Day 7: Fort Agra and the Taj Mahal
Agra Travel Blog› entry 8 of 11 › view all entries
On saturday we would visit the Taj Mahal in the afternoon and Edo, Casper and I decided to visit Fort Agra in the morning. When we arrived in the hotel restaurant we met some people who had visited the Taj Mahal at sunrise that morning. Bastian was complaining that he had gotten up so early and that they couldn't even see the sun coming up because of all the fog. When I heard this, I was glad that I didn't went with them that morning. After breakfast we took a tuktuk from our hotel and drove to Fort Agra. Fort Agra was built by Akbar the great on the foundations of an older fort and later emperor Shah Jahan constructed new buildings inside the fort. The architecture of the buildings inside the fort looked quite similar to the architecture of the Red Fort in Delhi, but the buildings were preserved better here.
After we had visited the fort we walked to a nearby market with Charlotte and dr. Farla. There were beggars sleeping on the sidewalk along the road and the market was even more crowded than the streets in Delhi. We didn't stay at the market very long because it was getting very hot again, so we took a tuktuk back to the hotel to spend the rest of the morning in the pool. We had lunch and after a few hours of swimming and reading everybody gathered in the lobby for our busride to the Taj Mahal. While Edo and Casper were getting ready I watched an Indian channel on out tv and I saw that a very famous bollywood actor was getting married that weekend in Mumbai.
Mr. Singh could not accompany us to the Taj Mahal, so we had a different guide with us. We stopped near the eastern gate and we would walk the last part to a different gate. Our guide warned us that there were a lot of traders and beggars in this area, because the site was visited by many tourists. We walked through very small and crowded streets and the closer we got to the garden of the Taj Mahal, the more soldiers were guarding the streets around it. Our guide wanted to change our rupis into dollars for no particular reason and it took a while before we were able to walk to the southern gate.
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum that was built in 1648 by the moghul emperor Shah Jahhan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. She died while giving birth to his fourteenth child and he built this mausoleum as a monument for their everlasting love. The emperor had planned to build another Taj Mahal in black marble at the other side of the river, but he was deposed and placed under house arrest by his son before he could start building it. He spent his last years looking at the Taj Mahal from the fort in Agra and was placed next to his wife after his death. The Taj Mahal is the most famous building in India and in 2007 it was elected as one of the 'new' seven wonders of the world.
I had already seen the Taj Mahal on several pictures, but it was impressive to see it in reality at last. But the thing that was even more impressive to me was that the entire world seemed to be present in that garden and that everybody shared the same sense of wonder as they saw the beauty of the Taj Mahal. There were hindus, muslims, sikhs, Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Europeans and Australian people present and you could hear every possible language around you. We made a group picture at the southern gate and walked towards the plateau where the main monument was located. The Taj Mahal is supposed to be even more beautifull when the sun is shining on it, but unfortunately we arrived there at one of the few clouded days in Agra.
I took off my shoes before I walked onto the plateau and started walking around the monument.
The wind that was coming from the river was very warm and it carried a lot of dust with it and even a few drops of water. I walked back towards the river, where the wind was at its strongest and started making pictures from the storm. Most people were either taking shelter now or were gathering at the river side of the monument to look at the storm. The children on the other side of the river were now hurrying home. The storm lasted for about fifteen minutes after which the sky became clear again and we could see fort Agra along the river bank. I walked around the garden and joined a small group who were returning to the city to have dinner, while other members of our group waited at the Taj Mahal to see the sun go down. We drove to a restaurant somewhere in the city by tuktuk and found a table on the roof between some trees.
When we left, we were discussing our plans for the evening, when all of a sudden the lights went out in the entire city. The only lights in the city were the headlights of tuktuks and cars and from every shop or restaurant along the road little Indian men were running outside to start generators. Most stores along the main roads had backup-generators, but everywhere else in the city the streets were completely dark. I decided to try to find a market with Chris, Guido and Alco and after talking to a few tuktuk-drivers, we found one that would take us to fort Agra.
We walked around for a while and bought four bottles of water for the following day, before we decided that there was nothing else to see and we returned to our hotel.
He told us that all the liquor stores were closed and that we had to pay extra taxes (to him) because it was after midnight. Thijs did not believe this and they started negotiating about these extra taxes. When we arrived at a liquor store, the shop was closed and all around the city the lights were still out, so it was very dark. The man first wanted to take our money so that he could buy the beer, but Thijs told him that he would go with him. Dennis and I waited for about 5 minutes with our driver and when Thijs and the other man still hadn't returned, Dennis went after them. They returned a few minutes later with a box that was filled with bottles of beer. The bottles were not cooled, so we had to drive to another shop to get ice. When we were finally finished, we returned to our hotel and continued our party. After the rest of the beer was finished, everybody went to bed.