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Sensory Overload in Dehli, India

 I’m sitting on a plane heading from Delhi to Varanasi, India. It’s actually almost  a zen experience after the sights and sounds assaulting us for two days in Delhi.  Talk about sensory overload.   The guide books all talk about the visual explosion, constant cacophony,  mysterious smells and experiences one has in India. Adjectives can’t describe .

The last two two days were packed with sight seeing and trying to understand why I am so intrigued with this country of 1.2 billion people, all who seem to be going a different direction at once.  The diverse mix of cultures, religions, snake charmers and street life have some kind of mysterious pull on my psyche.


Immediate impressions of Delhi and Old Delhi are that this ancient city is one I can never really know.  Clear influences are long and pervasive dedication to Hindu religion, the advent of Islam and, of course, the 100 year rule of the British.  I  am learning there is much that is beautiful behind the decaying walls and barbed wire, dust and pollution.

The art and architecture of the Hindus and Islam are reflected in one of our early morning stops–Qutb Minar, a World Heritage Site commemorating a military victory in the 1100s.  There we could see the mix of the two styles–Hindu with its intricate over all patterns and figures of gods.  Islam with the removal of faces and bulbous domes.



Delhi has ruins and relics from the seven cities that were settled there over it’s long history.  During our drives around the city we saw evidence of old walls and forts, structures from ages long ago.

We spent some time at the  Arts and Crafts Museum, enjoying examples of the folk arts from all over India.  Of particular interest to me was the village on the grounds, with replicas of housing thorough out India.  Think Greenfield Village or Williamsburg without the finesse and fine detail.  Interesting none- the -less.

I found the special exhibit to be an interesting and appropriate topic.  “The Camel in Crafts.”

 I felt the sensory overload the most when we took a rickshaw ride through the old part of the city and along a busy thoroughfare, sharing the space with oxen pulled carts, many green and yellow three wheeled taxis, bicycle  driven rickshaws like ours, huge tourist buses, motorcycles and people driving goats through the town.

Probably what I enjoyed the most were seeing the women dressed in beautiful saris, going about daily life.  Their femininity is integral to everything they do.  Truly an expression of beauty and grace.


Our guide told us more and more women are adopting Western dress.  I am sorry to hear that.  The colorful saris, worn in different ways in different parts of the country are amazingly beautiful.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Nov 4, 2011 Reply

    Though I have never been to India myself, I have heard the stories, through the years, of several friends and one family member who have made that amazing journey.
    There are several words that automatically come to mind when I remember these stories: smells (unfamiliar), heat (wavelike), color (explosive). atmosphere (spiritual).
    References to old and holy abound and then there’s music, a realm of its own and, of course, poverty. How does a sensual person handle such a sense saturated environment?

    • posted by
      Nov 4, 2011 Reply

      I can’t wait to share the Hindu ceremonies we witnessed in Varanasi, considered to be one of the holiest cities of the world.  And then the most erotic sculpture you can imagine in temples in another in Khajuraho.  These are temples that were abandoned and then discovered hundreds of years later like Angkor Wat.  

      I agree with Margaret you have such a way of capturing the spirit of India.  

  2. posted by
    Nov 4, 2011 Reply

    I love Peggy’s “take” on your blog, Susan…even though she hasn’t been to India, she was able to describe so accurately the sensory overload that is everywhere there. Your photos are capturing it all so well. Though it’s been 32 years since I was there, I can almost taste the tastes, smell the smells, etc….it’s an amazing country, and one that I’d like to re-visit…but would surely not stay in some of of the fleabag hotels in which I stayed back then.

  3. posted by
    Nov 6, 2011 Reply

    Thank you for the pictures and eloquent descriptions, you are changing my mind about putting India on my “bucket list”. It sounds as though it’s another place better visited sooner than later, before the culture becomes homogenized. After so many repeat visits to Europe, not being one to care for lazing around on beaches, having experienced a bit of the orient in China and Turkey, you are convincing me that this is an experience like no other. 
    And… I’m glad the snake man worked his charm on the cobra within Jack’s reach!

  4. posted by
    Ahhhh, India | DesignDestinations
    Feb 23, 2012 Reply

    […] back.  I read a blog recently where the blogger said, “I was in India and so exhausted from the visual stimulation that I thought I’d never return.  I’ve been home now about a month and I’m ready to get on a […]

  5. posted by
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    […] Sensory Overload in Dehli […]

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