Saturday, October 19, 2013

Agra, Uttar Pradesh

On September 29 we met our driver for the next 7 days - Gulab Singh. He was nice, safe, and friendly - I would highly recommend him if you're looking to book transportation through Rajasthan. Our first stop was Agra and the main thing to do here is to see the Taj Mahal - a mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal (she died while giving birth to their 14th child). All the things we read and a few people we talked to said this could be a day trip from Delhi but 3-4 hours driving each way wasn't appealing to us. So, we opted to stay one night in Agra and get up early to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise before starting our Rajasthan tour.

The drive to Agra wasn't bad despite some torrential rain; we stopped a little more than half way to have a late lunch and then skipped the Agra Fort because it's exactly like the Red Fort we saw in Delhi.

On the road

Flooding on the roads

It's not everyday you see a monkey wearing lipstick and a dress

Lots of bulls in the middle of the road

So safe

We were welcomed with a tilaka upon arrival at the Wyndham Grand Agra

A 6am pick up meant a 5:30am alarm - yay! I had hoped for good sunrise photos over the Taj Mahal but it was overcast. I was still able to get some good photos though.

Taj means crown and Mahal means palace so Taj Mahal literally means Crown Palace. Made of white marble, the mausoleum took about 21 years to build by thousands (roughly 20,000) in memory of the emperor's third wife. A love story at the core.

This aggressive monkey climbed down from the roof and stole an apple from the lady in front of me by jumping at her

Nice reflection shot

Yay, we're at the Taj Mahal!

Arch framing

The Great gate (Darwaza-i rauza) - gateway to the Taj Mahal

A closer view

I had to do it...Paul didn't want to

Another reflection shot

From the side

Marble, sandstone, and onyx inlay; the sandstone and onyx are each single pieces carved for the Taj Mahal mosque


A rare shot with nobody around

This monkey almost looks human

Door on one of the 4 minarets framing the Taj Mahal

Entering the Taj Mahal - no pictures allowed inside

More marble inlay using precious and semi-precious gemstones

Taj Mahal mosque

Weird looking birds above us

A different perspective

Leaving the Taj Mahal

With some flowers

One last shot

Cheeky monkeys

Before we set off to Jaipur, we stopped at a shop where descendants of the Taj Mahal craftsmen still make marble inlay art in the same way created for the Taj Mahal. These artists are called lapidaries and the inlay work they do is with semi-precious and precious gemstones (i.e. onyx, turquoise, mother of pearl, lapis lazuli).

A lapidary shaping the gemstones to prepare for inlay

These are the precious and semi-precious gemstones used

They cover the white marble in a temporary color so they can carve out the design

After all the gemstones are in place, they wash off the color

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