Taj Mahal, Agra and Delhi India
Taj Mahal, Agra and Delhi India
After I left Hyderabad in southern India after two weeks helping my church ministry, I flew into Agra, the city where the Taj Mahal was built between 1631 and 1648. by order of the 5th Mughal (mug-uhl) emperor Shah Jahan was known as a builder (including Agra Fort-see near the bottom of this blog).
The Taj Mahal was constructed in memory of the Shah’s favorite (and 3rd) wife Mumtaz Mahal. Although he was a Muslim, she was a Hindu.. She bore him 9 children in the 14 years that they were married. His other wives didn’t bear any kids. On her death bed, she made him promise to 1. Never remarry (he didn’t) 2. Take care of their kids (he did) and 3. Construct something unique in her honor.
It took over 10,000 artisans 15 years to build the Taj Mahal and another 5 for the surrounding walls and buildings. Her tomb is centered in the Taj Mahal. The Shah’s next to it, off-centered.
I had an all day tour scheduled for the following day, starting with sunrise at the Taj Mahal. However, many people told me that in the morning, it’s usually foggy (not smoggy, Agra doesn’t have any industrial plants and the Mahal is right by a river). When I arrived, it was fairly sunny, so I decided to visit in the late afternoon as well. After all, it IS in the top 5 architectural wonders of the world.
Here is a comparison of the afternoon vs. morning light (yes, I got lucky both times!):
Cost is about $15 to get in. US money goes a long way in India.
I think I could spend days photographing this gorgeous structure. The resolution here is lower quality to prevent theft. Sorry….
Thousands of tourist visit the Taj Mahal every day. It’s estimated at around 10,000. So glad I was one of them.
After 90 minutes relishing this incredible site, I left the Taj Mahal that morning (I had spent 2+ hours the evening before). My tour guide (along with the driver, for some reason you have to book both, but it only cost $80 for 8 hours) took me across the Yamuna River where it’s been rumored that the King was planning on building the black Taj Mahal for his tomb. It was to be the exact same size and design, connected by a silver bridge to the existing Taj Mahal. Today, excavation shows the design of an octagon, but the truth is still unknown.
Whether or not this is true remains to be seen. However, the King’s 5th son (the youngest) murdered all his brothers and had his father put in house arrest at the Agra Fort until his death (eight years later).
There were many cool architectural elements in the vast fort. Over 3/4 of it is still being used by the Indian army today.
The construction of the Agra fort was started around 1565, when the initial structures were built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and subsequently taken over by his grandson Shah Jahan (1592-1666), who added most of the marble creations to the fort. Ironic that he became a prisoner in his own creation.
Shah Jahan had plenty of luxuries, but could never leave. He was able to view his beloved Taj Mahal on a clear day,
I took the evening train from Agra to Delhi (90 minutes on the express train $16), staying in luxury at the Hyatt Aerocity hotel which had the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever seen. (Including cruise ships).
From there I visited various mosques, temples, and sights including the burial site of Mahatma Gandhi . He lived his life to try to bring people together. Sadly, that is falling apart with the current Indian government turning an eye to the RSS (extreme Hindu militants) attacks on Christian, Jews and Muslims.
I did ride a rickshaw in the Chandni Chowk market district, a bustling plethora of shops narrowly tucked away in closed quarters. The smells of spices and incense fills the air with colorful fabrics and products.
I did ask my guide to take me to the old Delhi slums. While it was sad seeing how poor the untouchables were there, they seemed to be better off than those I had visited in the country with my church. The government is constructing housing where 40% of the residents have to be untouchables in order to give them a better life.
The main landmark in Delhi is the India Gate, a memorial to WWI soldiers lost in the war. It also serves as a visual representation of India’s solidarity as a nation.
The son of Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb, was incredibly unpopular and brutal (let’s face it, anyone who kills his 4 older brother can’t be a nice guy). Over time, invasions, weak rulers and little money in the treasury (due to Shah Jahan’s building projects) left India vulnerable to British Rule in the mid 1700’s until India’s independence fueled by Gandhi and other’s leadership in 1947.
I found India to be a fascinating, complex country with wonderful people, beautiful colors and spicy food. Visiting the Taj Mahal will go down as one of my favorite man-made places to visit.
Here is a short You Tube slide show of some of my other favorite images from Agra and Delhi.
Photographs of the Taj Mahal, Agra and Delhi India