedding ritual with her family, and had a quick glance at the Sikh langar or ‘free kitchen’ that feeds up to 10,000 people a day no matter what their caste or creed – because Sikhism is all about inclusiveness, sharing and community.

 

finery

finery

 

 

 

Sunday best

Sunday best

 

 

 

the blushing bride to be

the blushing bride to be

 

 

 

super-size me :: 1

super-size me :: 1

 

 

 

super-size me :: 2

super-size me :: 2

 

 

 

super-size me :: 3

super-size me :: 3

 

 

 

Part 2: The little Sikh temple

After my flying visit to Delhi’s largest gurudwara, I headed west to possibly Delhi’s smallest, in Tilak Nagar. As usual, I found the local, untouristy alternative so much more satisfying.

As soon as I entered the gurudwara I was ushered upstairs by a gaggle of kids to meet the families who live on the premises. There wasn’t a lot of chit chat until I met the charming and cheeky Navneet Singh, a 14 year old Sikh nicknamed Paras who speaks perfect English. He lives outside the temple but was there with his sister and cousins for their regular music lesson. Luckily for me he was early and I was able to quiz him about all things Sikh.

Thanks to Paras I left the little gurudwara not long after feeling slightly less clueless than I had when I’d wandered in.

 

residents of the gurudwara :: 1

residents of the gurudwara :: 1

 

 

 

residents of the gurudwara :: 2

residents of the gurudwara :: 2

 

 

 

his turban was the colour of Jalebi

his turban was the colour of Jalebi

 

 

 

Navneet Singh, 'Paras'

Navneet Singh, 'Paras'

 

 

 

free spirits

free spirits

 

 

 

Prabhjot Kaur, friend of Paras

Prabhjot Kaur, friend of Paras

 

 

 

waiting for their music teacher

waiting for their music teacher

 

 

 

2 of the 5 K's - the Kara bracelet and Kirpan sword

2 of the 5 K's - the Kara bracelet and Kirpan sword

 

 

 

filling the gurudwara with their music

filling the gurudwara with their music

 

 

 

Part 3: Tying the knot, Sikh style

The second thing that made my visit to Tilak Nagar so unexpectedly enjoyable was also completely unplanned. For the past few weeks I’ve been wanting to stumble on a wedding. I’d almost given up hope of serendipity providing me with one when on visit number two to Tilak Nagar, I noticed jasmine in the hair of a woman as she walked quickly past my taxi. Now, jasmine in your locks can only mean one thing in India – a wedding. So I leapt out the taxi, ran up to the woman and with all the grace of an excited five year old stammered, “Wedding?!”

Yes, wedding. And what was more, I was in time to join the procession to the gurudwara which entailed a horse-drawn carriage and the wedding party dancing in the streets. Far from being viewed as a nosey outsider, I was welcomed like an honoured guest. In fact, for the first time in my life I think I was auspicious; as soon as I joined in the dancing, everyone clapped madly and money was waved over my head, in exactly the same way as the Jains had done two weeks earlier. Either that or they thought it was hilarious to watch the white chick trying to emulate their hip shaking dance routine. It was all caught on video by not one but two videographers. The things you do.

 

must be a wedding

must be a wedding

 

 

 

smiling band

smiling band

 

 

 

east and west-ish

east and west-ish

 

 

 

Before the procession started, we all had to wait around a fair while. Which is kind of tedious when you’re just a tot. Even when your twin is right beside you. And especially when you have to wear beads in front of your face as part of some century old tradition. Bor-ing.

 

double despair :: 1

double despair :: 1

 

 

 

double despair :: 2

double despair :: 2

 

 

 

double despair :: 3

double despair :: 3

 

 

 

c'mon kids, at least you're not at the dentist

c'mon kids, at least you're not at the dentist

 

 

 

the wait over, they make their way to the gurudwara

the wait over, they make their way to the gurudwara

 

 

 

dancin' in the streets

dancin' in the streets

 

 

 

and then the world exploded

and then the world exploded

 

 

 

Eventually the procession ended up at the gurudwara and after a few rituals – garlands of flowers being donned, prayers sung – the bride suddenly appeared and made her way over to the waiting groom. The groom unveiled the bride’s chooda or wedding bangles and then rid himself of his own veil, before they all filed inside the gurudwara; I stuck my head in briefly to see everyone sitting around while various songs were sung and rituals performed. I felt I’d intruded long enough and it was time to go.

