A GLIMPSE OF INDIA IN 45 BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS
India is a chaotic, beautiful, dirty, and dazzling place. Beautifully manicured temples and tombs bump up next to slums and trash-laden beaches. Strikingly colorful turbans and saris weave among streets filled with dust, honks, and stray dogs. The following photo collection attempts to capture both the majestic beauty and challenging poverty that coexist in modern-day India. It is simply a glimpse, captured during our two-week journey through the state of Rajasthan, New Delhi, and Mumbai.
Jodhpur – the blue city
Jodhpur is aptly nicknamed the blue city of India. The twisted alleys and cramped homes, painted a soft lilac blue, surround the towering Mehrangarh Fort. The Fort was built in 1460 by Rao Jodha, and it serves as a museum for the wealth and power that was held by the Rathores.
The blue homes of Jodpur surrounding Mehrangarh Fort.
The colors of India never cease to strike your eyes. Here the simple tossing of a sari over a banister becomes a work of art, a streak of crimson against an indigo canvas.
The patchwork quilt of Jodhpur’s cityscape.
The high walls of Mehrangarh Fort tower over Jodpur and must have been a daunting feat for any enemies of the Rathores.
The lavish interiors of Mehrangarh Fort.
Umaid Bhawan Palace was built in 1929 by Maharaja Umaid Singh. It is still a private residence, but also a luxury hotel in Jodhpur.
A step well tucked among the winding streets of the blue city.
Pushkar – the holy city
Pushkar is considered a holy city and a place of pilgrimage. Consuming eggs and meat is forbidden within the city, and the sacred cow is allowed to roam freely among the streets and sacred ghats. The city surrounds the small Pushkar lake, also holy and unapproachable unless one has removed his shoes.
The city surrounds holy Pushkar Lake. One can see the ghats leading down to the water.
Four pilgrims from a large family sit along the ghat near the water’s edge. The diversity of color, fabric, and style of turbans throughout India is fascinating.
Two holy figures mingle together. A monument to the god Ganesha serves as the quiet resting place for two cows of Pushkar.
A pilgrim prays near the water’s edge.
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is one of the world’s most visited places, and for good reason. The bright white marble, intricate inlay, and careful preservation make the Taj Mahal a beautiful sight on the eyes. The Taj Mahal was built as a tomb for Mumtaz Mahal by her husband, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632.
In the early hours of the morning, all is still in the gardens surrounding the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal framed by the Great Gate Darwaza-i Rauza.
A beautiful sunset silhouette The Taj Mahal at sunset.
The Taj Majal itself is surrounded by sprawling gardens with many protective walls gateways built of red sandstone. Here, light shines through a passageway of the Great Gate Darwaza-i Rauza.
Mumbai – sprawling metropolis of great wealth and great poverty
According to the World Economic Forum, India is the world’s seventh largest economy. Yet one would not guess it. To our eyes, the immense wealth of the country cannot be seen on the streets, where the average Indian strives to compete amid dirty chaos. Income inequality is a challenge for India, and it is also sad to see the striking amount of refuse that burdens the streets, rivers, and beaches. India is such a beautiful country with such a rich history, it is difficult to see its great challenges as well.
A scene we came upon while walking along a busy street in Mumbai.
Girgaum Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai could be a beautiful arching beach rimmed by the highrises of Mumbai. Instead it is trash-laden and the views are obscured by thick air pollution.
A fisherman and his family prepare nets before going out for the days catch off Chowpatty Beach.
The auto parts area of Chor Bazaar in Mumbai puts all the world’s handymen shops to shame. Three noisy square blocks are filled to the brim with every imaginable car part, vehicles in various states of disassemblage, and workers eeking every usable nut, bolt, and drop of oil out of dead engines.
A colorful, bustling food market in Mumbai is indicative of how produce is handled, distributed, and made available to poorer Indian families.
India – land of temples and tombs
India is home to every major religion, as well as many smaller religions. Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Baha’i Faith are practiced here, each with its form of a house of worship: from temples to mosques to synagogues. The ancient sites of temples built hundreds of years ago contrast with new builds as well.
A view of New Delhi from Jama Masjid Mosque. One of the India’s largest mosques, Jama Masjid was built in 1656.
As mentioned before, the Taj Mahal is a tomb that was built in 1632 for Mumtaz Mahal.
New Delhi’s Baha’i House of Worship, known also as the Lotus Temple, was constructed in 1986.
The Kutub Minar, built in 1192, is part of New Delhi’s ancient Qutb Complex. It was built as part of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, and remains one of the oldest surviving mosque complexes on the Indian subcontinent.
One of the most stunning constructions of recent history, New Delhi’s Akshardam Temple was built in 2005. The interior of this temple is so lavish, detailed, and intricate, it is nearly impossible to put into words.
Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi is built of red sandstone and white marble. It was built in 1569 for the Mughal Emperor Humayun.
Udaipur – city of lakes
Udaipur charmed us with its clean-swept streets and quiet alleyways. Nestled among five major lakes, Udaipur feels like a calm oasis within the noisy chaos that seems to envelop so much of India. The city was founded in 1559, and its twisting pedestrian streets are a beautiful mosaic of colors and textures.
A view of colorful, maze-like Udaipur from above.
Udaipur reflected in one of her lakes as dusk sets in.
Arts are a large part of the culture and economy in Udaipur. Here, a wealthy family’s home has been converted into an art gallery and high-end interior design showroom. The home itself, with its architectural history and trove of artifacts, is itself a cultural site.
Dancers perform folk dances from the region at Udaipur’s Bagore Ki Haveli.
Walking the streets of Udaipur is a journey of colors and textures. We were consistently drawn to the beautiful detail of doors and gateways in the cities twisting alleyways.
India never disappoints with its vivid color combinations.
People of India
Our time in India was brief, but potent. Amid the beauty and chaos, the people stand out as resilient and holding fast to a rich and diverse culture with deep roots into the past.
A family on pilgrimage in Pushkar. One can see the changes in generations taking place, between the young boys in tshirts and baseball caps, to the elders in traditional dress.
Familiar sights along the narrow, winding pedestrian streets of beautiful Udaipur.
A woman takes a moment to watch the passersby on the streets of Udaipur.
A family in Udaipur, India.
A street food vendor takes a moment on the streets of Udaipur.
A street musician in Udaipur.
Indian weddings are magnificently colorful and alive. Here a groom, atop a lavishly decorated white horse, prepares for a procession through the streets of Pushkar.
A pilgrim in Pushkar.
Boys making their way together in Jodhpur.
A book vendor with his goods on a busy street in Mumbai.
The food – delicious, spicy, and sometimes a bit risky
Indian food is as rich and varied as its culture. One merely scratches the surface working through street food stands or perusing the extensive menus at local restaurants. Spicy seems to be the common theme between many major dishes – even the ‘mild’ ones! However the complementing flavors and combinations used with the spicy element are masterfully done. Street food is varied and very delicious. Unfortunately, sanitation makes street food exploration risky business for travelers, as we know too well.
A food vendor living his day-to-day in Pushkar.
A local restauranteur in New Delhi making naan in an outdoor oven. Unfortunately, this restaurant was ground-zero for us. The food was delicious, but we both got horrible food poisoning a few hours later.
A street vendor in Pushkar.
A final photo that is perhaps indicative of our brief journey in India. Vibrant, colorful, potent, and not without a bit of risk. So it seems is India, a country of immense depth of culture, beauty, and history tied together with the challenges all developing nations face.
More Photo Series from José Luis Vílchez