Monday, March 21, 2011

India 2011 - Day 10 - in Agra

Wow, Praveen wants to be with us at the Taj Mahal at 6 am when it opens. Sunrise etc!!! Wake-up call at 5 am. Nobody has an objection since his organization has been incredible so far and always to our advantage. It is not really a sunrise but it is definitely a huge plus to be early. The crowds are not nearly as bad as later (we could see it by the time we were ready to leave) and the air is crisp and clear which is nice for taking photos instead of being hazy later in the day.
6 am !!!         The entry to the Taj Mahal, the magnificent tomb of white marble built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz, who had implored her husband to build a monument symbolizing their undying love for each other. Some 20,000 laborers and artisans from around the world spent 17 years constructing what became Mumtaz's mausoleum, which was begun in 1632.

Security check: men one lane, women another.
Even if it is an official sign ... I don't believe it!

We do not even drink the water from the faucet in the hotel, not even a 5 star one. We even brush our teeth with bottled water.

The Gateway to the Taj Mahal is a unique piece of architecture in itself and separates the gardens from the forecourt. Rising approximately 100 feet and with a width of 150 feet, this red sandstone building is of three stories, and like the tomb, is adorned with calligraphy the noblest craft of the day. The inscriptions are verses from the Koran.

The gateway is a transition point between the bustling world outside and the tranquil ambiance within the grounds of the Taj Mahal. It both protects the Taj from predators, yet invites visitors to enter the garden of Paradise. The imposing brass door is not the original which was studded with silver rupees, and was stolen by rebels in 1764.
The Arabic inscriptions appear around the south door of the gateway. The calligrapher, Amanat Khan has used an effect that involves the gradual enlarging of the letters and their spacing as they snake around the form of the arch. The result is seemingly consistent dimensions as you read the holy lettering from the ground.  

Walking through the Gateway is an exhilarating experience. The Taj Mahal seems to stretch itself into view.
There it is in all its beauty!
The symbol of eternal love!

Had to put these over our shoes.
All the details of the Taj Mahal are superb.

For example: what looks here like pillars with 6 sides actually is not. Look at the bottom in the next photo.

And look at the carved chain of little hearts/leaves.
 A close-up of the incredible inlay, the damage (stolen), the restoration.

This kind of work is called Pietra Dura: a decorative art in which craftsmen embed precisely cut semi-precious stones in marble to form dazzling patterns.

Four minarets, each 131 ft high and crowned by a chhatri, frame the tomb, highlighting the perfect symmetry of the complex.
The complex is surrounded on three sides with high walls, the fourth side is the Yamuna River.

Early morning mist on the Yamuna River.

The Masjid Mosque on the west side of the area.

Praveen had arranged for a professional photographer to take the picture of the whole group.
I took a photo of the photo.

For once James and I also purchased a photo of the two of us in front of this marvel.

Driving to our next destination we saw a lot of washing being done and just laid out to dry in the sun by the side of the road and the river.
The red are probably washed saris drying in the sun. How much cleaner everything is after the washing in the filthy river and drying in the dirt .... ?
More pictures from the bus.

The tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, the two-story marble mausoleum that inspired the Taj Mahal.

The gate

Popularly known as "Baby Taj"

Discribed as a "jewel box in marble", the small, elegant garden tomb of Mirza Ghiyath Beg, entitled Itimad-ud-Daulah, the "Lord Treasurer" of the Mughal empire, was built over a period of six years from 1622 by his daughter Nur Jahan, Jahangir's favorite wife.

(sorry, I could not decide which picture I like best)

With one of the other ladies in the group we kept seeing quilt patterns everywhere.
And again!

Uh, good one.

This is actually the ceiling.
Perforated marble screens with complex ornamental patterns are carved out of a single slab of marble.

Boys swam in the river but the thought gives me shivers. It was so filthy.

Out of the driving bus again.

Praveen took us to the other side of the river opposite to the Taj Mahal. Just a little to the right was a Cremation site.
Just a little to the left: clothing being washed.
Straight ahead: There it is again! From across the river.
The Itimad-ud-Daulah's Tomb from the bridge.
A short bus stop, another photo opportunity. Unfortunately I was so fascinated with the view and didn't watch were I was stepping. Good thing my fellow travelers didn't throw me out of the bus.
It was an unimpressive street ... through a gate ... and there is a mansion. This is our third meal at a private house. This time lunch. Our host doesn't even take money for it. The family is in the jewelery business for several generations and likes to make contacts with people in the USA. The house in the back of this court yard is the former kitchen and is converted) into a museum with lovely antiques ... which are for sale too.

It was lovely. I forgot to take pictures at the right moment though.

My highlight was the Indian cooking lesson.
I think the lady's name is Nidhi Lall.

We learned to make Puris (Indian Bread)

We learned to make Paneer (home made cottage cheese)

And we learned to make Kassa Paneer

The family even has a basket ball goal.
Close to our hotel we visited Akbar Marbles (of course optional).
The pattern has to be chiseled into the marble.

The pieces to be inlaid have to be ground to exactly the right size.

And there was a show room.
Really? Hahaha!

We walked out 2 times and then the price seemed right for our new sunroom table.


  1. I'm going to go on the same Odysseys Unlimited trip next month and this table is absolutely beautiful. I'm interested in buying a similar one, but wanted to know roughly how much you paid for it so I know not to get ripped off when I go. Thanks!

    1. And also, did they accept credit cards or did you have to pay in cash?

    2. The Odysseys guide will help you. And yes, they too love credit cards there. Have fun, Anonymous!

  2. The Taj Mahal is just indescribably lovely, isn't it. In that early morning light, it looks like a ghost castle.