Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Taj Mahal & Fatehpur Sikri - Pure Love

It was my birthday! Waking up in the horrible room in Bharatpur wasn't particularly nice for a birthday morning so we left swiftly and caught a quick bus to the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri, which was the capital of the Mughal Empire for a while and home of the king Akbar. Akbar, if I remember rightly, was considered quite a liberal king, he was also illiterate and a descendant of Genghis khan. Exploring a deserted city is always going to be exciting and intriguing even if it's now well populated by package tourists on the Taj trail doing the Golden Triangle.














The city was meticulusly planned to every inch. Each courtyard served different purposes, from halls of public exhibition, to the Ladies palace, the water tanks, treasury, and even to the actual chambers of Akbar himself. The huge gateway below lead to the friday mosque complex, another vast additition to the whole Fatehpur complex that makes it even more astounding that it was just left abandoned for centuries.





































We had a nice birthday lunch in the town and luckily a taxi had just dropped someone off at the hotel we were eating at and was heading to Agra, our next stop, so we got a lift there from him for a very good price instead of getting the bus, ideal birthday treat! The hotel owners here were unendingly friendly, letting us leave our luggage and organising the car for us, even though we weren't staying there- Goverdhan seek it out if you head to the city.



Agra is notoriously busy, polluted and not very pretty. However the reason the majority of tourists to India subject themselves to the city is obviously to see the majestic Taj Mahal.

We stayed in the Pyrenees guesthouse which was in a gated community area not far off the busy .... Road. The staff were friendly and the owner was telling us about all the weddings he has to go to as wedding season is definitely upon us in India. Too much eating and drinking and partying to the early morning he said, doesn't sound so bad to me.



We got up early the next day to go to the Taj, didn't make it for sunrise but it would have been pretty foggy if we went that early anyway. The Taj Mahal is truly beautiful and an astonishing architectural feat! It is as magnificent as everyone says it is and is a wonderful gem amongst the eyesore city. Nothing can really compare as it is just so different to anything else we have ever seen. Shah Jahan was the Grandson of Akbar and father to Aurangzeb the controversial ruler who abandoned Akbars secularism and in fact imprisoned his father in Agra fort where he eventuall died. Shah Jahan must have been madly, deeply in love and adoration of his wife to build a mausoleum this extravagant. At least she or he will never be forgotten. The symmetry of the whole complex, the meanings and inscriptions behind evey little detail, the slight lean of the outer minarets are just a few examples of the attention to detail that could only be fuelled by love. It's a sight to behold and one we won't forget.
You can never really see too many photos of the Taj so below we've left a selection of our favourites from a whole memory sticks worth of snaps. Enjoy.
Even the gateway to the whole Taj Mahal complex was a work of architectural mastery. 



























































It does get extremely busy especially when the tour busses arrive but we did another audio tour which helps block out noise of other people. it was a bit difficult to get a photo of yourself with the Taj in the background without lots of other people in it, but oh well, we tried our best and took quite a few selfys...
Motor vehicles are not allowed a particular distance around the Taj Mahal complex as the pollution is actually discolouring the brick work. Apparently it is also a preventative measure of terrorism as boats are not allowed to go down the river that is just behind the Taj Mahal either, which was how they transported all the rock to build it. Although the smog that engulfs the air throughout Uttar Pradesh is invariably going to continue to have its way with the pristine white stone no matter what measures are taken to protect this monument. In the rough guide it said to spend all day there from dawn till dusk to really appreciate the changes in shades of colour as the sun reflects off the structure. A while day there is not realistic, two hours was enough for us and we managed to see the Taj change different colours and glow as the fog disappeared and the sun came out the clouds.
After 2 months of 'have you been to the Taj yet?' finally being in awe of its majesty felt that bit sweeter. We really enjoyed looking around both historic sites, just ignore the choking cities, the tour buses and the hawkers and soak in one of the seven wonders of the world.

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