We had already spoken to you about the Taj Mahal, although we still had not explained the sensations we experienced when we first saw it. It's been over two years since we made the trip and we still remember that moment very clearly. When we talk about Agra, inescapably, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is the city where the Taj Mahal is located. Without a doubt, the monument, that observing it, has more seduced and impressed me.
We know that we cannot write about the Taj Mahal and everything it represents. We know that it is one of the emblems of India. The day before, the train had left almost 5 hours late and that day we had already resigned ourselves to the fact that we had totally lost it. If the train had arrived as scheduled (5:50 am), we would have taken the opportunity to visit Fatehpur Sikri and the Agra Fort in the afternoon. But as it was not the case, these two enclaves would have to be left in the folder of pending matters.
The problem was not only the delay with which the train left but the one that came to accumulate during the night because of the fog. It was 12 noon and, we still had three long hours ahead. Hours we spend on eating and talking.
1 Day in Agra
At 15:45 our train finally arrived at the Agra Fort station. The station of Agra Fort is much smaller than that of Varanasi and is just in front of the Fort. At the exit, we expected to meet the taxi driver from our hotel in the city, but it was not like that.
When I made the reservation, I told them that we would probably arrive at the Agra Cantt station, but when we bought the tickets we saw that we are to arrive at Agra Fort. Even so, it seems that they did not remember. Therefore, when I called the hotel they told me that the taxi driver was at the other station and that we took one of the many insistent taxis outside.
In the end, we went with a taxi driver who was insisting and hanging around for a while we finished solving what had happened with the people of the hotel. While we were moving forward like in a rally, he started insisting that we hire him the next day because he could take us to visit many things and such. But as soon as we got to our accommodation, he left.
Our accommodation in Agra was in a homestay. The house is located on the outskirts of Agra. Our room was spacious and had a bathroom, although they have just done some work and the wall was not painted at all. It was the usual routine. We arrived and left our bags at the hotel. We leave to go watch the sunset over the Taj Mahal.
Quickly, we called a tuk-tuk and, without further delay, we go there, as it was about dusk at that time. The tuk-tuk took about 20 minutes to reach the Mehtab Bagh, a park that Emperor Babur built on the east bank of the Yamuna River and in which to enter you have to pay an entry fee. But our driver told us to walk on a side path to the park and from the end of this, we would have an unpayable view for free.
We walked the path and there it was, it seemed very unreal. So much time planning the trip and finally we were before the Taj Mahal. The sun was reflected in the whitish marble and there, in the tranquility of our hidden place, we could enjoy the view. Of course, we could not move much, because almost the entire enclosure is surrounded by a fence.
In spite of everything, it was worth spending almost a day on a train, having to run and even being able to spend a short time there to finally see the Taj Mahal. That afternoon we decided that it was best to see it first thing in the morning and we crossed our fingers so that the fog would not bother us the next day.
When it was almost dark, we went back to the tuk-tuk that took us home. We had told them that we would have dinner in the restaurant. The curious thing about the house is that, apart from the family, there are enough employees who live there. I would say 24 hours a day and they take care of everything.
That night we shared a table with a couple of Australians. It was one of the best evenings of the trip because we had a great time talking and eating homemade Indian food. After dinner, we went to the room to sleep. It was a bit cold, but it was much more equipped than the Varanasi hotel. So we did not feel cold, which was a big change after three days of almost being frozen.
2 Days in Agra
We get up very early (4:30 am). I did not want to miss the sunrise seeing one of the seven wonders of the world! We want to walk around it without so many people. We arrived at the same time as the first rays of the sun. We had to buy the tickets and pass the security controls. We knew what we were going to see, we had seen it thousands of times in photos and videos, but the simple fact of being close, made our anxiety increase at every step.