 

the bride appears

the bride appears

 

 

 

approaching the groom

approaching the groom

 

 

 

unwrapping her 'chooda', wedding bangles

unwrapping her 'chooda', wedding bangles

 

 

 

a wedding where the man wears the veil and she wears everything else

a wedding where the man wears the veil and she wears everything else

 

 

 

the bridesmaid and the flower boy, maybe

the bridesmaid and the flower boy, maybe

 

 

 

all the best for a long, happy marriage my children

all the best for a long, happy marriage my children

 

 

 

Part 4: And just for good measure, a Hindu temple

In the Sikh spirit of inclusiveness, and seeing as it was the birthday of Hindu god Shiva this week, I made a brief visit to a couple of local Hindu temples in the area.

 

look Shiva, she's getting married on your birthday

look Shiva, she's getting married on your birthday

 

 

 

Hindu temple of Santoshi Maa, Mother of Satisfaction

Hindu temple of Santoshi Maa, Mother of Satisfaction

 

 

 

Santoshi Maa temple and devotee

Santoshi Maa temple and devotee

 

 

 

Hindu and Sikh, living in harmony

Hindu and Sikh, living in harmony

 

 

 

Part 5: On the road

One of the things you first notice when you arrive in Delhi is how many taxis are driven by the turbaned Sikh. And seeing also as I have spent so much time sitting in taxis over the last month, in traffic or just getting from A to B, I thought it apt that we end with images from the road.

 

Mr Amar Singh, taxi-driver for 40 years

Mr Amar Singh, taxi-driver for 40 years

 

 

 

mobile gurudwara - reading prayers in his cab

mobile gurudwara - reading prayers in his cab

 

 

 

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 1

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 1

 

 

 

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 2

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 2

 

 

 

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 3

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 3

 

 

 

through the car window - the eunuch and the armless man

through the car window - the eunuch and the armless man

 

 

 

through the car window - the flower seller

through the car window - the flower seller

 

 

 

through the car window - the window cleaner

through the car window - the window cleaner

 

 

 

The Wrap

Tilak Nagar ain’t no oil painting. But I really enjoyed it, thanks largely to Paras at the gurudwara and the Sikh wedding party. My visit to India would’ve felt incomplete without a wedding; I bow low before my god, Serendipity, and give humble thanks.

 

Thanks India, it's been wonderful and terrible, uplifting and depressing, joyful and sad

Thanks India, it's been wonderful and terrible, uplifting and depressing, joyful and sad

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Coco and I would also like to say a huge thanks to everyone in the house here for the various ways in which they’ve all helped over the last month. To Ronnie, Suzy, Wayne, Jed and Jennifer, dhanyavād!

I know he’ll never read this but thanks also to Sebastian, for fighting the traffic chaos to deliver me safely to whatever destination madam required.

I am looking forward to getting on that plane tomorrow – but there are things I’m going to miss. The colours of course. But other less obvious things, like being asked what my ‘good name’ is. And seeing joy go dancing down the streets, in the form of a Jain celebration or a Sikh wedding. And the street kids, who don’t know they could justifiably complain to the high heavens about their circumstances but instead just get on with it, playing under the overpasses and laughing their way through the dust and dirt.

This suburb has been brought to you by Simeon and Sarah

See you next week. In Istanbul…

 

  1. Sarah says:

    Looking forward to another installment, and a place I don’t know well! I believe sikh’s will not beg, which is why they do pretty much any job, at least that’s what my Sikh driver told me in Delhi!!

  2. Nikki says:

    Wonderful way to finish the Indian journey… love every pic, every colour.

  3. TRENT COLLINS says:

    Another amazing post.

