Vivid India – Delhi, Agra & Jaipur, Part 2

Agra's Baby Taj
Agra’s Baby Taj

We woke up early on the third day to make our way to Agra – home of the Taj Mahal! Agra literally whacks you in the face – it’s traffic is gridlocked and the noise, dense.  However, the colours and scenes of Agra make up for the migraine one initially experiences upon entering the city!

Our itinerary had us visit Agra Fort the day of our arrival. Starting from the Agra Fort rail station, we walked across the platform to the other side, visited the mosque and merged into the crowd to  explore small lanes, visiting a couple of temples and seeing the amazing color and chaos of this lively city.

Rail Station in Agra
Rail Station in Agra
Winding through the Agra Market
Winding through the Agra Market

Prior to visiting the Taj Mahal, we walked around what the locals call the ‘Baby Taj’.  This is actually the Tomb of l’timad-ud-Daulah, a Mughal mausoleum in the city of Agra.

Entrance to the Tomb of l'timad-ud-Daulah
Entrance to the Tomb of l’timad-ud-Daulah

Built by Nur Jahan for her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the facade of the buildings have a jewel like quality and a large amount of inlaid work of semi-precious stones.  This attention to detail and symmetry of the buildings got us marvelling at how artisans in the 16th Century, with just hand tools, managed to create such beautiful work!

The side view of l'timad-ud-Daud
The side view of l’timad-ud-Daud

It was only after the introduction to ‘Baby Taj’ did our guide bring us to the Taj Mahal.  Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan in the memory of his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal complex took 22 years to be completed and is today counted among the Seven Wonders of the World. We tried our hand at photographing the Taj at dawn, sunset and during the full moon.

The magnificent Taj Mahal
The magnificent Taj Mahal

Sadly, the full moon shot did not quite turn out to be what we expected but the early morning and evening expeditions saved the day. Oh well, two out of three isn’t bad! Shooting the Taj in the moonlight is especially tricky if you can’t use your tripod. If any of these are needed, you’d have to write way in advance to the Archeological society in India. And while visiting the Taj, all visitors go through a thorough search before getting into the Taj i.e. going through metal detectors and being patted down.  Having said that, let not all the ‘pahlava’ of going through security put you off visiting this beautiful monument.  Avoid the crowds (and the heat) by going early in the day.  You will surely not be disappointed!

Taj Mahal bathed in the early dawn hours
Taj Mahal bathed in the early dawn hours
Agra however, is more than just the Taj Mahal and on the itinerary was a visit to Fatehpur Sikri Fort, which encloses the ancient imperial city erected by the Mughal emperor, Akhbar.
Architecture of Fatehpuh Sikri
Architecture of Fatehpuh Sikri

What is unusual about this Fort is that it was used for residential purposes as opposed to military purposes.

Archways
Archways
Detailed stone work in Fatehpuh Sikri
Detailed stone work in Fatehpuh Sikri
Garden Grounds of Fatehpuh Sikri
Garden Grounds of Fatehpuh Sikri

My next blog post will be about our visit to Jaipur – and what a city! Elephants ambling down the road of the Amber Fort, the Monsoon Palace, colour and historical sites greeted us….

Details:

1. Land transport: arranged by Country Holidays from Delhi to Agra.

2. Hotel: The Gateway Hotel Fatehabad Road (3km to the Taj Mahal).

3. Itinerary: arranged by Country Holidays, Singapore.

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