The Taj Mahal in Agra

The day started with a five hour drive from Delhi to Agra. When we arrived there was a sari rental shop next door to our hotel, so we both rented an outfit that included jewelry for 500rps or $7.80. We both packed super light, so it was nice to get a new outfit to wear for the day, especially for visiting the Taj Mahal. 

The first stop of the day was Agra Fort which was originally a military structure, but during Shah Jahan’s lifetime it was upgraded into a large multi palace complex. Currently only 20% of the giant complex is open to visitors. The Indian army now resides here, as well as active archeological sites where researchers are studying the large underground pathways that connect the city of Agra to Delhi. This is also where Shah Jahan son Aurangzeb imprisoned his father. 

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The Taj Mahal is a monument to the great love between the Mughal emperor Shah Jehan and his queen, Mumtaz Mahal. They could not bear to be parted and Mumtaz would often travel with her husband even into war. It was on one such campaign in 1631 that she died after giving birth to their 14th child.

Over the next 22 years Shah Jehan mourning his loss of his wife, employed the empire’s best architects, builders and craftsmen to design this vision in white marble, decorated with precious and semi-precious stones sourced from all over Asia. His vision was to construct a secondary Black Taj Mahal on the other side of the holy river of Yamuna and connect the two structures in a bridge. However Shah Jahan’s son saw this as a huge waste of the people’s money and deposed his father. 

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These two sites had the craziest number of local and foreign tourists, bus loads of them coming in from all parts of the world and every fighting for a good picture. All the sites that sold entrance tickets list three prices: Indian students, Indian, and Foreigners. The average prices in tickets is about 30rps for Indian and about 500rps for foreigner.s 

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Afterwards we visited a local marble handcraft shop (tourist shop) that showed us how the intricate stone in lay marble tiles are made. It’s a four man process 1. Designer 2. Etcher 3. precious stone cutting (jasper, pearl, turquoise, malachite, lápiz, and cerillion) and 4. Stone gluer. This is an Persian art form passed down by generation.

We learned that in each city we needed to find out what food they were known for and make sure to order it. Also that most restaurants serve Chinese food, so that’s an option if you’re not wanting the local cuisine. For dinner I ordered the local cuisine with Aloo Partha and vegetable kofta and Claudia had the parnarsay a mutton curry.