The Taj Mahal
Our journey to Agra began with a 2 am wake up call and some strong starbucks coffee to get our systems running after a short night. Our driver was outside the hotel just before 3 am and we headed south towards Agra picking up our guide Pushpendra on the way. Push and I had met almost 6 years ago when he and I embarked on a memorable day long exploration of Old Delhi. It was lovely seeing Push again and we reminisced about our day together on the way south to Agra. After a nap, a chai marsala tea woke us up quite nicely and set the stage for a truly memorable day.
Push was a major guide of dignitaries wishing to see the sites in and around Delhi during the recent G20 meetings in Delhi and is known to many in the area as a guide of VIP’s. Even though we are very much not VIP’s we got the VIP treatment all day, walking right past long lines, being able to access lovely washrooms and generally being very well taken care of. Push, you are the best and if any of my readers are thinking of a trip to Delhi or the Golden Triangle I highly recommend Pushpendra K. !!! You can find him at toursbylocals.com
The Taj Mahal – how to explain it – when I first saw it almost 6 years ago now it had an impact on me that few other sites have had. The building, born out of the love of a man for a woman set me back on my heels and I consider it a holy place, unlike any other. Shah Jahan first saw his future wife Mumtaz in a bazaar when he was 14 and she 13. They married 5 years later and she was at his side until she passed away due to complications during the birth of her 14th child. Watching the sun rise over Shah Jahan’s memorial to her is like nothing else.
We spent a glorious 2 hours walking around the site and taking photos before heading off for an excellent Indian breakfast
The Red Fort
The Red Fort was our next stop. The Agra Red Fort is a UNESCO world heritage site and was renovated by the Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal fame. It was built by the Mughals and served as the main residence for the Mughal dynasty until 1638 when the capital shifted to Delhi. This is where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son and lived out his days in an upper floor set of rooms. His one request was that he would be able to see the Taj Mahal from all the windows of his rooms.
Once out of the Red Fort we headed for some retail therapy and ended up having a very rewarding afternoon. The reputable stores selling textile, gemstone and stone carving on marble with semi-precious stone inlays are outstanding and well worth visiting. The textile store was amazing, weavers using patterns and traditions originating from Persian carpet makers, adapted over the years incorporating many of the designs and patterns we saw on the walls of the Taj Mahal. This cooperative is sponsored by the Indian Government to encourage weavers to continue these traditional methods and to support a unique weaving industry in this part of India. Fibres used included sheep wool and silk coloured with natural dyes. Many of these amazing pieces take one or more years to complete, with larger carpets being worked on by up to three weavers at a time, making single or double knots to achieve the designs.
Another government sponsored cooperative showcased the art of white marble carving with semi-precious stone inlays with patterns and designs found on in the Taj Mahal. This is a closed group of artists passing on the secrets and trades of their families who are descendants from the original Persian artists who worked on the Taj Mahal.
We left Agra mid afternoon after a wonderful day and headed for the airport in Delhi. We stopped for another Chai tea after reaching the outskirts of the city from one of the city’ s best Chai tea shops open 24/7. Refreshed we headed north.
Our flight to Toronto is delayed by a couple of hours but we hope that our suitcases will make the trip connecting through Toronto!
It has been an amazing trip and thank you for following along with us! Namaste!!!