Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Taj (and other cool things along the way)

They say that after you visit the Taj Mahal you can call it “The Taj” cause you’re on such first-name basis with that thing :)2012-07-28 India 58133

We went there.

It was everything I expected: hot, a little bit unkempt, and one of the most beautiful and masterfully planned out things I have ever seen.

But before I go into pictures of that, I have to back up to the route we took to get there.

Because I can’t skip this picturesque abandoned hotel where we stopped for lunch on the way to Agra:2012-07 Agra

Or Fatehpur Sikri, an amazing fort built by the famous Akbar:2012-07-28 India 57963See all those little black specks in the air?  Those are pigeons.  I swear there are billions of them in India.  Someone told me they are considered sacred so they feed them a lot around the sacred sights to keep them around, but that may be a wives tale.2012-07-28 India 58007

I loved this sign as we went in:2012-07-28 India 57873Boy they sure know how to take advantage of the foreigner.

2012-07-28 India 57875We learned so much that I will never have time to go into here.  Suffice it to say, the story about this place goes like this:  Akbar the great Mughal back in 1556, despite his 300 wives, wasn’t lucky enough to have a son {really???}.  So he went to a famous saint who sacrificed his own son so that Akbar could have one.  Sure enough one of the wives produced a son after that.  So Akbar built this amazing place called Fatehpur Sikri in honor of the saint who helped him get his son.

You can take or leave the truth of the details of that story, but I will say this was quite the monument. 2012-07 agra3

Just to think of all the man hours back then carving all this stuff out of rock.2012-07-28 India 57880

Wow.2012-07-28 India 57903

This was Akbar’s bed:2012-07-28 India 579272012-07-28 India 579342012-07-28 India 57941

In the holiest section there were tons of beggars and people selling all kinds of food and trinkets.2012-07-28 India 57974

…and it was really dirty and we had to have bare feet.2012-07-28 India 57980But it was also pretty darn cool.

And you can’t go wrong when you have goats walking around…2012-07-28 India 57996

I loved this sweet little thumb-sucker:2012-07 agra2

And these “screens” carved from sheets of pure marble had me in awe.2012-07-28 India 580172012-07-28 India 580232012-07-28 India 58033The kids were so darn cute and were pretty persistent but also happy about the pens we gave them.  2012-07-28 India 580352012-07-28 India 58040

Here’s a glimpse into what it was like in our van en route to the different places:

Then it was on to the city of Agra where the Taj Mahal is located.

They say it’s best to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise, so we did.

This was our first peek:2012-07-28 India 580512012-07-28 India 580632012-07-28 India 580682012-07-28 India 58076

Apparently you have to take some kind of cheesy pictures when you’re at the Taj Mahal.2012-07-28 India 580842012-07-28 India 58104

This is looking back at the gateway house into the complex:2012-07-28 India 581152012-07-28 India 58124

Had to put this one in:2012-07-28 India 58127

But this one is my favorite.  It depicts so perfectly how these two felt about the excessive amounts of pictures I was taking.2012-07-28 India 58105

I loved listening to the age-old story again: how Shah Jahan, grandson of the great Akbar, built this as a monument for his favorite wife who died in childbirth.2012-07-28 India 58142

The workmanship is astounding.  Really.2012-07-28 India 58147

It took 20,000 men 22 years to build.

All the inlaid stuff was incredible.  I liked how the verses from the Quran were carved so intricately around the door.2012-07-28 India 581582012-07-28 India 58150

Going in:2012-07-28 India 58160

It was so dark in there I couldn’t really take any pictures.  I wish I had a close-up of the precious stones inlaid into flowers everywhere.  Here’s one from the outside, but the outside isn’t nearly as detailed as the inside.2012-07-28 India 581642012-07-28 India 58191We just had to sit there in reverence and take it all in for a little while before we left.2012-07-28 India 581972012-07-28 India 582152012-07-28 India 582192012-07-28 India 582242012-07-28 India 58227

The next stop was Agra Fort.2012-07-28 India 58265

It was designed by Akbar as well and was extended by his son and grandson.2012-07-28 India 582692012-07-28 India 582722012-07-28 India 582742012-07-28 India 582752012-07-28 India 58283

Typical Indian tourists:2012-07-28 India 582892012-07-28 India 58294

From Agra Fort you can see the Taj Mahal.  2012-07-29 India 58313

This is where Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, lived the last years of his life in captivity at the hands of his own son, Aurangzeb, who killed his older two brothers to take the throne, destroyed many of the temples and tried to impose Islam on everyone in the kingdom.

2012-07-29 India 58318

The workmanship was again, so amazing.2012-07-29 India 58325

I loved the lighting.2012-07-29 India 58414

…and the place where the empress and royal ladies had to hide themselves away to watch what went on below.2012-07-29 India 58420

It poured with rain as we were getting ready to leave.  2012-07-29 India 58428The kids couldn’t have been happier about that.

Drenched from the downpour, we headed to a rug-making factory when we were done at the fort.  It was fascinating.2012-07-29 India 584402012-07-29 India 584432012-07-29 India 58445Check out how fast these guys work:

 

It can take two people up to two years to make one rug.

It sure made us all gain a serious appreciation for rugs.2012-07-29 India 58456

We also went to a stone cutting place where they do similar stone inlays like they do at the Taj Mahal.2012-07-29 India 58459

Man, there are some talented people out there I tell you.

We packed up once again…2012-07-28 India 58241…and headed out for our next adventure: Delhi.

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