Radhe.. Radhe

Day 2:

By the title itself many of you might have guessed what this post is going to be.. No trip to Agra from Delhi would be complete without a visit to the two beautiful places Mathura and Vrindavan. And we decided the other day itself that we will visit these two places also. We started our journey to Vrindavan from Agra and it was still raining.

After an hour’s journey we were onto a roadway leading to Vrindavan. The places along the roadway are beautiful and serene villages, covered with lush green paddy fields and other millet. The cloud covered grey sky, the lush green cover on the earth, and the drizzle made the scene more perfect. We crossed the villages and were out into the Vrindavan. It is a small town with many activities going around.

We asked a few people how to reach the famous Bankey Bihari Temple and the people, mostly the Pundits (who are like the local guides) helped in locating the temple. The road leading to the temple is very narrow and is potholed. We could see a lot of people walking barefoot enchanting the Krishna mantra and not bothered about the drizzle. Our driver stopped the car at a decent distance from the temple as there is no way of us reaching the temple in a car.

We got down and started walking towards the temple. The sideways of the walkway are full of shacks selling the famous Agra Peta, the Mathura Peda and other sweets, a few selling the idols of the deities and toys etc. As it was Saturday and a weekend, the roads were insanely crowded and there was a long queue of people infront the temple. There is no need of us to walk, as we would automatically flow with the crowd 😉

The interesting thing is there were lots of human-pulled rickshaws, bicycles and local people on these streets and no one honks a horn or rings a bell. They simple say “Radhe-Radhe” 🙂 🙂 (now you might understood the reason behind the title of this post) indicating us to move aside 🙂 :). While I was on this road, it was almost as if I were in a trance.  There was something in the place, in the air, in the people which attracts us instantaneously. Might be it is truly the presence of the Almighty 🙂

It started raining heavily while we were still waiting in the queue to enter the temple. The temple is located in an interior part and it was pretty crowded. We entered the main hall which is decorated with fresh flowers and colorful drapes. A mix of fragrance from the flowers and the incense sticks filled the room and the chants of “Hare Krishna” were echoing. Though we tried clicking some photos, we couldn’t as photography was strictly prohibited inside the temple.

There was a barricade separating the idols and the pilgrims and we were allowed till the barricade to have a peek at the deities Radha and Krishna and many of the pilgrims were offered sweets and seek the blessings from the Pundits. The rain turned into a heavy downpour and the roads were filled with water up our knee-level. All of a sudden the roads turned dirty, people struggled to pull out their vehicles in the water. Though we thought of managing with the only umbrella which we carried along, it wasn’t of much use and we started forgot about getting drenched and started enjoying the rain and our walk which almost seemed like a swim 🙂 😀

Soon we were at our car and resumed our journey to Mathura. On the way to Mathura we were able to see the Prem Mandir which was huge and lit by colourful lights. As it was raining heavily and we don’t have much time, we thought of visiting only Krishna Janmabhoomi and started moving towards it. But to our bad luck, there was a jam and the traffic was packed upto kilometers. The time was around 6.30 and we still have a long way to go, to reach Delhi and it was raining badly. So we were left with no other options rather than saying – some other time 🙂 🙂

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We hit the Yamuna Express way after a wait of an hour and half in the traffic and stopped for some food in the mid-way at Pizzahut though we didn’t eat any except a Gulab Jamoon on the Haldiram’s outlet beside it 😉 🙂 It was 11.30 by the time we reached our room and soon retired to our beds.

P.S – I couldn’t take any pictures of this place as it was raining heavily and was too crowded to stand itself 😦

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Agra – The Monument City

Day 2:

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Agra is truly a fortified city. One can find some sort of palaces or forts everywhere around the city. Sometimes, the houses too look like forts or quarters inside a fortified city. Our next visit is to the Agra’s Red Fort, most commonly known as the “Agra Fort” which was built by the great Mughal emperor Akbar in the 16th century. The fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, described as a “walled city” is huge with its wall standing at a height of 70 feet. It was still raining when we reached here and entered the main gate known as the Delhi Gate; we bought the entrance tickets at the office which stood by the entrance.

