Agra

After a 6 hour train ride from Mussoorie to Delhi, we hopped on another train to Agra! This one was much quicker, only 1.5 hours. And BOY did I not miss the heat of Delhi/Agra. It felt even more oppressive and heavy than before, and I guess I had completely forgotten how intense it was. But the train was quite pleasant, and soon we were in Agra, a city of about 1.5 million people, and the location of one of the New 7 Wonders of the World: the Taj Mahal. We walked onto the Taj grounds and were faced with a large red sandstone courtyard, with a huge entrance way on one side.IMG_8888.jpg

IMG_8889This structure was built to represent a veil, similar to how a beautiful woman would wear a veil in the Mughal time,in order to cover her beauty. This structure veils the beauty of the Taj Mahal. But this entrance itself was gorgeous as well, with intricate floral designs, small minarets, a bunch of tiny domes and arabic verses framing the entrance.IMG_8897.jpg

IMG_8898.jpgYou couldn’t see the Taj Mahal at all beforehand, but once you walk through….

IMG_8906.jpgWOW. The Taj Mahal was everything and then some. From far away it looks almost fake. So incredibly white and beautiful (except for the scaffolding but that’s fine it was still AMAZING). It was also not as crowded as I was expecting, so that was a huge plus. We walked along the gardens, and the water was SO blue we were all tempted to jump in, but that’s a big no-no apparently.IMG_9073.jpg

The actual tomb structure is flanked by a mosque on the left.

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But then due to issues of symmetry, the same structure was built on the right, but isn’t used as a mosque. Instead, it was just used as a “guest house”…

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yes, this is the guest house

 

So the Taj Mahal itself means Crown Jewel, and is absolutely gorgeous. It’s everything I could have dreamed of. I guess I hadn’t really realized this, but it’s not completely white. It was built of ivory marble stone, the most expensive and valuable stone at the time, and then inlaid with simple yet beautiful floral vine designs and Arabic script.img_9003.jpg

The floral patterns are yellows, greens and reds, made up of jade, yellow marble, jasper, and onyx.

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I couldn’t take pictures inside, but it was insanely beautiful. It was rather dark, as there was only one lantern that did nothing to light the room but was still gorgeous, and then the actual tomb of Shah Jahan and his wife were in the middle. Both tombs were inlaid with these same beautiful, delicate floral designs, but much more fine than the ones on the outside. The walls were also covered in them. It was all so simple, yet so gorgeous.

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One of the four minarets

 

The whole Taj was built by Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, in the mid 1600s, who was his second and very favorite wife. During the birth of their FOURTEENTH child, the queen died, and made him promise three things:

1. that he would never marry again

2. that he would take care of their children

3. and that he would create a monument that showed the world their intense passion and love

So he built the Taj Mahal, and it NO DOUBT reveals their passion and love. It took around 22 years to build, 52.8 billion rupees ($827 USD), and around 20,000 artisans

IMG_8997All of the little details and carvings are a testament to their love:) 

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Side view of the Taj (and me)

We then headed to a quick lunch, and then onto Agra Fort, another very cool structure built by the Mughal empire. IMG_9087Built in the 16th century, it was the imperial city of Mughal emperors. It had a TON of defense mechanisms, but funnily enough never actually ever attacked. Inside were a number of palaces where different members of the royal family had lived.IMG_9116

This was an old library. The king was actually illiterate but loved being read to, and filled his library with tons of books. The paint and decorations of the library are still quite visible, with gold and pink designs still showing.IMG_9139IMG_9144

This was a marble palace built within the fort, also built by Shah Jahan, showing even more love for white marble.IMG_9179.jpg

IMG_9182IMG_9189Again SO much detail in every aspect of these structures, with tiny little colorful inlays in all of the walls.IMG_9197

IMG_9202At this point we were VERY tired and hot, and hopped back on a train back to Delhi, then got ready for our long flight back to the US, so that pretty much wraps up our India adventure!! It was such an amazing experience and interesting to see a culture SO different from our own, and we were all very moved by everything we saw, and know we will be coming back at some point in the future!

Thanks for checking in, and stay tuned for some Minnesooooota adventures that are bound happen this summer:)

-SK

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