Tuesday 21 April 2015
Highlights: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Baby Taj and visit to the Marble Emporium.
A massive day, probably the most impressive I’ve done on a tour excluding the Antartica trip. The city of Agra is an amazing place that the Moghuls, at that time led by Akbar the Great, settled in the late 16th century and used their fabulous worth to build monuments and other structures like Forts.
Leaving the hotel at 5 am we were the first to arrive at the Taj Mahal. Constructed between 1631 and 1654 with over 20,000 workers, the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtz Mahal (Arjumand Bano Begum) who he promised to build this monument to demonstrate his eternal love on her deathbed (they had 14 children). Apparently he forsook all other women including his 380 strong harem in her memory as well.
It’s hard to describe the beauty of this place. Watching the sun rise up over the Taj and its grounds I felt an almost spiritual connection. It’s easy to understand why people fall into love with this place especially with the romantic story attached. This is a wonder of the world.
After this we headed back to the hotel for a quick breakfast and than onto Agra Fort the one time central of the great Mughal Empire. The Fort was built to impress and with overwhelming security in mind. The first layer of protection was crocibles, then a high wall, then tigers, than a higher wall, then cannons, then another wall followed by a throttle point from balders could be released.
While the Mughals were all technically Muslims most of them married wives from different refilling including Christian and Hindu. A lot of the artwork has Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu symbols as a result. Agra Fort is still a working fort, the Indian Army still uses part of it. Some in our group found the Agra Fort more impressive than the Taj Mahal, which is saying something.
Returning to our comfortable hotel we used the next two hours to freshen up, take showers, browser the Internet and / or enjoy the pool. Manu recommended a great vegetarian restaurant which was simply fabulous, the meal was amazing full of strong tastes, for someone who normally dislikes vegetarian meals I felt if this is the standard I might convert 🙂
Next up we all selected an optional visit to the Marble Emporium the oldest marble shop in Agra. We watched the artist create masterpieces. It took 10 minutes to hand smooth tiny gem pieces. A normal easy product can take 2 months to make. It takes up to 20 years for the craftsmen to master their skills. In the end I just had to buy something an o settled for a miniature marble Taj Mahal.
After a short break we set of to visit the Baby Taj. The first major mausoleum that anywhere else would be world famous but here is only the third most beautiful sight. Imagining the gold, the diamonds and the carpets decorating this place in the original form is not possible because even without Baby Taj is amazing.
We then visited the gardens across the river from the Taj Mahal to see it as dusk settled. The different light highlighted different aspects of the building. Gazing at the at an Mahal I was glad I got to witness it at dawn and dusk. We also got to witness a Hindu cremation from a distance as a bonus.
The day end with a rooftop diner with local musicians. On returning to the hotel next door we got to see a colourful Hindu wedding which later at fireworks! It felt like three days worth of activities in one but instead of being exhausted we felt alive at what we had experienced. Amazing day, we done G Adventure CEO Manu for picking good times and spacing events out well 🙂