Taj Mahal (Photo credit: impeltola)
The first morning we climbed up to the rooftop observatory of our hotel for our first view of the Taj Mahal (“Taj”) – it was foggy so we saw little more than the outline. That afternoon from across the river, we had some wonderful distance views of the Taj that were fantastic for photographs, the sun was now starting to set and we could see the colours in the marble changing slightly. Next morning, we were at the front of the queue to enter the Taj at 6.30 AM. It was so foggy that within the Taj complex, a tourist asked our guide for directions to the Taj – we were several hundred yards from the Taj but it was invisible! Anyway, despite the fog, we made our way to the main structure and entered the interior way before the crowds, so we had much time to see the wonderful architecture, marble carvings and paintings. It took 22 years and 20,000 men to build this magnificent structure. The stunning white marble was transported over 200 miles by around a thousand elephants. It was commissioned in the mid-17th century, by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, for his wife. The second evening, we returned to the Taj, for some spectacular sunset views. Fortunately, the fog had lifted mid-morning and it was sunny. We could see the changing colors of the marble at different points. Suddenly, it became pink and then cream and, of course, white – depending on which angle you are looking at it, then you see the glistening marble in the sun light, like millions of crystals, all shining together.
In our first afternoon, we visited Agra Fort which is an outstanding example of Mughal architecture. Agra Fort was the seat and the stronghold of the Mughal Empire for generations. The structure owes its origins to Akbar who erected the walls and gates and the first buildings on the eastern banks of Yamuna River. Later Shah Jehan was responsible for the impressive quarters and the mosque and Aurangzeb introduced the outer ramparts. Afterwards we visited Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb, an enormous structure in marble, a showpiece of Mughal art. Completed in 1628, before the Taj, it is the first complete marble structure of that period.
The afternoon of the second day, we visited Fatehpur Sikri. This famous Mughal legacy, was built by Great Mughal Emperor, Akbar, as was his capital and palace in the late 16th century. The breathtaking, abandoned city, built in red sandstone, glows red under the sun – it’s under 40 kilometers from Agra. This is a truly extraordinary place to wander around, with its many buildings in near perfect condition.
Despite the morning fog, we were delighted and privileged that we had visited Agra and the Taj Mahal – we understood why it had become one of the seven wonders of the modern world. We reflected that the skills of the thousands of master craftsmen are no longer available to build similar structures. Sadly, these days
architects rely on steel, concrete and glass but modern buildings will surely not last as long as the amazingly beautiful Taj! That stands in all of its glory, as if a wonderful fairy tale.
Our photos and video footage will follow but meanwhile open this link for an some amazing photos of Agra in the public domain!