We arrive at Delhi airport in the morning and immediately move into a hotel in the Paharganj area, where we have our breakfast and a shower. Afterwards we leave for Agra. The origins of Agra can be traced back to 1,000 BC. Agra was once the capital of Mughal empire and a center of power and great glory. Shah Jahan moved his capital from Agra to Delhi.
Few places in the world can recall the collective imagination as the Taj Mahal of Agra. Once you enter the front door, as in a dream, tourists find themselves simply admiring one he most beautiful buildings in the world. The trip takes about 5 hours and after a tiring day we have dinner and switch off for the night.
At early dawn we have a glimpse of the famous Taj Mahal from our windows, the most photographed monument in marble in the world. Dedicated by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as an expression of his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is regarded as one of the 7 wonders of the world. The Taj Mahal appears to be amazingly perfect from any angle, both for its incredible beauty that the marble inlay in relief work. Located at the end of a beautiful garden Chahar Bagh, the building stands on the banks of Yamuna river in all its majesty with four minarets on the sides of the white marble platform.
We start early morning after breakfast to visit this extraordinary piece of architecture. At 6 am still there were not too many tourists around and the white marble giant was everything to us. Be careful not to come here on Friday, as the access is allowed only to those who take part in the prayers in the mosque. There are three entrances to access the Taj Mahal of the west, east and south.
We chose the south, probably the most scenic with a 30 meters high portal in red sandstone on which are transcribed some verses of the Koran. In the site are not allowed backpacks or large bags in addition to various items such as batteries, pens, pencils, food and dangerous items. You can take cameras and camcorders even though it is forbidden to take photographs inside the main mausoleum.
Visitors can buy shoe covers to be used in the mausoleum and in its outer part. A long avenue with fountains surrounded by a manicured lawn leads us to the base of the mausoleum of Shah Jahan and his wife Arjumand Banu Begum. We shot around the square base of the monument for about an hour. One of the fascinating things about this place is its harmonious proportions given by the architect, who manages to make it at the same time intimate and grandiose.
Once you enter the front door you'll soon realize the perfect geometry of the complex. The southern entrance leads directly to the Mughal gardens. At each corner of the base rise 40 meters high decorative white minarets. To the east is located the twin building, the jawab, built just to maintain the symmetry of the complex. In this direction the central building of the Taj Mahal shows four perfectly identical facades, each topped by vaulted arches decorated with Koranic quotes and marble inlays.
The entire building has four small domes arranged around the central one. To access the mausoleum you must wear shoe covers presented at the entrance. Inside you can see the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Actually they are not the real graves as real ones are kept carefully in the layer immediately below. Both faces the Mecca and are surrounded by an octagonal enclosure in carefully carved marble. Outside the mausoleum it is easy to find groups of monkeys that wander around the site.
The past of Agra, for over a century was the heart of the Mughal empire that has meant that many other reminders of its former glory have survived to the present day. One of these is the Agra Fort located on the eastern banks of the river Yamuna. It was the stronghold of the Mughal Empire. The current structure, with its walls, gates and buildings, owes its origins to Akbar. Shah Jehan inserted stately quarters and the mosque, while Aurangzeb the outer walls. We visit the royal pavilions.
The story of the Agra Fort is also inextricably linked to that of the Taj Mahal. When Shah Jahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and in fact he was imprisoned jat Agra Fort, where he spent the rest of his days watching his astonishment through a gilded cage. To access Agra Fort the there is a single access, the Amar Singh Gate, the southern entrance where the ticket office is also located. Like almost all Indian sites here too the ticket price is lower for locals and higher for foreigners.
Through Amar Singh Gate begins a circuitous route that once was meant to confuse the enemies that they had managed to cross the first line of defense, the deep ditch that runs alongside the fort. The trail continues to the Diwan-i-Am, or the public audience hall and the throne room featuring a large open porch, and then get to Moti Masjid, the Pearl Mosque, permanently closed.