    So jealous of you travels.

    Keep the posts coming :)

  4. Nick B says:

    I went with my parents to India when I was 9 years old – to Calcutta – and it left a deep impression on me. Your 4 weeks of photos in Delhi have been inspirational, moving and beautiful. As you summed up so well, India is “wonderful and terrible, uplifting and depressing, joyful and sad”.
    If you weren’t such an amazing photographer, you could be a decent copywriter!

  5. Simeon says:

    Lovely Louise. I loved ‘through the window’ shots. Farewell India.

  6. nirah says:

    Thank – you once again for brightening up my week…lovely vibrant images and interesting stories….looking forward to seeing how you portray Istanbul :) Although I always feel a bit sad after I have seen your blog on Friday as I think to myself….I have to wait one more week til we meet again!! Safe travels and glad to hear you are feeling better….

  7. Philliz says:

    India is one of those destinations that often you look back on and think what a wonderful experience. Istanbul and Turkey are just brilliant, looking forward to that part of your journey. Happy days

  8. Chantal says:

    more wonderful images & text – many thanks & wishing you more happy travels CX

  9. Wayne says:

    Another colourful week. Looking forward to Istanbul. Thanks Louise, wonderful images.

  10. Brent Wilson says:

    Stunning! Stunning! Stunning! I particularly like through the car window images something compelling about them. From you perspective as the photographer look at the humanity that is outside the car and from their perspective of look at the amusing lady in the back of the car with a camera!

  11. suzy says:

    Beautiful photos, I have really enjoyed seeing India through your lens over the past few weeks. I visited as a teenager and REALLY didn’t enjoy it, but would like to go back one day. Have fun in Istanbul! Such an amazing city. Have a look at Verity’s blog if you have a chance – http://thelightgarden.blogspot.com.au/search/label/things%20to%20love%20about%20Turkey%20and%20Istanbul – she recently moved back to Australia from Istanbul and has lots of ideas for child-friendly things there.

  12. ALison MUdie says:

    That blue….that bluem, I am in love with that blue!
    Gorgeous images. Thank you.

  13. Beachtropic says:

    Your images, as usual,capture the essence of the people you meet. The women are so beautiful, particularly in their wedding finery. The bored child was magnificent, his eyes seem to be the window to the soul of India. Safe travels, see you in Istanbul
    . Di x

  14. Louise says:

    Sarah – I heard the same thing about the Sikhs. Noble huh?
    Nikki – Thank you and yeah, I was so happy to stumble on that wedding, it felt like a goodbye present from India.
    Trent – Many thanks!
    Nick B – Calcutta – that would’ve been an eye-opener for a nine year old.
    Simeon – The flower seller, the way he’s got his nose right up against the window like all kids do, yet he’s not exactly living the innocent life of a child…
    Nirah – Thanks so much, that’s wonderful to hear!
    Philliz – Yes, that’s always been my experience of the place. It can be difficult to appreciate it all when you’re in the thick of it – but afterwards the memories of it are so vivid compared to ‘easier’ places that it makes you want to go back.
    Chantal – Thanks honey.
    Wayne – Writing this now from Istanbul!
    Brent – The car window shots are some of my favourite too. The faintly quizzical looks on the faces. And for me, the enforced framing, the lack of control. I’d go back to India just to shoot more car window images.
    Suzy – Well, India isn’t for everyone – a friend once told me what India stands for – I’m Never Doing It Again! But it would be interesting to see if you liked it better as an adult. Anyway, so glad you enjoyed your virtual trip there.
    Alison – The blue, the yellows, the reds etc etc – they’re all so vivid, especially against the often pale, sandy coloured backgrounds.
    Di – I love the bored kid! The kohl just emphasised the gloom!

  15. Julie says:

    Louise, thank you for sending us such extraordinary beauty from India! Such breathtaking, spirited work. Well done you, thanks for the flash of inspiration this week. Hope it’s all fun over there
    J

  16. Ellen says:

    Such wonderful pics the bride is stunning

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