Our journey to Agra and the Taj
Last week we finally got the multiple photo uploader to work on our blog software so we can show you some of the amazing scenes from the trip we took to Agra and Jaipur before we came down to Kerala. We hired our driver Kuldeep for a four day tour through the popular "Golden Triangle" of Delhi-Agra-Jaipur to see some of the most famous sights in northern India. Here is Kuldeep and a map of where we went:
The first day we drove from Delhi to Agra. After a few hours we stopped to see Sikandra, the mausoleum of the great Mughal ruler Akbar. If your are going to be a tourist in this part of India, you're going to hear about the Mughals a lot. The Mughal Empire flourished from the early 1500's starting with Babar (not the blue elephant) and running through a succession of rulers who built most of what you'll see in these pictures. The Mughal power gradually slipped away during the early 1700s due to some historically bad rulers who slowly let power slip away. But many Indian school children can tell you the succession of the kings during the glory years - Babar, Hamayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb, and finally Bahadur Shah I. If you are at all interested, wikipedia covers the big Mughal names here
First stop - Sikandra
Then we drove further to Agra, checked into our hotel and took in the sights of the Agra Fort, home and seat of power for all of the Mughal rulers from Humayun on.
You can see our destination for tomorrow in the background:
Then we went to a shop were the artisans were crafting the inlaid marble that Agra is famous for.
After the marble shop we made a stop for an ice cream in the rain, only to realize that we shouldn't eat it because of the scoop sitting in the un-filtered water. Gave our scoop to Kuldeep and the kids had some pre-packaged bars. I bought some Jasmine from a few beautiful smiling faces:
The next morning we woke up early so that we could be there before the crowds. As is typical of most of the grand mughal architecture the monument is situated in an expanse of gardens surrounded by walls and four large entry gates in the cardinal directions. There were overcast skies as we walked along a path towards the main entry gate.
You have probably read the descriptions and seen the photos as we had, but to be there in person you realize that this monument to love somehow transcends all the commercialism surrounding it:
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by Shah Jahan for his third wife who died while giving birth to their 14th child, leaving him grief-stricken. Shah's loser son, Aurangzeb, overthrew him and locked him up in the Agra Fort for the rest of his life in plain view of the Taj. After Shah Jahan's death, his son buried him in the Taj next to his wife.
The drizzle came and went. The sky kept looking like it would clear, so we were content to just hang out for a few hours. The people watching was incredible.
After about four hours the clouds began to clear. The marble glistened in the sunlight and we got our pictures.
Some beasts of burden as we headed back to our hotel for breakfast: