The Taj Mahal

After having lunch, I used the ATM to withdraw cash before we visited the Taj. The driver dropped us off near the Taj and asked us to take a rickshaw for the rest of the way. It seems taxis are not allowed near the Taj because of the pollution that may spoil the beauty and splendour of the Taj. I was furious by then, and so did not believe him at all but got into the rickshaw, he chose for us. We had to pay the rickshaw-wallah twenty bucks for the round-trip. I felt terrible b’cos I was sure the taxi-wallah would take a cut from tht too.

As he took us slowly to the Taj, I thought we should be able to see it but it was completely hidden. He dropped us at one of the entrances which was quite huge. Before we walked in, we were asked to keep our bags and other valuables outside. The Arien had brought his laptop along and we were totally tense ’bout leaving it behind. But, the guy at the counter was nice and locked it up safely for us. We had an hour before the Taj closed its doors to its visitors and so naturally, we were in a rush. As we walked in, suddenly, the Taj appears and simultaneously surprises and amazes you.

As soon as we crossed the entrance, we were approached by a zillion photographers who offered to take our snap with the Taj for a small sum. Because we were so enamoured by the Taj, we shook our heads and pushed past them so we could get closer to the Taj. It looked magnificent, huge, and very white. To get a closer look, we had to climb a few stairs that were on the side, to reach the base. We were asked to remove our footwear and because there was a lot of water, most of the folks were wearing something that looked a lot like shower caps on their feet. We decided to walk barefoot. It was a beautiful experience. We took a zillion photographs. It was quite humid and not the perfect day for experiencing the Taj but the entire experience was so amazing tht we were wordless for a looong time.

We walked all-around while staring awe-struck and saw the yamuna river on the banks of which the Taj is built. We realized tht it would soon be time to leave and we were yet to get a snap of ourselves with the Taj. The Arien wanted the photographer to take snaps on his camera and also to take the same snap on our camera. This took a few minutes because the poor fellow did not understand wht the Arien wanted. Finally, he agreed. We took quite a few cute pictures in front of the Taj and somehow the photographer made it look like we were one of the few folks visiting the Taj.

The Arien, took pictures of a cute pair of birds, doves, I think, atop one of the trees in the garden of the Taj. I was surprised that he even had eyes for anything other than the Taj but then thts him 🙂 We walked out slowly, picked up the laptop and paid the guy sm extra money (for chai, he said) for doing his job, and got into the rickshaw (the rickshaw-wallah was waiting patiently for us).

The taxi-driver insisted on taking us to a government-owned shop where we could buy genuine stuff. (I was not too sure but the Arien asked me to be patient). Surprisingly, we found a quilt made from some bamboo material which was very nice and though it was expensive, we went ahead with the purchase. We decided to gift it to the senior Arien. By the time, we left the shop, we had very less time for the return Shatabdhi but we managed to make it. A fantastic day that began with a Shatabdhi to Agra and ended with a Shatabdhi to Delhi.

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Fatehpur Sikhri – Part II

After taking a dozen or so pictures of the monuments, including the central platform that was joined by four bridges which was supposed to be used by the poet Tansen to regale the king, we had to pose for an equal number of filmi snaps which our guide insisted on taking. (Nope – Not sharing!)

We were then taken by auto to the Jama Masjid that housed the famous Salim Chishti’s tomb. It was hardly a few minutes by walk but it was awfully sunny and so we were thankful for the auto. The guide accompanied us as we climbed the stairs to one of the entrances to the Jama Masjid and we could just about see the Bulund Darwaza from outside.

The moment we were inside, we realized that it was quite unlike other monuments. It was filthy and stank. I could not believe that a place of worship could be this dirty. We were taken in a roundabout route across a lot of graves to a guy who was selling us a shawl that we should place atop the tomb. The Arien flatly refused to enter the tomb and the man who was selling the shawl slowly lost his temper and was almost rude. It was ob. the guide had a sm sort of understanding with the shawl-seller. When he realized tht the Arien was not going to budge, the seller told me that I should go instead. I was not so sure that I wanted to go inside the Tomb alone. Both the guide and the shawl-seller stopped short of calling us “Rascala” for not helping them in their money-making scheme.

After taking a picture of the Salim Chishti tomb, more to show no disrespect, we wanted to leave. The Salim Chishti tomb was of a brilliant white colour and looked totally out of place inside the masjid and looked very serene and peaceful.

 I was quite tired by this time of our guide, the masjid, Fatehpur Sikri and hungry as well – it was way past our lunch time and we had had breakfast at the Delhi railway station. As soon as we got back into our car, we asked the driver to stop at a hotel for lunch before we reached Agra. He selected a hotel that was quite expensive but did not accept cards. We had no option but to leave because we did not carry enough cash. We walked out in the hot sunny day to find the driver missing. He came running after a few minutes with his lunch parcel. Ob. he had an understanding with the hotel guy.  Grrr.. we finally had to have lunch at some roadside dhaba.

Fatehpur Sikhri

Finally, today was the day we would get to see the Taj Mahal. We were travelling to Agra by the Shatapdhi Express and would return to Delhi the same day. I was so excited ’bout this one-day trip that I insisted that the Arien take a pic of our co-passengers who were travelling with us tht day! (You can see that one passenger is not so happy ’bout being part of my random snap). Travelling from Delhi to Agra by train is a two hour trip. The moment we got off the train and walked towards the exit, we were almost kidnapped by the taxi drivers.  I wanted to take a regular bus tour but the Arien fell for the blaaah(est) selling line : AC sir, Indica sir, only for two of you sir, come sir.  The taxi driver decided the agenda for us – we were going to Fatehpur Sikhri first. It is around 40 kms to Fatepur and the drive was awful. We were dropped off at the entrance where an auto and a guide had to be paid for (again the Arien was sold on the arguments given by the taxi driver) as yellow board cars are not allowed after a particular location. (Again, who knows if that was true at all).

We walked into a courtyard that seemed like it had walked straight out of the bollywood movie, Jodhaa Akbar. This was the Diwan-Khana-I-Aam (Hall of Public Audience) where the aam junta (common people) could meet with King Akbar. It was a brilliant sunny day which was perfect for pictures. The arien was quite busy. We also saw the beautiful Diwan-E-Khaas (Hall of Private Audience). I think the guide mentioned that this was where Akbar met with his various wives and important people.  We also saw the Panch Mahal, which was a five storied mansion. The entire place is quite huge and our guide decided which ones were important and gave us a wild tale ’bout the building that had us rolling our eyes.

We were shown the Haathi gate (Elephant gate) which looked more like a watch tower than a gate for the elephant. In fact, he said something about a rouge elephant that was buried there. (It was hot and we were gullible). We were also taken to a building known simply as Aankh-Micholi which was supposed to be used by the king to play hide and seek with his wives and concubines (I was very sure this was his invention but it was true).

We were also shown the sleeping quarters of Akbar. It was another one of those “rolling eyes” moment because the King would have needed an elephant to get on top of his bed. The Arien burst out laughing. It was cooler here and so we took some snaps more to satisfy the guide than anything else. I was glad that we were almost on our way out. We were also shown Jodhaa bai’s palace which was not so great. We were off to see Bulund Darwaza. All that comes in the next post — wait up 🙂