Once inside the complex, a new arcade gets in our way. At a rapid pace, we crossed it. And there he was, majestic and solemn. Immense and with a shining white. It took us 3 months to come and meet him and it was worth it. We both had our eyes wide open despite the dream. We could not stop looking at it. It is a beauty that captures and captivates. It is much more impressive than what is seen in the photos. Just when we had it in front we realized its immensity. The guide begins an explanation that I believe almost nobody listens to because we have all five senses in the mausoleum.
Describing the Taj Mahal is not easy. How to put into words everything that the place symbolizes? But let's go little by little. We all saw some picture or postcard of the white marble monument, but what do we know about it? It is on the banks of the Yamuna River, a tributary of the Ganges also considered a sacred river.
One of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen, it has undoubtedly been the Sunrise in the Taj Mahal during a cold winter morning with the Taj Mahal submerged in the mist. No doubt a sunrise like this inspired the Nobel Prize in Indian literature, Rabindranath Tagore, to call the Taj Mahal "A tear on the cheek of time". Then I leave the legend and capture some images of that unforgettable dawn. The sunrise was spectacular because the fog and the first rays of sunlight gave the place a magical touch.
The Taj Mahal is the best-known image of India. Everyone has seen it in a book, on TV or on the Internet. Before arriving, you think that the place will be full of tourists and that it is not so much. "I've seen it a thousand times", "too typical for me" and all that string of silly sentences based on preconceived ideas, very stupid and without basis.
The people love it. It is their most famous monument, and people are proud of it. For that reason, they try to give a certain theatricality to the visit to create expectation. They do it in such a way that you want to see it as soon as possible.
We remember that to access the Taj Mahal we had to catch an electric bus. The pollution was taking its toll on this wonder and little by little it was turning yellow. So the people thought that such an affront could not be tolerated and decided to install the electric buses and move the factories in the area to another part of Agra. But let's go back to that moment. Step one, get to the electric buses. Step two, overcome the walls of the enclosure. Step three, access through the gates of the enclosure. And in each step a story, a detail, a compliment. I want to enter now.
Between nerves and cravings suddenly it is before us. We cross the front door and we see it's perfection, its symmetry, its whiteness. We feel microscopic and stupid. How could we doubt the Taj Mahal? Because it is unique, and although you have seen it a thousand times on TV, in books or on the Internet it removes your hiccups and automatically sketches a smile and mumbles a compliment. At that moment, you forget the tourists, the long trip, the sellers. It is there. You have it face to face and nobody is going to steal that moment. It will be yours forever.
After the initial shock, we feel the need to get close, to touch, to feel, and to be with us. And while we walk we realize that it is different in each step. It becomes larger and less symmetrical. However, we look at the details and like them. The marble is snowy, elegant, robust, hypnotic.
Once before it, we touch it and discover that the brightness of distance had a trick. The white breaks with a thousand flashes. The marble is set with thousands of precious stones and verses. After seeing it and touching it, it makes us want to walk, to surround it, to go down to its entrails, to go from here to there looking for a detail, a defect, but it does not have it. Round and round, up and down, sitting, standing. We want to stay there for a long time, face to face, you and him.
The main building is flanked by two symmetrical buildings. To the west is the mosque, and opposite a guest house that is no longer used. Both are built with red bricks and white marble domes. Inside is the burial chamber. There are the cenotaphs of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz. It is surrounded by an exquisite lattice carved in marble, a work of art, I was spellbound.
For my taste, there was too much noise. There were children running around there and although the guard ordered to be silent, the silence lasted a short time. Seeing it alone and in silence must be an incredible experience. A staircase leads to the tombs containing the remains of the emperor and his wife, but the crypt is flooded and therefore cannot be visited. Also, behind the Taj Mahal, there is the Yamuna River, which offers beautiful views at dusk.
We see the gardens and in the background, as if floating, the Taj Mahal, at that moment the heart beats faster and the emotion overwhelms us. The ponds reflect the silhouette of the most emblematic building in India.
