It Must Have Been Love...
Trip Start Mar 22, 2009
23Trip End Mar 21, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Another family got on the train and a mother with a small child sat next to me. She entertained herself by crawling all over her mother and peeking at me curiously. I pulled faces at her and before I knew it had a new best friend for the last hour of our journey
Agra was a small, dense city, loud and crawling with tourists. We stayed in the old city right outside the gates to the Taj. From the small rooftop restaurants on top of our hotel and also the surrounding buildings there was a clear view of the Taj Mahal. After a rooftop dinner we went to bed early ready for another early morning.
A predawn alarm and we stumbled out of bed and into some clothes, then navigated our way around the corner through sleepy eyes and gaping yawns. We joined the growing line of tourists trying to beat the crowds, and just before sunrise the huge gates opened and we rushed through the metal detectors into the large forecourt. Two of the first through the gates, Danny and I snapped crazily as we saw the beautiful gardens stretched out before us, the Taj Mahal resplendent in all of its dawn glory. It seemed to glow as the pristine white marble caught those first rays of sunlight, and I really understood why it is one of the great wonders of the world.
It was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan, in remembrance of his young wife who died in childbirth, and her body is entombed under the central chamber. It is known as the greatest monument to love ever made, and the thousands of white marble panels all hand carved and inlaid with semi-precious stones certainly give weight to this title.
We wandered around the entire perimeter of the grounds, admiring the Taj from all angles, and gazed in awe at the huge echoing chamber inside, imagining what it might be like were it not filled with tour groups and their guides demonstrating the acoustics by shouting random syllables at the roof.
We admired the buildings on either side of the Taj, one of which was a grand mosque, and the other an identical building which had been built to match the mosque on the other side of the Taj just so that the gardens stayed completely symmetrical. Crazy.
We went back to our rooms for some breakfast and then a small nap, then off to Agra Fort on the other side of town in the new city. The new city was not like the old city, in that it was large and sprawling, with not many tourists
Moving through the complex, the influence of the many inhabitants could be seen in the changing architecture. All of the buildings near the front were made of a deep red stone, hence the name “The Red Fort”, and were in various states of deterioration. As we moved further from the gates some of the buildings had been covered in white marble, a trace
However, as we moved further from the gates the influence of Shah Jahan could clearly be seen in all of the buildings which had been covered in white marble, a la the Taj Mahal
Luckily he had built such luxurious buildings during his reign, because his son Aurangzeb later led a rebellion and took the crown, imprisoning Shah Jahan in his own white marble quarters, where he lived out the last few years of his life.
I left Agra with an astounding realization of just how much I don't know about the world around me, and the complex histories and stories that each country owns. India lays claim to such a rich and exciting history, and I am amazed that somehow I know nothing of it. Thank god for wikipedia, my new best friend!