Today we were picked up dark and early for the 3.5 hour drive to Agra! There we picked up our guide who hopped in our car and took us to the Agra Fort. The fort, which is basically a small city with a giant wall around it, was where several Mughal emperors lived until 1638. Not only was it an impressive fortress, it is beautiful and has all of the luxuries an emperor could want!
Our guide took us all around the fort and he told us all about the Mughal families that lived there!
From the fort, we drove to the Taj Mahal! One of the wonders of the world!!
When we first saw it, it looked fake because of its unique translucency! The white marble against a white-ish/foggy sky, made the whole building look like it could disappear any second!
What is incredible is that the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his third and favorite wife. Before she died, she made him promise that he would build her a big and beautiful tomb, and boy did he! I’m sure even the emperor’s wife couldn’t imagine just how big and beautiful it turned out to be!
To get inside, everyone is required to wear little shoe covers and then you are shuffled through the 3 rooms that are in the actual mausoleum. In contrast to intricate handmade inlays and beautiful flowers around the entrance to the monument, the inside is surprisingly quite undecorated! It is purely the white marble with very little color and detail. (I would have posted a photo of the inside for reference, but since it is a burial place, photos are not allowed)
On either side of the Taj, there are two identical buildings. One of them is a mosque since the wife was Muslim. The other was built just because the emperor loved symmetry! It was just used as a guest house. Can you imagine building THIS (below) just because you wanted each side to look the same??
After taking many photos and walking around the Taj Mahal three times, we met up with our driver who took us to meet a group of people who claim to be descendants of the artisans that made the beautiful inlays on the monument. Today, they still use (more or less) the same techniques used by those artisans hundreds of years ago! They walked us through the different painstaking steps to create incredibly detailed pieces.
They also explained to us the origins of each of the many semi-precious stones they use in their work from different places around the world! They clearly impressed us since we bought a glass made with the marble inlays! It has flowers inlayed pauashell from New Zealand! Unfortunately they wrapped it up before I could grab a photo- I guess you’ll just have to come to our house and see it!
Next, it was time for linner! We went with our guide to a nearby restaurant and he answered all of our questions about India in general.
After our late meal, we got back in the car and drove back to Delhi!