Monday, March 09, 2015

All Stations to Agra...

So, dear reader, continuing on from where I left you , Viz the streets of Delhi, we boarded a train to Agra. Now, this wasn't just any old train. this was the shatabdi. Supposedly one the fastest trains to run on the vast Indian rail network. Sadly, the driver hadn't quite gotten the memo. Either that or his idea of fast hadn't quite caught up with the industrial age yet. So we literally stopped Every. Five. Minutes.
But, I thought, on the bright side, I could soak in some of the lovely countryside everyone keeps talking about. That was the day my NRI-ness decided to catch up on me, because all I could see as I peered out was filth, Buffaloes in filth, Kids playing in filth, water - with filth floating on top, did I mention filth? Honestly, was I so jaded when I was staying here that I didn't notice these things or had the place become drastically filthier in the past decade? (to be honest, I wasn't this shocked in Delhi. This was Delhi filth times 10!) I was now dreading stepping out into the city. Would my beloved Taj be mired in filth too? We had built this up so much in our heads (and the Kids' heads) that I didn't want to hear 'But Amma, it's so dirty!' from either of the little ones.
So, after we get settled into the guest house at Tajganj,  we hired a local tuk-tuk to take us to the Taj. They did say it was a short 15 minute walk, but I did not fancy yelling at Pickwick and bossy baby to 'watch out!' and 'mind that dung pile on the road' and 'Stop petting that flea-infested dog!!' . We were greeted with a surprisingly short queue and shortly we fount ourselves at the Taj complex. My fears were totally unfounded. Not only was the complex spotless, the sheer beauty of the Taj dwarfed everything else.
I can see what they mean by elegance
 For such a massive marble construction the monument is surprisingly feminine.
The garden and lawn in the complex were extremely well maintained, despite the heaving tourist population. 
The elder child fell in love with the structure instantly and immersed himself in a brief history lesson. The younger one? Well, the younger one chose to have fun in her own unique way
A bit of family history to amuse Pickwick: I fell into this fountain on my last visit to the monument - at the ripe old age of two. Pickwick is thrilled to know where he inherited the getting-into-trouble gene from

The Bossy Baby chose to re-enact 'Let it go' at the Taj
The inside, of the Taj, of course was not as impressive as the outside, at least, not for me - it is a mausoleum after all. And you could tell Pickwick was rather disappointed at not having found any 'precious' stones in the inlay work - he was expecting it to be dripping with diamonds and rubies.

The interior also seemed much more worn out than the exterior, whether from the sheer number of people wanting to touch the tombs or just natural wear and tear I do not know. What amazed me, though, was the intricacy of the inlay work and the detail in each individual flower. If you look closely, you might be able to spot the shading on each petal.
The mosque and guest house on either side of the Tomb are identical and the red stone only serves to offset the white marble of the main structure. The Yamuna running along the back of the enclave is now running practically dry, but I'm sure, when it was built would have served as the perfect backdrop on a moonlit night. In fact, we did want to see the Taj at night, but sadly, we weren't visiting it anywhere close to a full moon (which is the only time it is open in the night). But, maybe that's a good thing - maybe that will give me another reason to re-visit this beautiful monument of love (and what a love story it is, the handsome prince, falling for a street vendor, marrying her and going on to have many, many - 14, to be precise, children).
We still had a day left in Agra, so we decided to visit the Agra Fort, another impressive UNESCO World Heritage monument.
The fort is a lovely red sandstone structure build by Akbar and his successors, but the original fort was said to have existed from the 11th Century. Our guide spoke only in Hindi, which meant I had to translate everything for Pickwick and the Baa-Lamb, but at least this meant Pickwick wasn't tempted to wander off and go exploring on his own. I really loved the history of this fort, some of which involved the Koh-i-noor, Shivaji's escape from captivity, Shah Jehan's Captivity, Mumtaz Mahal's demise and rampant fratricide. 
our Guide at the Agra fort
The Room near the entrance where havans used to take place at the behest of Jodha Bai - Akbar's wife
That evening, we departed for Jaipur, eager to know what page of history we would stumble on next, and what fascinating secrets were waiting to be discovered at our next destination.