Julie, Jessica, Yamilee, Christina (visiting MIT photographer), Dhirani, Musheer, and I rented a 'minivan' taxi and driver for the day to go to Agra. The drive from Delhi to Agra took about 4 hours starting at 5:30am. The first site we visited was a "magnificent fortifed ghost city" that was the Mughal emporer's (Akbar) capitol for all of 1571 to 1585. This emporer died and the city was abandoned because of water shortages. Akbar had 3 wives: one Chritian, one Muslim and one Hindu, and each wife had her own mini-palace. He also had about 800 concubines. The palaces are all decorated with intricate wall-carvings in red sandstone and the layout includes many couryards that leave the area feeling open and spacious. This short-lived capitol was built adjacent to the town Fatehpur Sikri, which is about 40km away from Agra. This site was especially enjoyable because there were so few visitors.
Jama Masjid is a large mosque with Hindu and Persian design elements. There are no minarets (tall towers), but these mini-domes (from which lanterns are hung) line the top of the entire mosque wall. This is a picture of 54 m high Buland Darwaza (Visctory Gate) that celebrates one of Akbar's military vistories.
After lunch at Fatehpur Sikri we headed back to Agra to visit Agra Fort, a fort and palace complex begun by Akbar in 1595 and extensively added to by his grandson Shah Jahan, whose favorite material was white marble (and who also built the Taj Mahal). When Shah Jahan's son seized power in 1658, Agra Fort became Shah Jahan's prison for 8 years...could have been much worse though...I think he still at least 350 concubines. Here we see the entrance to one of teh first palaces we looked at. Intricate carvings and stone lattices all over the place!
After an already long day it was time to head to the Taj! Securty to pretty tight. As you walk toward the Taj Mahal you go through a large, dark gate, and similar to the treasury in Petra, Jordan, a view of the Taj Mahal reveals itself in full splendor. There were a lot more people here, than at the other two sites, as expected, but I am still suprised at how few foreigners I see. During the work week we see no foreigners and even at India's biggest tourist attraction, I only noticed about 30 obvious non-Indians. On the west side of the Taj, there is a red sandstone mosk and on the East side of the Taj is a mirror-image of the mosque (for symmetry :) Both the inside and outside of the Taj Mahal is adorned with beautiful patterns of semi-precious stone inlay and teh inside is also decorated with semi-translucent white marble with carved flowers ( a lot of irises). The Taj mahal was built for the wife of Shah Jahan after she died givign birth to their 14th child.
Here I am with the obligatory me-and-Taj picture...
The Taj Mahal was built on the bank of the Yamuna river, which was looking very beautiful as the sun dipped lower in the sky.
All in all, a really fabulous day even including the Indian policeman who asked for a really big bribe because our driver's license plate was the wrong color and he saw a bunch of foreigners in the car...first hand experience of police force corruption!...what a big day...it is 11am and I think the rest of the group is just starting to stir. Love, Catherine