When I was 8, we learned in school the history of other cultures, religions, and famous landmarks around the world. The Taj Mahal was one of the subjects I remember very clearly, and we were finally going to go see it! This magnificent piece of architecture, rich with history and culture and known as one of the most famous buildings in the world.
7th December 2013
We rose early to see the Taj at sunrise. The night before we watched the sun set behind it in the gardens opposite the river. It was picturesque and my excitement was building to finally see this magnum opus of India. Like every morning, Rawat our driver was up and alert, hands behind his back with a smile on his face. – Read [part 1] to catch up on Rajendra Rawat’s driving services around Rajasthan and the Indian part of the Himalayas. –
Even though we left before dawn to queue up to see the Taj Mahal, it was still extremely busy with eager beavers like ourselves and photographers who wanted to capture The Taj in all it’s glory before the great herd of tourists came clambering in and filling up all the photograph space.
I’m pretty sure there are more than a few blog posts about this famous ivory-white marble mausoleum with the “same same but different” waffle, so here’s a shortlist of things to remember when visiting this truly extravagant piece of architecture:
“Tayne Travel Tips”
- Do what we did and get there EARLY. There will already be a crowd before the doors open at 6:30am and by 9am the masses will be in full force. So if you are a photographer and want a decent shot with minimal people or you would just prefer a more peaceful and leisurely mooch around the Taj, I would advise getting there pronto.
- You’ve heard me talk about this in a pervious post and you know how much I love it! So, if there are people selling Masala Chai in the queues while you wait, make the most of it! *DRIBBLE* – So tasty! –
- The ticket to get in costs 750 rupees for foreigners which is about £8.50/$11. When you get in you’re divided into queues by gender and searched so don’t take any lighters, anything sharp, flammable or any food. – We actually had a plastic frog that our nephews gave us to take with us on our travels (Froggy is his name) which got confiscated from us at the gates! But a lovely shop keep said he would look after it until we returned. and thus, started the photo game “Where’s Froggy?” –
- If you didn’t see the Taj in the gardens across the river and want a second chance to see it (preferably at sunset) then you know where to go. It only costs 100 rupees to enter and gives you another beautiful vista of the building. – Photography heaven! –
After spending the morning in the grounds of the Taj wandering around, listening to crude jokes about Princess Diana and the bench she was photographed on all those years ago by my future husband – don’t ask… – we then drove to Fatehpur Sikri.
When we got to the village West of Agra (about 40km), we were escorted on to a bus which drove us through the main market to the ancient site.
In a nut shell, the Emperor Akbar who reigned between 1571 and 1585 visited the village of Fatehpur Sikri and was blessed by an important dude called Sufi saint Shaikh Salim Chishti (whose tomb we visited also) and foretold the birth of an heir to the Mughal throne. When the prediction came true, Akbar there built his new capital of the Mughal Empire, although short-lived because the area suffered from water shortages and was soon abandoned shortly after his death.
This Indo-Islamic masterpiece hosts a stunning mosque and three palaces for each of Akbars favourite wives, one a Christian, the other a Hindu, and one a Muslim. – Dirty dog! –
We visited each of these sites, with a tour guide of course and we went on a pleasant walk through the site as he told us stories of the past and much of the history of the surrounding areas.
We then went to a site known by the locals as the Tomb of ‘The Holy Men’. Said to be miracle makers, people gather there to make offerings and wishes. Right in the centre of the site is a gorgeous white marble tomb where you can offer gifts like a silk sheet or flowers bought from the men selling them outside of the tomb – it felt a bit like a scam to me… But I guess they gotta do what they gotta do you get me?! –
If your are a couple and want to make a wish together – I thought this was beautiful – you can buy some string and each make your wishes, then tie them together whilst telling your partner your desires and fixing them to the fence inside the tomb.
Either way it is a nice gesture and something to remember when visiting the ancient site.
For some reason in India people do not like notes with defects so make sure that when you are haggling or negotiating a purchase that when the deal is finally made the money you hand over is not torn, defaced or damaged in anyway. It could come across as a huge insult. – I learnt this the hard way when I gave a child a damaged note, I will never forget that face…. –
Our day ended with good-byes from the locals and the onset of excitement for our next destination.
To be continued….