Friday, 11 October 2013

Taj Mahal - the Agra tale

I could feel my heart ponder as we walked up towards the enormous red sandstone gate. My legs felt a bit shaky, and I stretched my neck to see it before it was even possible. And then the first glimpse, through an opening in the huge gate rising above us - which made us feel like small ants- : the white marble glittering towards the blue sky and towards the shimmering water in the front....  Taj Mahal.

I think all thinkable superlatives have been used to describe the Taj Mahal, one of the world's 7 wonders, and still visiting for the first time made me speechless (doesn't really happen that often..). I know - every visitor will have their own experience - but for me it was a true pinch-my-arm-moment (yep, yet another one!). So it may not come as a surprise for you, dear reader, that the Taj Mahal was the highlight of our visit to Agra.

And you know - I had kind of expected a very chaotic place with howling crowds and pushy tourists. But, it was actually peaceful, green and spacey. We strolled around in the garden and admired the Taj from all possible angles. Our idyll was only disrupted by a very impatient tourist couple who tried to skip the lines and literally push people off the Diana bench to have their picture taken! Peace & love, my ..xxx!
The tall beautiful red sandstone gate, and the first glimpse of Taj Mahal.
The only-a-bit-crowded moment we had: everybody stopped at this point to take pics! And go with the flow: so did we!
So beautiful:-)  
And a bit closer.....
At Taj (well, actually all over Uttar Pradesh), we were NOT, as in Jaipur, considered to be Indians:-)  - so we payed the Foreign Visitors' Fee - but then- yeeey-: also received a water bottle, shoe covers and a shortcut..! Meaning: Indian tourists had to leave their shoes and walk barefoot all around the Taj go get to the entrance while we covered our shoes with white cotton covers and walked straight up the stairs to the front gate...
Shoes & sandals covered up: ready to enter!
And up the stairs we met the line of Indian tourists- who had to make an extra round..
At the front gate- before we went inside..
... and just after exiting.
Tourists sitting in the shade on the marble floor- digesting the visit, I guess..:-)

On our way to Agra, we also visited the Ghost Town of the Mughal Emperor Akbar: Fatehpur Sikri (from the 1500'), which was the capital of the Mughal empire for a decade. Here we found ourselves in company with hundreds of smiling and curious school kids in very neat uniforms:-) :


Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra fort are all on UNESCO's World heritage list, and an interesting dimension was getting to know better the civilization - which gave us the word mogul (a rich and powerful person, often today used in media/film industry). The media mogul, right?
The emperor's palace, and around the palaces of his 3 wifes: a Christian, a Muslim, and a Hindu. 
Agra Fort was also impressive with a huge and well kept area, but a bit hard to concentrate on what our very knowledgeable guide was trying to explain - almost stepping on people gathering around to take pics of us... Sometimes amusing, here just annoying.. ...
Agra fort from the front side - looking like a real life fairy-tale castle..:-)
Inside - wonderful park/garden areas...
So, emperor Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan, the one who built the Taj Mahal for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, preferred the white marble to the red sandstone when he had buildings erected. They used 22 years to build the Taj Mahal. The story says that after his wife died, Shah Jahan lived in Agra fort. He was deposed by his son Aurangzeb, and died at the fort, in a tower with a marble balcony  - with view of Taj Mahal.

So, to nurture your romantic soul - you can visit Agra fort, go to the spot and just imagine the old Shah Jahan - sitting there looking over to where the love of his life was buried (and where he later was buried with her, by the way) ... *kleenex anyone?*
View from Agra fort to Taj Mahal
So, I finished this Agra tale where I started it - with Taj Mahal.
And as a tiny epilogue.. some poetic words to all fellow travel - lovers out there - have a wonderful day!

Traveling is not just seeing the new, it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors, also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes. 

Jan Myrdal.

8 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much Jahid:-) Great motives as well..:-) Best to you

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  2. love the pics...and love the beautiful quote at the end too

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    1. Thank you so much:-) Best to you:-)

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  3. Wow!
    So beautiful! I hope to visit it some day.

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    1. Thanks, Asmita- yes, it was a visit I will never forget. So wonderful:-)

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  4. Perhaps the thing that struck me when I visited Taj for the first time in 2003 was that Taj is not visible from anywhere in Agra though technically it is taller that Kutub Minar in Delhi. Until you enter the first gate of Taj Mahal, you don't see it. Then when you pass through that gate, Lo! There is Taj Mahal in all its splendor. I loved nature concealing Taj Mahal (for it was built at a lower terrain along the banks of Jamuna) and thus giving each viewer an awe inspiring sight. Good description you have there with some nice photos

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    1. Thank you so much. I am so glad you visit my blog and like it! Very interesting to hear about your visit to the Taj! Yes, truly a moment to remember :-)

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