AsiaIndiaAgra

And so we reached the jewel of India, the Taj Mahal

Agra Travel Blog

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Sunset at the back of the Taj
We were all excited to leave the bird watching place and get on the road to Agra - home of the Taj Mahal.  Built by a Mughal Emperor named Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.  It is a mausoleum to hold her body after she died giving birth to their 14th child, and the emperor was devastated.  Charming story, and the place was far more stunning than I had expected.

Our hotel was based right next to the east gate to the large grounds that the Taj is set in.  We were plannign to go in the next morning at sunrise, as its really expensive to get in - 20rupee for indians, 750 rupee for us poor sod foreigners! - and also because its so busy that this is the calmest time to be able to get pictures.

So we walked past the gate to the Taj to set upon a random day or unstructured wandering.
Camels behind the Taj
  We just walked along the park near the Taj and saw the large Fort, sat around in the gardens and saw ther large mosque in Agra.  It was all very pleasant and easy.  We found a bar to waste a couple of hours in!  Bars in India are funny places.  They are generally dark and dingy and you can't see into them from the outside.  It is socially unacceptable for women to come in here and drink - well indian women anyway.  Drinking is common in India but its generally unreligious to sit in bars all day like we do in Europen, so maybe in a club for young people it is like in the west but in these types of places its not really!  We had some stares - 3 girls and 3 boys.  The other girls smoked too, shock!  and one had her shoulders showing in a vest top which caused some commotion among the men - who would not stop  staring and trying to subtly take pictures - to the annoyance of said womans husband.
Sunrise on the Taj Mahal
  But all part of the cultural experience and we laughed about it a lot after a 50p rum and coke!

We headed on a rickshaw to the back of the Taj Mahal, across the river which flows behind it, to a large sandy tree lined plain where locals were playing cricket against the backdrop of the Taj at sunset.  Nice for them!  It really was magnificent, better than I had expected, and far more magnificent than a picture can show.  It is massive!  We hung there for a while - enjoying the atmosphere - taking pictures beggar kids who then scrambled violently to get a pen or piece of chewing gum - whatever they could get from us.  We were told to leave before sunset as pickpockets and rogue types turn up for dark - but our rickshaw driver had left so we wer a bit stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Sunrise on the Taj Mahal
  We waited for a bit in case he was going to come back - and there was a poor dog whose leg was dislocated it seemed - hit by a car a week before a local  told us.  Poor thign was hopping on three legs and the samosa guy gave it a free pastry, luckily.  Very sad. 
We started walking and it was dark very quickly.  We were in amidst the outskirts of the town on a saturday night - and it was intersting to see what was going on.  I think it is a religious festival this weekend  and many of the evenings events seemed to be based around religion as we saw countless shrines with families and kids swarming around with snacks and treats, enjoying each others comany and the hustle and bustle.  We eventually found a bridge back accross the river - a railway iron bridge with locals walking along the walkway next to the tracks.  So we climbed up to the walkway and in pitch black made our way along the seemingly endless bridge.  It was a bit scary but an adventure!  Especially when a train went past and at the end we had to wander along the tracks following the locals for a bit before you could get down again.  Typical india!

We hitched a rickshaw round to where we wanted to eat dinner and grabbed a quick Thali for 50pence, having really enjoyed our day.  Agra is a funny place.  Even walking along behind the Taj we could see the smoke and flames in the distance of the funeral pyres which are burned by the Ghats.  When Hindus die they are carried on their wooden Pyre through the town on a procession - I saw one man beign carried as such in Jaipur - and then the funeralparty stands around as the Pyre is set on fire and the body disintegrates before their eyes.  Its a very vivid way to treat death, and I expect we will see more of it at Varanasi - where countless bodies are burned and whats left gets put in the holy river Ganges.

Walking back along the railway we say small bonfires of families gathered round near the river in the night, as well as more flames from what I assume was more funerals.  For the first time I longed to be able to walk around amongst all the goings on that evenig without my alien appearance attracting such attention.  I can see how enjoyable being a part of the locality could be, as everyone lazed around outside their houses chatting to neighbours, passing by friends.  Kids ran up to shop keepers in the bazaar - locals gathered round anything of interest out of lazy curiosity.  It seemed really homely I must say.

We ended up in a not so homely smoky bar of previously mentioned type - and had a couple more rum and cokes to finish of a great day. 

The next morning we left the hotel at 5.45am sharp and walked the short distance to the Taj gate to see the sunrise.  There were already a few tourists waiting to get in and everyone rushed through the grounds to get their pictures of the Taj before the crowds arrived.  We managed to get a few shots inbefore the people just started swarming in!

The place was just as lovely from the front as it had been to see the sun set on the back the day before.  Really stunning.  At first it was white but as the sun came over the horizon the marble turned a lovely shade of orange on the sides.  Apart from masses of annoying tourists - it was lovely to wander around the grounds and admire the monument, which really is amazing.  Up close you can see all the detailed decoratory work - writings in what I assume is persian or arabic script mark the walls.

It was stunning to look at but after a few hours we got hungry so went back to the hotel for brekkie.  We spent the rest of the day wandering round the inside of agra fort - and then I sat on here for a few hours updating this!  We have an overnight train tonight to get to Varanasi and sit along the Ganges.  Looking forward to it!
xxx


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Sunset at the back of the Taj
Sunset at the back of the Taj
Camels behind the Taj
Camels behind the Taj
Sunrise on the Taj Mahal
Sunrise on the Taj Mahal
Sunrise on the Taj Mahal
Sunrise on the Taj Mahal
Agra
photo by: rotorhead85