The Agra trio: Taj Muhal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri
18.10.2013 - 21.10.2013 34 °C
It’s funny visiting a place you have seen so many times in pictures. On my first glimpse of the Taj Mahal I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t looking at a giant painted backdrop. It truly is one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and as many of you will know, the love story behind it is one of the greatest.
— My first glimpse of the Taj from the rooftop of our guest house.
The best thing about having having a guest house with a view of the Taj is you can come and see it in all different lights. Check out the Taj at sunrise and by the light of the full moon:
— In between swooning over the Taj, we spied on monkeys. There were hundreds.
— and check out this lady's view as she puts out her washing!
The Taj Mahal lies in the city of Agra, just a 2 hour train ride from the capital Delhi or 3.5 hours from Jaipur, the city we were travelling from. As one of the modern wonders of the world, the Taj draws people from all over the world. On the day we went it felt like the entire world was there. It was packed! The majority were Indians, come to see their country's most famous building. But even the hoards of tourists can’t take away from its beauty. It does mean however you have to do a fair bit of jostling for the best photo spots.
— You enter through this amazing gate.
— The world's most beautiful building?
— It’s amazing how buildings like the Taj Mahal can move you in a way modern architecture can’t.
— Top shot by Brayden! He almost got trampled to death in the process though.
The story of the Taj goes back to the year 1631 when Emperor Shah Jahan lost his favourite wife Mumtaz giving birth to their 14th child. Devastated over losing the love of his life, the Emperor vowed to build the most beautiful mausoleum to house Mumtaz’s body. Work began in 1632 and finished 21 years later. To pull it off he needed something like 20,000 workers including specialists from all four corners of the globe.
— Built for the Emperor’s favourite of wife and love of his life, Mumtaz. Apparently he married his two other wives due to diplomatic necessity.
— Whether it’s the milky white marble inlaid with thousands of semi precious stones or carved into beautiful lace – every aspect of The Taj is perfection.
— I'm actually heeeeeeeere.....!
For a place of such beauty, you might be surprised to see the ugly scenes at the iconic ‘Princess Diana seat’. This marble bench has been in particular demand ever since the Princess had her picture snapped there in the 90s. It was sheer pandemonium at the site. Grandmas, touts, loved up couples and extended families were all elbowing each other for a turn. I wasn’t keen on joining the scrum of impatience but we were on special orders from Brayden’s Mum. Here is the fruit of our labour (enjoy Fiona!)
There were two things that really surprised me about the Taj; the first being the presence of two stunning though eternally overshadowed buildings either side of it; and the second being that inside the Taj there’s really not much to see.
— This red sandstone building to the right of the Taj was probably used as a guest house.
— To the left of the Taj is the mosque. When not praying in the direction of mecca, worshippers can swing around and admire the view....
— View from the mosque.
— Inside the Taj you’ll find a nice chamber with the fake tomb of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan (the real ones are in the basement, off limits to the public).
Practically up the road from the Taj is the Agra fort. Though obviously not as beautiful, the fort is a lot more interesting than the Taj. It was here that many generations of emperors ruled, including Shah Jahan (that’s the builder of the Taj Mahal for those that aren’t paying attention) who transformed it into a lah-di-dah palace. The site is humungous and took us hours to get through (not helped by the plethora of Indian tourists wanting photos with us). We wandered through throne rooms, walled gardens, elephant rings, royal mosques and huge courtyards. It was easy to imagine how over the top everything would have looked in its day.
To complete the Agra trio we jumped on a public bus and travelled just over an hour to the town of Fatehpur Sikri. Here lies a huge palace complex abandoned almost 450 years ago. This ‘city within a city’ served as the capital of the then enormous Mughal Empire from 1571 until 1585 when it was decided chronic water shortages made it impractical. As with all of the Agra sites, I bought an audio guide. I love these devices - you can tour at your own pace and hear the buildings being brought to life. It also gives you an excuse to pretend not to hear a few of the “excuse me Miss can I have your picture…”
— The abandoned royal city of Fatehpur Sikri – an intriguing place!
— It was here Emperor Akbar lived with his three wives – a muslim, Hindu and Christian...oh and hundreds of concubines.!
— Everything’s in such good nic, it’s hard to believe it’s that old.
Just outside the palace is the mighty Jama Majid Mosque. It’s the same age as the palace but is still in use today. We entered through the colossal 54 metre gate and admired the huge area.
— The Fatehpur Sikri bazaar is an attraction in its own right.
— These little piggies went to market....
With the number one tourist attraction in India ticked off, we’re off to Varanasi, the country’s most holy city.