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Somehow, I was more impressed with the Agra Fort than the Taj, I don’t know why though! It might not be as famous as the iconic TajMahal, but it is every bit beautiful. It was altogether a different monument than the Taj. Much bigger, as attractive as the Taj, might be less cared than the TajMahal.. A lot of contrasting things! Soon we passed through the Hathi Pol or the Elephant Gate which leads to the walkways and then to the inner chambers. There are lots of rooms, each of them different, but all of them enormous.

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The extensive women’s quarters, vast open areas perhaps where the rulers conducted the durbars (meetings), indoor water cascades and fountains, massive gardens etc makes up most of the interiors of the fort. There is even an enormous square right in the middle of the fort where the Mughals installed a great deep pool.  To my surprise, there was even a prison sort of thing in the inner chambers and it was said that the son of Shah Jahan allegedly locked him up in a section of this Fort, where he lived for the last eight years of his life watching the TajMahal in a distance.

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This fort is a home to a number of palaces such as the Jahangir Palace, built by Emperor Akbar for his son Jahangir and Shish Mahal which was designed with tiny mirrors in its walls and was often used as a dressing room, the Khas Mahal which is built of white marble built by Shah Jahan for his daughters Jahanara and Roshanara. Also the fort is a place for beautiful mosques, Mina Masjid and Nagina Masjid. The balcony has the beautiful view of the Taj and the Yamuna River. Might be these are all the reasons behind me getting attracted to this Fort more than the Taj Mahal. Perhaps the life in these palaces and rooms once upon a time gave me that feeling of liveliness. Nevertheless, am fascinated by this place.

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We were out by 2.30pm and resumed our back journey. On the way we stopped at the most famous chain of restaurants “The Pind Baluchi” for lunch. I would never suggest this place to anyone as they don’t have many of the items on the menu and the service was poor 😦 . The traffic was still heavy on the roads and we stopped at a small sweet shop on the roadside to have a sweet. And I chose Rasamalai, which is one of the best I have tasted so far. So light, not so sweet and fresh 🙂 🙂 . As I was not so fond of sweets, I didn’t try the most famous Agra Peta.. Might be next time, but for now it’s time to go home!

Adieu Agra!! 🙂 🙂

Wah Taj!

When my mind and body hungered for you,

My spirit burned to death.

Your love reaching from afar,

Breathed life into my dead ashes,

As the love of God once did to create men!!

                                                                                                                          -Shah Jahan to Mumtaz

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My first thought looking at the mausoleum.. The admiration of Prince Kurram towards Arjmand Banu Begum, King Shah Jahan’s love for his Begum Mumtaz Mahal and above all the lifelong love held by a man towards his love… As once said by the Great Poet Rabindranath Tagore, the Taj was indeed a tear-drop glistening spotlessly bright on the cheek of the time, forever and ever.

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We passed the main gate which stood majestically in the center of the southern wall of the forecourt. The gate is flanked on the north front by double arcade galleries and the garden in-front is divided into four quarters by two main walk-ways. The Taj Mahal is located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in a vast Mughal garden that encompasses nearly 17 hectares and in the middle of the front yard is a long, narrow, rectangular man-made pond, reflecting the grand Taj Mahal at the end of it. Might be as it was a weekend and the weather was pleasant, there was a large crowd.

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We started walking towards the monument which is raised on a square platform with the four sides of the octagonal base of the minarets extending beyond the square at the corners. We climbed onto the platform through a lateral flight of steps provided in the centre of the southern side and went around the monument to have a closer look at the minarets and the mosques. The Taj Mahal is a perfect symmetrical planned building. While the Taj has been built of white marble, the two identical mosques on either side of it were made of red sandstone quite contrast to the marble tomb. These four minarets provide not only a kind of spatial reference to the Taj but also give a 3D effect to the edifice. It is a giant masterpiece of art, too magnificent to look real. No picture of it can compare with this original copy.

