Agra, India and the Taj Mahal

2019 HAL World Cruise

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Day 2 of 3

Continuing our Incredible India-Taj Mahal Overland Adventure, we awake very early Saturday morning to board the train, Agra Gatimaan Express, departing at 7:00 am.  I must point out that distances in India are all relative.  Traffic is a major factor when it comes to getting around.  Sometimes, just going 5 miles can take an hour!!!!  And so, extra time is built into every schedule.  We made it to the station on time and boarded the train.  It only took 1 ¾ hours to reach Agra.  Using the GPS, Rog clocked our speed at nearly 100mph!!  We were in Agra before 10:00 am and immediately headed to the Taj!

The Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1631 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to hold the tomb of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal.  She died giving birth to their 14th child, Gauhara Begum.  Today, it also holds the remains of Shah Jahan.  The Taj is the centerpiece of a 42-acre complex that includes a mosque and a guest house set among formal gardens and enclosed by a crenelated wall on 3 sides and the Yamuna River on the fourth.  The mausoleum was essentially completed in 1643, but work continued for another 10 years on other pieces of the project.  By its completion in 1653, the project is estimated to have cost the equivalent of $827 million.  The Taj reflects and expands on the designs of earlier Persian and Mughal architecture; Humayun’s Tomb being the closest in design.  But the earlier structures were mostly constructed of red sandstone; Shah Jahan insisted on white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones.  The main chamber, the one that tourists are routed through, contains the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; the actual remains are at a lower level.  The Taj Mahal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.  It is thought to be the best example of Mughal architecture and is considered a symbol of India’s rich history.  The Taj Mahal attracts 8 million visitors a year and was declared one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” in 2007.

 

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After an early morning breakfast, we reach the Hazrat Nizamuddin Train Station for the 7:00 am departure of the Agra Gatimaan Express. We follow Nyron,the HAL Tour Manager to platform #4, car C-8. You can’t miss him; he’s wearing the green wristband!!!!
We pass thru several small towns on the ride to Agra.
We pass thru several small towns on the ride to Agra.
Some seem quite nice even if those sacred cows are roaming through backyards!
Some seem quite nice even if those sacred cows are roaming through backyards!
Other track-side towns are not so nice.  But the cows are still there!
Other track-side towns are not so nice. But the cows are still there!
I wonder if they eat garbage?
I wonder if they eat garbage?
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After arriving in Agra, we have a 20 minute bus ride and are dropped off near the entrance to the Taj Mahal. And so begins our 5-mile trek into the history of the Taj Mahal.
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First, we board tuk-tuks to transport us all to the first entrance gate where we pick -up our pre-ordered tickets. No gasoline engines are allowed inside the grounds of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Then, we walk to the West Gate.
Then, we walk to the West Gate.
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Now we spend 47 minutes in another line to enter the main compound. There are 4 snaking lines: foreign female, local female, foreign men, local men. For expediency, we all walked line 3; were sorted into appropriate lines at the end, and were searched.
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So now, we enter the Darwaza Entry Gate to the Taj Mahal Grounds. It has been 2 hours since we exited the bus. We have not yet seen the Taj Mahal. The temperature is just shy of 100 degrees. Are we having fun yet?
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Ahhh, finally, the Taj Mahal! It is a beautiful sight. Now, we join the hoards of holiday revelers on our way to explore the interior of this stately building.
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But first, we don stylish booties over our shoes. This is actually so much nicer than removing your shoes and walking barefoot. Did you notice the sign–No Photos!!! We will not be showing you the interior!
And now, we enter the Taj Mahal!
And now, we enter the Taj Mahal!
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Ten minutes later we are on the parapet overlooking the Yamuna River! The line of tourists wended thru the interior of the Taj, past the sarcophagi, and out the other side! After 2 hours walking several miles and standing in cramped lines, it was over!
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The Taj Mahal is, truly, a magnificent building set in a beautiful complex. It took 22 years to complete and the detail is amazing!
The total symetry is by design.
The total symmetry is by design.
And now, we get to repeat the process as we exit the East Gate.
And now, we get to repeat the process as we exit the East Gate.
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After lunch, we continue with a visit to the Red Fort of Agra.  This is the Outer Entrance.
And we continue to the Middle Entrance.
And we continue to the Middle Entrance.
Now we walk to the Interior Entrance.  You can just see it up ahead.
Now we walk to the Interior Entrance. You can just see it up ahead.
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Agra Fort, inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage monuments in 1983, had been home to every Mughal emperor. In 1530, Emperor Humayun was coronated here. Built along the Yamuna River, its double ramparts are 63 feet high with a broad moat between
The interior buildings are beautiful.....
The interior buildings are beautiful…..
.....as are the gardens.
…..as are the gardens.
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Inside the fort is the Jahangiri Mahal, where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb. From here, the Taj Mahal is clearly visible. Perhaps a comfort to the deposed Shah.
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As we end the tour day and return to our hotel in Delhi we drive thru Agra where statuary is being repaired,…..
.....and we pass the ubiquetous sacred cows.....
…..and we pass the ubiquitous sacred cows…..
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…..and finally, the India Gateway, in Delhi, with the War Memorial behind. We call it a day.

 

Next, I’ll tell you about our final day of this adventure and our return to the MS Amsterdam in Mumbai.

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