|The Taj Mahal seen from the main gate|
( above - view of Taj Mahal from Northern gate)
|The mosque on the east side of the Taj Mahal|
From Jaipur it took us more than 6 hours to reach Agra. Like the road to Jaipur, the road to Agra wasn't really a highway. It was slightly better in that there were fewer camel caravans on the road but it was congested nevertheless. We started out very early in the morning- it was very foggy and cold too. So foggy that there wasn't much of a view. In some places the visibility was so bad that you could only see about 50m ahead. There was much honking of horns as usual. We stopped at a rest area for a bit of hot chai - masala chai has now become a favorite of mine. Even Zaiton who wasn't really fond of tea became an enthusiast.
At 12.35pm we reached Fatehpur Sikri an ancient town built also during the time of the Mogul empire. It was a huge complex of buildings which included ruins of a palace, a masjid or mosque, a Dewan where the king held audiences and also a fortress. However our visit was spoiled by the dozens of ragged boys, young men and even women, young and old , trying to peddle goods. They carried bangles, fridge magnets, necklaces, and all kinds of wares and were so insistent and determined that it really spoiled my enjoyment of this ancient city complex. They followed us all around, pushing their wares at us even though we said No.
From Fatehpur Sikri it should have been a short drive to Agra but we had to make a detour because of some roadworks. By the time we arrived at the hotel in Agra, it was way past 4.00pm and lunch was long over. The cafeteria staff though were kind enough to prepare for us a lovely and sumptuous meal and we ate hungrily. It had been a long time since breakfast and even at the rest area we didn't eat anything.
The guide told us we would have to hurry to see the Taj Mahal as it closed its doors for visitors at 5.30 pm. So after a hurried meal and and clean up we were taken to see the Taj Mahal.
|The Taj Mahal seen from the Western gate|
We arrived just before closing time. It was really lucky for us because there were easily thousands of people once we were inside. Traveling into the huge grounds was by electric tram. It deposited us just outside the gates and security was really tight. In fact there were 3 levels of security checks - before the entrance, at mid entrance and just before the gate itself. Even the gate ( there are 4 gates - east, west, north and south) was most impressive. It was really huge and once inside, the grounds were sprawling. In the distance, one can see fountains and reflecting pools, right in the middle of the Taj Mahal.
I think it is the most glorious monument I have ever seen in my life! Glowing white and pink in the light of the setting sun, here is this grand gesture of a love that is lost which has lasted for centuries.