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It was grayish as the clouds covered the sun’s face and was raining. All of a sudden it glared like snow when the sun was out of the clouds and for a moment I felt as if I was snow-blinded! I can now only imagine how the Taj reflects during the sunrise, sunset and the moonlight. The various reflections of light come not only from the white marble but also from the colorful inlays, which decorate certain parts of the building. Red flowers and green leaves glisten in their delicate shapes carved in the white marble. Every tiny petal and thin stem is made of precious stones, which fit in the marble perfectly, leaving no cracks or bumps on the smoothest surface. Kudos to the craftsmenship!

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Soon we were inside the central tomb where the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal is in perfect center of the tomb chamber, and the cenotaph of Shah Jahan, which is greater than Mumtaz Mahal by the side of the latter on its west, and these were surrounded by a high wall protecting them from the visitors. Photography is prohibited inside the chamber, yet we can have some mobile clicks if there was a large crowd 😉 . Once out, we went on a walk around the walk-ways and the pond in front of the Taj before we left the monument.

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Waiting eagerly for my turn to watch this beauty in moonlight on a full moon day 🙂 🙂

Note: Taj Mahal is open every day but Fridays (except for offering prayers between 12-2pm)

The Journey…

Day 2:

The alarm buzzed around 5 AM in the morning and both of us missed it. It was only at 5.30, we woke up and Neetha was kind enough to let me sleep for few more minutes before she got ready. It was only by 6.30 we were out of our room and it was drizzling out. We got into the car which was waiting for us from 5.30. Our driver Harvinder is from Pathankot, Punjab and a staunch supporter of Hinduism :-p , I will tell you why I specifically mentioned this 🙂

The drizzle turned into a heavy rain and it was only around 8.15AM we were able to hit the Yamuna Express Way. The drive was smooth and the weather was pleasant. The greenery along the highway and ripened agri fields in the rain was so scenic. And we were thoroughly enjoying the drive. It’s time for breakfast! We asked our driver to take us to a good dhaba, as we were so sure that the food in the highway Dhabas will always tastes good 🙂 🙂

Our stop is at Shiv Truck Dhaba which is not so big nor so small. Few chairs were placed outside and few tables and chairs inside. As there was no space outside and was raining so badly, we chose to sit inside. While Neetha and I ordered Gobi paratha, our driver chose Aloo paratha. Something is missing, isn’t it? A pleasant rainy morning would be more pleasant with hot Pakoras, isn’t it? 🙂 🙂 We ordered for some pakoras too.

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After a heavy breakfast of Gobi paratha with butter and dahi and few pakoras with mint chutney, it’s time to resume our journey. It was around 11.30, we reached Agra, which looked like a higher grade village and a lower grade town. Thanks to the chaotic traffic and the wide range of transport modes like mule-drawn carriages, tuk-tuks (named after the sound these carts make I guess), auto-rickshaws and trucks. It took us almost 30 minutes to reach our destination. Our driver explained us about the various parking lots and instructed us to come back to the same parking lot where he left us.

Though we asked our driver to join us, he simply denied our offer and told us that he is not going to visit a muslim shrine ever :(. Perhaps, you might understand now why I told earlier that he is a staunch supporter of Hinduism 😉 . Soon, we were into the office to get our entry tickets and was followed by a group of guides asking us to hire one. But we simply denied. We bought shoe covers and stuffed them into our pockets and made a move towards the Battery car which carried us to the western gate from where we would be able to enter the Taj.

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It stopped raining for a while and we went through the security check soon after we entered the western gate. Our bags were thoroughly checked and we were let in. We started walking towards the inner gate and once we stepped into it, there stood the mighty “Taj – The Crown of Palaces” in front of us.

Stay tuned! 🙂 🙂