Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

Agra (India), 10.07.2013

The former capital of Hindustan, Agra, is the location of one of the world’s most impressive constructions, the Taj Mahal. This Unesco listed site is an ornamental masterpiece, a perfect exercise in geometry and a jewel of Mughal and Muslim architecture. But Agra also has another amazing site to offer, the Agra Fort, another Unesco listed site. Today we went to see both.

DSC_0010In the morning we took the hotel shuttle to the East Gate of the Taj Mahal, the advantage being that, apart from avoiding the walk in the heat, we bypassed most of the guys that waited on the roadside to bother us with taxis, guides, souvenirs etc. Still, some even managed to sneak into the bus! We got our tickets and walked the last meters to the gate, then through the security check, and entered the courtyard before the main gate. The building from the outside is in the same red stone as the fort in Delhi. The decoration of the gateway reminded us a lot of the many muslim buildings we have seen across Iran and Central Asia, but it has a distinctive Indian/Mughal touch, also because of the red color of the stones and the roofs of the towers. Once past the gateway, the view on the gardens and the main buildings open up. So beautiful but hard to appreciate among the many tourists that take millions of fotos and don’t care about everybody else who tries to do the same.

DSC_0114We took a walk through the park, in the shade of the trees where every little wind was highly appreciated. We were soaking wet and kept sweating like crazy. Before entering the main mausoleum we needed to put some cover over our shoes (taking them off wasn’t an option we wanted to try). At the entrance the decorative flowers carved into the marble reminded us of the warriors carved into the black stone at Persepolis. Inside we were remembered immediately of Ancient Merv and Köneurgench, where we had also seen muslim tombs. The elements are the same, the decoration in principle also. The splendour is quite different though. Here we could finally admire how such a place looks like with marble on the walls and the full beauty of all decorations. The stone ornaments are amazing, every single element of them. Be it the walls with flower inlays of semi transparent stones, that reveal their true beauty when you put a torch on them and the stones lighten up from behind. Or the octagonal marble grid with floral decoration, surrounding the two marble tombs at the center. Or the preciously decorated roof. Simply breathtaking.

DSC_0016 DSC_0019 DSC_0026Once outside again, we looked over the river to the moonlight gardens, before visiting the Jawab. This building was in significantly worse shape, it smelled of urine and sweat inside and the decorations, although beautiful, were damaged in many parts. The constant flow of tourists has left its traces. After a walk back through the park we left the site through the West Gate, and walked the 2 km to the Agra Fort in the heat.

DSC_0064 DSC_0067 DSC_0109 DSC_0091From the outside the fort is impressive, with a double ring of huge walls, again in the same red stone. The locals call it red fort, like the one in Delhi. Already past the first gate we found decorations on the high walls. And from there on every couple of meters we made another discovery. At a certain point we reached a pavilion of white marble columns, similar to one we had seen in Delhi. On one side there was a little entrance and some steps in the dark. We walked up and found a big courtyard, surrounded by a two floor colonnade. Behind it was another one, and another one and so on. We walked through several terraces, rooms, pavilions. Each of them has different remarkable elements. Some were in white marble, others in red stone. Decoration was everywhere, either floral inlays or carvings. Often we could see the Taj Mahal at a distance. Back at the main gate we were so wet, exhausted and hungry that we took a Tuktuk back to the hotel. The cold shower was such a relief.

DSC_0189 DSC_0136To avoid both the hotel staff in the restaurant and the hard sellers on the street we took our car and drove down the street for dinner, following a suggestion of our friend Timo. Too bad we didn’t know before that there was an Oberoi hotel in Agra, and it is beautiful. As we walked through the garden, it’s decorative pools and terraces, we thought that centuries ago kings built palaces, today it seems five star hotels are the equivalent. After dinner a drink on the terrace with the silhouette of the Taj Mahal at a distance closed this leisure day.

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Author: electroboris

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