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!! 🙂 🙂

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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)