In front of the mosque is located the tomb of John Colvin, vice-governor of the north-western provinces who died during the first war of independence. On the left of the throne room of the Diwan-i-Am, a staircase leads to the large backyard with Nagina Masjid, a mosque built for the ladies by Shah Jahan. The Diwan-i-Khas is the audience hall reserved for foreign representatives and dignitaries of higher rank, which is located at the large backyard. Nearby you can see the Takhti-e-Jehangir from the period, the throne dais where Prince Salim was directed with black rock and lateral bas-reliefs.
The view from here reaches the river and in the distance the Taj Mahal. Two other points to observe the masterpiece built by Shah Jahan and the place where the mortal remains of his beloved wife were preserved are the Musamman Burj and Khas Mahal, respectively octagonal tower and the palace where the emperor was imprisoned by his son in his last eight years of life. Set back from the east side you can see the Mina Masjid, the private mosque of the emperor.
The Shish Mahal is instead the Palace of Mirrors, an imposing building with elaborately decorated walls of tiny mirrors. Overall there is also a garden, recently restored to its former glory, the Anguri Bagh. Inside there is an entrance that leads to the basement where they lived the women of the harem of Akbar. South of the garden stands the Jehangir's Palace, a red sandstone building which created by Akbar for his son Jehangir.
The Taj Mahal is not the only reason of interest in the city. We then moved on to mausoleum of Itmad-ud-Daulah and then Sikandra, where is located the tomb of the Emperor Akbar. Akbar himself began construction of this magnificent monument. Sikandra is named Sikandar Lodi, the ruler of Delhi, who has been in power 1488-1517. To construct a tomb in one's life was common Tartary, the Mughals followed religiously. Akbar's son Jahangir completed the construction of this pyramidal tomb in 1613.
Although there is only one entrance in use today there are four red sandstone gates leading to the complex mausoleum. The decoration on the gateway is surprisingly bold, with large grounds in mosaic set into it. The four minarets gateway rising from the corners are particularly striking. Built in red sandstone, the minarets are inlaid with white marble polygonal models; the pleasing proportions and profuse ornaments surface makes very impressive gateway.
These gateways reflect a curious hybrid of different architectural styles of Hindu, Muslims and Christians a mixture of typical patents of Akbar. Large paved raised lead to the tomb, which has five floors and is in the shape of a truncated pyramid. The main tomb has a unique square design that is unique to all other Mughal buildings.Geometrical designs made the mosaics of glazed tiles or colored stones, dominate the tomb.
The mosaic work is generally in the elevated tass style, that is square or rectangular pieces of colored stones were assembled and placed together to form designs. The emperor Jahangir inlaid with semi-precious stones in a depression carved into the white marble slab later. The daughters of Akbar, Shakrul Nisha Begum and Aram Bano are buried on this floor.
The most striking feature of the place is definitely the beautiful front door with its four minarets that were intricately carved. The striking white marble inlay on red sandstone is also great. Another feature worthy of note here is the porch in front of the tomb in the basement. It is covered with beautiful paintings in stucco. This is a must visit place for all those who want to experience an environment of serenity and final peace. The outlying garden which is presented in Char Bagh style is another attraction of the place. The tomb of Mariam, mother of Jahangir, is also close to the impressive building made of red sandstone.
A jeep afterwards takes us to Fatehpur Sikri to Akbar's court, where the Mughal Emperor had built his palace and his residence in the 16th century as the new capital of the empire and abandoned after a few years due to lack of water. The city strikes again with its beautiful buildings that combine an Indian style and the Islamic architecture.
In the late afternoon I returned to Agra for a ride to the Kinari Bazaar and to see the mosque, Jama Masjid. At the cost of going through unbalanced, I must confess that this is the part of town that I liked the most. Our visit to Agra ended with a splendid view of the Taj Mahal at sunset on the other side of the river that divides the city. We return back for dinner and a good rest overnight to begin our next destination of Mathura tomorrow.