Agra & The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, a marble mausoleum built on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra, is one of the most impressive monuments left behind by the Mughal Empire who ruled most of India from the 15th-18th Centuries. It was constructed in 1643 by Shah Jahan when his favourite wife died, and he chose to build a monument to remember her. It is sometimes considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was named as one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Even with expectations held this high, the Taj Mahal doesn’t disappoint.

The downside to having one of the most beautiful buildings in India is that a lot of the undesirable elements that follow closely behind are here too. There are 7-8 Million tourists visit the Taj Mahal each year. The locals here are very persistent and there is a gauntlet of scams, touts, pickpockets, souvenir salespeople and other hassles that one has to fight through in order to visit. Everyone wants a piece of your wallet. India is already a pretty hectic and confusing place to travel to sometimes, and Agra is this India on steroids.

We arrived at the train station around 2 in the morning, and instead of venturing outside we found a place to close our eyes for a few hours, as we wanted to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. We had been traveling around India for a couple weeks already, and many other travelers had horror stories from their visits. We came to Agra with a plan. We worked out a deal with a taxi driver to be our exclusive driver for the day, with the one rule that he only takes us where we wanted to go.

Even with this agreement, he tried to tell us that he “had” to take us somewhere for lunch before we went to the Taj Mahal, but after threatening to get out of his taxi, he decided that our plan was going to work for him too. We first visited the Taj Mahal for sunrise, watching the marble structure change colours as the light slowly lifted into the sky. We spent a few hours wandering around the site before moving on to the Agra “Red” Fort.

One of the best parts about visiting the Red Fort and Taj Mahal is that the madness of the city is left behind. It is a sanctuary from people trying to sell you something, and you have time to wander around at your own pace and enjoy the monuments.

While inside the Red Fort, we learned a little bit more about the history of the Mughal Empire. The Red Fort was an important ceremonial location for the Mughal Emperors, especially while the city was the capital of the Empire. It was rebuilt during the 1500’s by one of the great Mughals Akbar. It was improved upon by all that followed after him.

Shah Jahan is known as one of the greatest rules of the Mughal Empire and helped to bring in it’s Golden Age, building many of Agra’s greatest buildings, including the Taj Mahal. He was eventually deposed by one of his son’s, who imprisoned him in the Red Fort for the last 8 years of his life, where he could only look out the window at his great achievement. Upon his death, he was buried inside the Taj Mahal next to his wife.

One of the biggest negatives to my trip to Agra wasn’t the hassles of the city, but instead was the dirt that had accumulated on my digital camera’s sensor during the last week of travel, so, unfortunately, a lot of my pictures from here are quite “dirty”. One of the positives about this is that it allows me to go back to the Ta Mahal for another visit someday in the future. I’m sure that Norma won’t have a problem with that either!

 

Agra and the Taj Mahal:

 

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Taj Mahal. 2006.

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The Red Fort. 2006.

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Taj Mahal. 2006.

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Taj Mahal. 2006.

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Inside the Red Fort. 2006.

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Taj Mahal. 2006.

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The walls and towers of the Red Fort. 2006.

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Taj Mahal. 2006.

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The Taj Mahal from the Red Fort. 2006.

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The Taj Mahal. 2006.

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The Taj Mahal from the Red Fort. 2006.

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Taj Mahal. 2006.

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Taj Mahal. 2006.

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Taj Mahal. 2006.

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Taj Mahal. 2006.

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