Welcome to my series on India! Read “Northern India Photo Journal Part 1: Delhi” here.
Day 5: From Delhi to Agra
We left around 9:30am from our hotel in Delhi for the Taj Mahal in Agra. The drive was 3-4 hours long and on the way we hit one of the highlights of my whole trip: we stopped at a rest stop and drank chai. Simple, I know. But so fulfilling and so grounding. The chai is served in disposable clay cups and tastes like…India.
After dropping our baggage at our hotel, we took off for the Taj Mahal. As we got on the shuttle I thought, “is this just an overrated tourist trap?” – that last half mile is one of the most touristy half miles I’ve ever seen in my travels, outside of maybe the streets of Venice from the airport ferry stop to St. Mark’s basilica – but as soon as I walked through the entry gates and stared down the center line I was smitten. Honestly, I teared up and was covered in goosebumps. I was in the presence of a true architectural marvel and an epic, if impractical, display of love. Some of the feelings came from just the build up once we entered the complex (it’s not a single building, but almost a small town of mausoleums) but most of it really is just complete overwhelm at the sheer size and perfection of the Taj Mahal.
I know you’re jonesing for some history so in 3 sentences: the Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan following the death of his favorite wife (while giving birth to their 14th child), Mumtaz Mahal, and construction started in 1632. The complex was completed in its entirety in 1653. Following it’s completion, Shah Jahan was put on house arrest by his son and declared incompetent to rule, partially because of what his son said was irresponsible spending on things like…the Taj Mahal.
We were on site during sunset. All I can say is just…breathtaking. Over and over and over again. Breathtaking. We went out to dinner after the Taj Mahal before heading back to our hotel.
Practical notes about the Taj Mahal: There is no food or camera tripods allowed inside. I found out about the tripod the hard way and our guide had to take mine to be stored in a locker and I got it back when we left. There is serious security at the entrance where the security lines are divided by sex. I got frisked and not like airport security where they gently pat you down, but an aggressive frisking where the security agents felt every part of me. If you’re smuggling something in (e.g. food) they WILL find it.
Day 6: We checked out of our hotel and headed to Agra Fort at 9:30 am. Agra Fort was my favorite part of the Golden Triangle. I love a good story and Agra Fort is full of them. Remember Shah Jahan, the emperor who built the Taj Mahal? Well, when he was done with the Taj Mahal he started on a Black Taj across the Yamuna River so that his final resting place could be across from his beloved Mumtaz. Unfortunately for him, his son thought he was out of his mind and spending money recklessly. Debatable, I suppose. He imprisoned his father in Agra Fort. Now before you go on and say that his son was a monster, scroll down and see photos of this white collar prison, complete with a view of the Taj Mahal.
Have you been to Agra? What did you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll see you soon on Part 3 of my India series.
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