It felt crazy to be up so early! Up so late? It was hard to tell. But Baloo and I were ready to go by 1:30 am.
Baloo had the hard job. I planned to fall asleep in the backseat. Sadly, I could not sleep as I was wide awake. So I tried to keep Baloo entertained for the 4 hour journey. Baloo played Hindu songs to keep himself awake. It was going to be a long journey.
After an uneventful drive, we arrived outside the gates around 5:30. The sun was not yet up, so I would make it to see the sunrise!
My guide met me - PK - and we headed for the complex. Cows and monkeys were roaming around the entrance so you really hadn’t to watch where you walked.
It’s hard to explain how I felt as I approached the site. I had been so looking forward onward to seeing wing this man justice mausoleum that I wasn’t sure if it would meet my expectations. But I can say that this is one of the he most beautiful places that I have ever visited! It takes your breath away! You have seen all the photos, but they don’t do it justice. I almost cried.
The story behind it reflect so the love of a man for a woman. Shah Jahan built the site as a Memorial to his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal,who died while giving birth to theirs 14th (!!!) child. The poor first wife got a small consolation crypt near the gate.
when Mumtaz died, the emperor was so distraught that he decided to build this memorial to her. Construction for the site began that same year.
Mumtaz was Persian (from what’s is now Iran), and a Persian architect designed the site. The emperor invited the architect to bring all the craftsmen (and their families) from Persian. Although the main building was built in 8 years, it took 22 years for the complex to be completed. Not long after it was completed, Shah Jahan was overthrown by one of his sons (who killed his four brothers) and imprisoned for the rest of his life at Agra Fort. For the rest of his life, he could watch over his wife from the windows of the fort. A sad love story.
The Taj Majal is now a World Heritage Site and looks as amazing today as it did when it was built. It went through a large renovation project in the early 20th century, and was “cleaned” around 2002. The Government has realized the value of this site and now controls pollution within hundreds of miles of the site. They do this through preventing any manufacturing in the vicinity and prohibiting polluting vehicles in the area.
One of the things that you are warned about before you arrive is that there are lots of “photographers” on the temple grounds who are willing to take your pictures for a fee. Once you have committed to one, he will follow you around and tell you how each photograph should be staged, and then sell you the results at the end. Luckily, PK served that role for me! He had me pose at all the standard locations and took the photos on my phone. You have the pleasure of seeing far too many pictures of me at the Taj above.
PK was a wealth off information. He helped to explain the architecture and lol the symbolism scattered throughout the complex. I don’t understand not wanting to use (and pay!) a guide when this person adds value. One of my frustrations with the tour company was that’s I was promised a guide every day, but did not have one until I arrived at the Taj Majal. So I saw many places, and was able to read the limited data available nearby, but I had to make assumptions about whether I was even in the right spot! It is very frustratingly as I will likely never return to this city! I try to move on...
We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the Taj Majal, then PK took me to a place for breakfast. It wasn’t great...
Our next stop was the Agra Fort. This fort is still used by the Indian military so tourists are only allowed to access about 25% of the site. I was so excited to have PK with me to explain the various parts of the fort.
Each of the five emperors of the Munghal Dynasty who ruled the area had his own palace within the fort. We were only a lemon to see the section in which the Shah Jahan lived and spent his house arrest. It was a beautiful location to be held prisoner.
When we finished at the fort, it was time for PK and I to part company. It was only 12:30 or so, but I was exhausted! Baloo took me to my hotel so I could rest, and we made a plan to view the sunset over the Taj Majal from the far side of the river.
My hotel had a beautiful rooftop pool and restaurant, so I had a bit of lunch before my nap. Sadly, I could only sleep for two hours, but that seemed to be enough. I went downstairs to meet Baloo for a drive to the park. Sadly, it was cloudy, so it was not much of sunset. But I am glad to have seen it
Overall, the Taj Majal and the city if Agra exceeded my expectations. Seeing the Taj Majal in person will remain a highlight of my travel experiences. I a man looking forward to seeing what else this country has to offer!