Travelled : About 4-5 hours around Agra by coach
Visited : The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
Stayed : Hotel Clarks Shiraz, Agra
It’s a very early start this morning…
On arrival at the hotel we are met by a representative from the tour company, he recommends visiting the Taj Mahal mid-morning. Our little group had already decided we wanted a dawn visit. He then recommended 6.30 am, we said 5.30 am. Then he said OK, 6 am. Standing firm 5.30 it was.
The Hotel Clarks Shiraz, old but very nice. Magnificent gardens and pool, the public areas are quite lavish. The buffet is also extensive, however the wifi costs is A$6 every 12 hours.
We climb in the bus at 5.30 pm and meet our guide for the day. He states it will be busy today as French President and his Teacher are visiting the Taj today, so it will be closed to the public from 3 pm. The main gate to the grounds of the Taj is less than a kilometre from the hotel, but that is closed for the day, so we need to drive to the back gate which takes about 15 minutes. There are 50-60 people in front of us in the queue when we join the line. Security if obvious and heavy.
The entry gate into the Taj Mahal complex, Security and bag searches all take time, but we are inside before the sun rises so we are happy we made the effort to come down early.
Looking through the Darwaza (or main gate) of the Taj Mahal. We had already been inside for 10 minutes or but I went back to the gate to catch the colour change with the rising sun.
Doesn’t need any commentary from me.
You all know the story, built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum to his wife Mumtaz Mahal. I am sure his other two wifes were upset as well.
Our small group, the picture taken by our guide. As it was a little chilly about 5.30 so Frank kindly lent me a shirt, looks good. I may start a new look, but perhaps not.
Work commenced in 1632, it would take 22,000 workers 20 years to complete.
The marble used to create the Taj Mahal is not local. Every block was carried by oxen and cart the 120 kilometres from the quarry. It is considered the finest hard marble in India.
Another interesting fact, each of the four towers leans at 1.5º away from the mausoleum in case of earth quake.
The Taj Mahal and the other beautiful buildings in the complex sit within 42 acres of gardens.
To the left of the Taj stands the Masjid or mosque, standing behind a grove of trees it cannot be seen until you get relatively close to the mausoleum.
From the Taj looking back to the Darwaza.
To the right of the Taj, like the mosque hidden behind some trees. Our guide called it a guest house, but said no one ever stayed there. But doing a little research it is the Naqqar Khana or rest house for the Emporer. A place for him to rest whilst mourning.
No photos are allowed within the mausoleum, but this picture provides a good example of the detailed stonework and inlay.
Our morning at the Taj Mahal makes the whole trip to India worthwhile !!!
So back to the hotel for a late breakfast and chit chat about the Taj Mahal.
Full of food and bad ☕ we wander back out to the bus to visit Agra Fort. Whilst its only a few kilometres the traffic now very heavy. Chaos reins outside the fort but our driver slips expertly into a non-existent spot and we are away.
Entering the Agra Fort, we cross the first and second outer walls before passing through the gate. The fort was never tested by an enemy. However about 70% of the fort is currently used by the Indian Army as a military base.
Built by Emporer Akbar, construction commenced in 1665, taking seven years to complete.
The Jahangir Mahal. Constructed as a Zannana (royal woman’s quarters). The red sandstone inlaid with white marble.
From a window of the Zannana, a different view of the Taj Mahal.
In white marble the Dewan-e-Khas or Hall of Public Audience. Where the Emporer would greet and meet visitors. In the foreground the grave of Colonel John Russel Colvin, Lieutenant Governor of the State back in the time of the British Raj. Apparently very popular.
Our visit to the fort complete, we return to the Clarks Shiraz, our first early afternoon.
Our tour is drawing to a close we enjoy our breakfast at the Clarks Shiraz, check out and take to the bus again. It’s another long drive back to Delhi. However the dual carraigeway is of surprisingly high quality and we make good time. Stopping for a Costa coffee (British coffee chain) at a huge roadside complex. A triple shot is the best coffee we have had since leaving Aus. Mind you its the same price as a coffee in Sydney.
Entering Delhi from the south, its like a different city. Modern high-rise apartments, sports arenas and shopping complex. But soon enough we are in the real Delhi again.
You know your back in Delhi when…?
Another hour and a half later, we arrive back at the Radisson Blue. It’s like being home again. Back in our room we find an email from SriLankan Airlines, our bag will be delivered this evening.
Having given up and gone to bed, hearing a knock at the door at 10.30 pm, a very emotional re-union.
Our quick visit to India has been a wonderful experience, we have made some great new friends as we have travelled the golden triangle. Anyway Sydney is calling and hopefully our bags enjoy the trip as well.