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We continued our exploration into the madness that is Delhi. We thought we’d go find the spice market. We all had visions of open stalls heaped high with bright colourful spice powders, being sold by women in bright colourful saris – a photographers’ paradise. I don’t know how it happened, but after taking the metro, and then walking for a long way through an area of crushing poverty, and then onto an extremely busy main road, and asking and asking all the way, we finally found, by venturing into side streets and narrow alley ways, the wholesale spice market. Not at all what we expected, but  was just as fascinating, if not as colourful. I think we found our way into a place few westerners visit. It was neither pretty nor monumental, but the men (and the two women) we found there in those narrow alleys, in between being extremely industrious, were wonderfully friendly and welcoming, and seemed generally delighted to have us there.

We walked a long way down this incredibly crowded street

Then headed into the side streets and alleyways.

It’s turmeric in the sacs.

Chillies, and dried mango

The Phool Waalon Ki Sair Festival, or Procession of the Florists, is an annual festival. Six or eight different states of India present their traditional dances, awards are held, and it’s an important festival for both Muslims and Hindus. After the dancers perform they then parade on the back of trucks from the performance area at Jahaz Mahal, or Ship Palace, to the shrine of a Sufi saint. Our travel agent Vini came through with some special invitations giving us seats in the front row of the second-level VIP section. We could hardly have gotten better seats. We arrived very early which was a good thing. Huge crowds came to watch the dancing. It was a magical evening, performance after performance of fabulous dancing from all over India. Just breathtaking. I wish my photos could capture even half of the wonder of the evening. I hope they convey something of the fabulousness of the dancing.

First we met these two in the street

The performances were held here, at Jahaz Mahal

This last group of the evening literally poured a huge mound of marigold petals onto the stage, and then after some dancing proceeded to more or less bury the couple reclining on the stage. Spectacular! At the end they all threw marigold petals into the audience.

And one from Julie

We chose, unknowingly, to go to the Red Fort on the same day the Congress Party was holding a political rally. Members of the Congress Party wear pink turbans, and we saw many pink turbans that day. The crowds were even worse than usual, which we wouldn’t have thought possible. On the metro we were packed in body to body and I experienced a whole new level of intimacy with strangers than I ever have before 🙂

The Red Fort is a big, imposing, rambling, old, seventeenth century, red stone fort, built by some Mughal emperor or other. My knowledge of Indian history is woeful. It will probably stay that way.  In spite of the crowds and the smog I’m glad we went. Some fine buildings, and some fine people watching.

Delhi smog. This photo was taken mid-afternoon looking straight at the sun.

One more post to come on Delhi. We did a walk around Old Delhi arranged by an organization that helps rescue street children and went to Jama Masjid which is the largest mosque, and some markets.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.