A Road trip Across India: Exploring New States & Partaking in Festivities

Well before we departed for India, my co-intern and I made a long list of places and things we wanted to see. Luckily, we both had equally adventurous spirits throughout this trip and hit most of our goals, with additional surprises! In this blog, I’d like to take you on our “road trip” across India!

First stop: Gurugram, Haryana

How we got there: Flight from JFK to Delhi

Of course, the first stop on our road trip, straight out of the Indira Gandhi airport was our accommodation in Gurugram- the city where PHFI’s office is located. Gurugram itself does not offer too many historical site-seeing locations, but it’s a beautiful developing city.

Must see locations:

Cyberhub: I highly recommend the café called “Theos” for wonderful pastries! You can easily get here with the Sikanderpur rapid metro line if you’re commuting from Delhi. Otherwise, autos are your best friend to get around the city.

Worldmark: Here, check out the restaurant known as “Dhabba” for some fabulous kadhai paneer. At night, they have a beautiful ambiance with live music playing. My co-intern and I frequented Worldmark to work there on our virtual workdays!

Ambience mall: This is one of the most impressive malls I’ve seen! It has a total of six floors and an endless variety of shops and food stalls. This is where my co-intern and I first ran into a shop known as “Haldiram’s”. This is a classic food stop for all as here you’ll find all kinds of variety of chaats, pani puri, chole bhature, etc.

Second Stop: Damoh & Panna, Madhya Pradesh

How we got there: Gatimaan express on the way there; flight back.

Our second stop on our trip in India was our field visit to Madhya Pradesh. Though this trip and our visits were thoroughly detailed in blog #2, here’s a quick list of where we went: Orchha Fort in Jhansi, Khajuraho temples near Panna, and the Dhuandhar falls in Jabalpur.

Third Stop: Ahmedabad, Gujarat

How we got there: Flight; Delhi to Ahmedabad

My co-intern and I made the decision to visit Ahmedabad as my co-intern’s family is based there. Though our trip to this beautiful city was brief, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in an entirely new place, and one that I would likely not have the chance to visit on my other India trips. When visiting Gujarat, I would highly recommend you visit the local shopping locations (as detailed in blog #3).

Step well in Gujarat

Fourth Stop: Mount Abu, Rajasthan

How we got there: On our quick trip to Gujarat, we had also planned to make a trip to various locations in Rajasthan. With my co-intern’s wonderful family, we made the long 11-hour trip from Ahmedabad all the way to Jaipur. Before we got to Jaipur, we spent most of our day at Mount Abu!

Mount Abu is a hill station in Rajasthan and sits very close to the border of Gujarat. It is a part of the Aravalli range which begins in Delhi and ends in Ahmedabad. Our stop here offered a refreshing change in climate from our daily 90℉ + temperatures, to a settled temperature in the 60s. Moreover, on our trek up the mountain, we had a whole host of stunning views: from the beautiful waterfalls we passed to the foliage down below, being that high up among the clouds was amazing! Once we got up, we saw the Nakki lake. We hopped in a boat up here and the lake appeared slightly ominous. This is because it was difficult to see the edges of the lake due to how foggy it was up there. Eventually as the fog cleared up, we gazed around at the stunning heights of Mount Abu as we were located smack dab in the middle of the hill station.

Fifth Stop: Jaipur, Rajasthan

How we got there: Directly from Mount Abu, we made our way to Jaipur by car.

Must See Locations: When we first arrived in Jaipur, we realized its nickname, “Pink city” was true to its actual appearance. This is because many of the buildings are actually painted pink! Apparently, this color was used uniformly for many buildings because it represents hospitality.

Jaipur has a whole host of site seeing locations to visit! We only had one full day in Jaipur, but we still made the most of our opportunity by visiting some of the most historically famous locations.

Albert Hall Museum was our first stop. This museum was built in Jaipur many years after the construction of Jaipur’s prominent forts. Despite its later construction, its architectural features still align with many of Jaipur’s palaces. Though we weren’t able to make it inside due to time constraints, the beauty of its exterior was a must see!