The day was coming to an end and with a feeling of having seen the most beautiful monument in the world. I have seen many but this one far surpassed others. It's hard to leave these emblematic places that you've been dreaming about having before your eyes and that unfortunately, you're never there as long as you want. It happened to me in the Egyptian pyramids, in Perito Moreno, in the Grand Canyon, and in many other places, because you do not know if you will return and you would stay there for a long time.
You never get tired of seeing those wonders, but there is no other thing to keep in mind. The images in the eye and in the soul give emotions that have given you to be there and pull forward with the consolation that other wonders await you. In this case, at least I knew I would enjoy the sunset. Even so, we once again admire the beauty it gives off.
Once outside it was time to find the guide and he soon appeared thank goodness! When we went out we went back to the hotel to have breakfast and to take a shower. In a short time, they were picking us up again to go to the Agra Fort, the other jewel in the crown.
This is one of the most beautiful Mughal forts in the country. The construction of this impregnable citadel of red sandstone, on the banks of the Yamuna, was undertaken by Emperor Akbar in 1565. It was later enlarged, notably by his grandson Shah Jahan, who used white marble, his predilection. Originally a military building, the fort was transformed into a palace by Shah Jahan, then became its gilded prison for 8 years after his son Aurangzeb dethroned him in 1658.
The massive double ramparts, more than 20 meters high, measure 2.5 km in circumference. The Yamuna originally flowed along the east wall, where the ghat was reserved for the emperors. Inside, a maze of buildings forms a city in the city, with vast underground sections. Many buildings have been destroyed over the years by Nadir Shah, the Marathi, the Jat and finally by the British, who turned it into a garrison. Even today, a large part of the fort is used by the army.
Upon leaving we tell the guide that we want to go to the hotel to enjoy the rest of the day on our own. The rest of the tour was aimed at watching a dance show in the afternoon. It seems that the guide at this point has captured what we want. We take a shower and go out to the street. We have lunch with white rice and mutton curry and a kind of stew.
On the outskirts of the hotel, there were tuk-tuks and we started negotiating with one. We negotiated the price to take us to the Baby Taj, to the park in front of the Taj Mahal to see the sunset from there, to the Kinari Bazar and back to the hotel.
The Baby Taj is located on the left bank of the Yamuna River. It is the precursor of the Taj Mahal. It represents the transition between the traditional Mughal architecture that used red clay and a new period in which the main material is marble. It is built on a platform and its walls are made of marble from Rajasthan and are decorated with inlays of precious and semiprecious stones that form geometric and natural drawings.
There was hardly anyone and it was a pleasure to visit it alone. We have to take off your shoes to enter the mausoleum. In the Taj Mahal I was left wanting to walk barefoot, but here I did not deprive myself of feeling the hot marble under my feet. It was an added pleasure. We walked for a while and went back to the tuk-tuk to get back to the hotel at night.
Maybe you do not like these famous monuments, the crowds overwhelm you and you think I've spent a little time. These are our memories of the Taj Mahal. Maybe you have others and they are not like mine. I only advise you not to stay without seeing it. Good or bad, everyone deserves to fulfill the dream of seeing the Taj Mahal.
3 Days in Agra
I woke up pretty late. At 9 o'clock in the morning we got up and went to breakfast at the hotel terrace. In front of us was the Taj Mahal asking to be enjoyed for the last time while we ate juice and toasted bread with butter and sugar. We finished our morning breakfast. Hot and sweaty, I took a shower.
I got dressed and went out and said goodbye to one of the most important monuments in the world. We went to take the car that we hired for the whole day. Our driver took us first to Fatehpur Sikri where a guide told us the whole story of Emperor Akbar, his parties and his many women.
We were able to discover the Buland Darwaza and Jama Masjid. The exterior of the mosque is modest but the interior reveals a great wealth of ornamentation: floral arabesques and intricate geometric designs bring a majestic charm. At the bottom of the courtyard, a tunnel allegedly joins the Agra Fort 38 km away.