Agra

2013-11-30 10.20.10 - CopyAnd so it was up early and off to Agra on the Expressway. After an uneventful drive we arrived in the town of Agra. Delhi seems chaotic – and then you get to Agra which is a whole nother world. Goats and cows and buffalo and pigs roam the streets and eat rubbish from piles. Donkeys carry bricks on their backs.  There are open air barber stalls where you can see men being shaved. There is rubbish, both industrial and household, all over the place. Traffic and people everywhere. As we didn’t stop, I didn’t get many photos except from the back of the moving car – but there are a million extraordinary shots one could have taken.

Our plan was to head to Fatephur Sikri first, although our driver did try and talk us out of that “no, Taj”. But in the end we triumphed after Caroline referred him back to the tour operator, so we picked up our tour guide before stopping for some Indian sweets. Delicious.

2013-11-30 10.48.39 - CopyAnyway, off to Fatephur Sikri. It took us another forty minutes or so to get there. Right next to the carpark – an actual snake charmer! i didn’t take his photo because I figured he might want to charge me. Also, pretty sure his cobra was non-living, but he also had a huge python. And I don’t mean that euphemistically.

The complex at Fatephur Sikri, the home of an emperor and his family for a period (and their 15000 retainers, servants and soldiers) is very impressive. Our guide told us many fantastical stories of life there and I must admit I could not be sure where documented history and folk myth started and ended. But it was amazing to imagine games of parcheesi played out in the courtyard with human pieces being yelled at from the roof top pavillon, or a singer coming to sing every night from the middle of a pool. Whatever actually happened, life would have been something quite out of fantasy. It was also something to consider exactly how much more impressive the place would have been when gold cover the roofs and an elephant meted out justice in the front courtyard (apparently he sniffed you and stepped on your head if you were guilty).

The red sandstone is an impressive canvas though for a complex like this one.

Caroline got to stand under the banyan tree to absorb good energy.

2013-11-30 13.09.36 - CopyWe also were slightly distracted afterwards by the family of very cute homeless puppies who lived just outside the complex.

On the way back to Agra we stopped for lunch. It was quite nice to look at the fields while we ate our lunch.

2013-11-30 13.34.40 - CopyThen it was time for the Taj.

Through the gates…

And there it was. It really is a magnificent building.

The Taj Mahal is all about symmetry so clearly some of my photos fail badly to capture it as they are not at all symmetrical. However built for the beautiful dead queen who asked for something that would symbolise their love for ever, it certainly works. The whole complex was 22 years in the making by workers who were actually, apparently, quite well payed. All 30,000 or so of them.

When building it they used some Egyptian techniques with walkways spiralling around up which elephants carted the huge marble pieces. The top part is all one carved piece and weighs tonnes and tonnes.

The carvings and inlaid detail are fantastic. Many of the decorations are carved into the marble and the precious stones inlaid directly. It is fantastic work when you get up close.

Around 80000 people a day visit the Taj Mahal and the “low value ticket holders” wait in an enormous line, potentially for hours to see the inside. You have to either remove your shoes or wear shoe covers to walk around on the marble. It is a wonder well worth seeing.

It was Dave, Caroline’s partner’s birthday, so she called him from the Taj to say happy birthday.

2013-11-30 16.53.05There were also some cows. We were warned they were dangerous, I am not sure why.

2013-11-30 16.55.20After a good day of sightseeing it was time for a G&T and a cocktail. We couldn’t get into the Oberoi, so the ITC was the next best thing.

It was then another two and a half hours back to Delhi.More fascinating sights as we left Agra and then a pretty clear road all the way back. And after a long drive and day, nothing for it but more cocktails.

2013-11-30 21.51.35While most of the rest of the trip was packed with work, I feel privileged I got the opportunity to see Agra and all it entails.

 

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