Amer fort: Next, we headed directly to Amer fort. A guide told us that having seen Amer Fort, we’d toured more than 50% of Jaipur- this is how historically significant this fort was! For those familiar with the Mughal emperor Akbar, this was the home of his wife Jodha! Amer Fort was serenely beautiful and massive. It’s masterfully situated atop hills that way the inhabitants could see any incoming assailants from below, but in modern day times, it offers gorgeous scenery. Within the fort we also saw the sheesh mahal which is one of the most famous attractions within the fort. Here we saw the walls adorned with mirrors and beautiful stones.

After descending from Amer fort by car we then ventured to an official Jaipur tourist shopping area where we saw many handicrafts of Jaipur as well as the block printing technique.

Hawa Mahal: We got to see the Hawa Mahal from the outside both during the day and at night. It’s yet another stunning piece of architecture in Jaipur with the characteristic pink exterior!

Jal Mahal was another quick stop while we were on the road. This was a unique palace because it’s situated atop a lake. The views from afar were beautiful.

Sixth Stop: Delhi NCR

The second month of our internship was largely spent in Delhi which gave us the opportunity to easily explore the rich history of the city in the heart of India.

How we got there: When commuting to and from Gurugram to go to PHFI, we primarily used the yellow metro line. Otherwise, to get around the city, we relied on autos.

Must see sites:

Qutab Minar: We got to this UNESCO World Heritage Site by auto directly after getting of the Qutub Minar metro station. The complex was large and dominated by the large minar which is also referred to as the “victory tower”. You should budget at least 30 minutes here as there are many other buildings to check out within the peaceful complex!

Lotus Temple: The lotus temple is a gorgeous Baháʼí House of Workshop. Its lotus like shape and bright white exterior can be seen from miles away! When we finally made it inside the temple, we were treated to a serene and beautiful interior.

Humayun’s Tomb: This monument reminded me of a mini-Taj Mahal! It was situated within a very large complex that also housed certain other buildings. I recommend that you plan a visit to this well-maintained location.

Lodhi Gardens: We were pleasantly surprised by how large Lodhi gardens was. It had at least four large architectural buildings in addition to a beautiful lake and walking path.

India Gate: While leaving Delhi I got to see the India gate by car! This is definitely a location you should try visiting in the evening due to the lighting of the gate in the dark.

Seventh Stop: Chandigarh, Haryana/Punjab

How we got there: A five-hour drive by car.

My final destination in India was Chandigarh which is the capital of both Haryana and Punjab. My entire extended family lives here and I was lucky enough to be in Chandigarh during my last week in India because I got to attended my first ever Indian wedding in India!

My cousin was getting married, so I had the unique opportunity to see a large variety of Indian rituals up close. The wedding was a weeklong event and began with a kirtan which is essentially a puja, or prayer, where lots of musicians and tabla players are invited to sing prayers. I also got to see the mehndi ceremony which is when the bride’s henna is applied. I also got to get my own!

The morning of the wedding, I saw the chooda ceremony which is when the bride adorns the large set of red, bridal bangles given by her maternal uncle. Additionally, she was required to cover the bangles in white cloth and keep her eyes closed during the ceremony because it is considered inauspicious for the bride to see her bangles before the wedding. The same day I participated in the haldi ceremony where a paste of turmeric is applied on the face and arms of both the bride and groom by various family members. This ceremony is considered to be a blessing from the elders that apply the paste.

Chooda bathed in milk before wearing

 At the actual marriage which occurred very late in the night due to the auspicious time selected by the priests, I also saw the wedding rituals which consisted of garland exchanges between the bride and groom and the barat which is essentially the groom’s entrance into the venue. Nearing the end, I got to see the saat phere which is when the bride and groom, tied together by a knot, take seven rounds around the fire to signify their matrimonial bond and vows to one another.

Soon after the wedding I partook in Raksha Bandhan which celebrates the brother and sister relationship. Essentially, the sister ties a “Rakhi” on her brother, a decorated bracelet, and later receives a gift from her brother. This celebration and the tying of the rakhi symbolizes protection and love between the siblings.

Just as I was getting to leave India, I also saw the beginnings of the preparation for the 75th Day of Indian Independence. It was amazing seeing tricolors all around the county, especially adorned on autos!

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About Himanshi Verma

Hi, I'm Himanshi! I'm a part of the class of 2024 and am majoring in Neuroscience. This summer, I will be interning at the Public Health Foundation of India in Gurgaon, Haryana. Outside of the classroom, I enjoy dancing, reading, and trying various desserts!