Sunday, November 29, 2009

Honking horns, traffic jams (and the Taj Mahal)

Yesterday we visited one of the greatest pieces of archicture I have ever seen – the Taj Mahal, in the town of Agra, approx 4 hours north of Delhi

We got up at 4.30am and relied on a very competent taxi driver to get us there. Through all the ducking and diving between cars, lorries and auto-rickshaws, while getting value for money from the car horn, we arrived at the Taj Mahal to be told that if we went through the gates by 10am we’d be admitted for free (the usual fee for foreigners being Rs 750). So naturally we ran to the gate as the parking area was some distance from the palace itself. We had picked the right day to go. It was the Muslim festival of Bakr-Eid, and as a good will gesture everyone entering before 10am was admitted free. We just made it.

Was it worth getting up in the middle of the night for the trip? Absolutely !

The pictures we all see on the web, or on the TV don’t do it justice. The grounds are an amazing piece of 17th century Mogul architecture. It’s just fantastic what you can build with over 10,000 men and a 1000 elephants. It’s a pity that queen in whose memory it was built never got to see it.

The words ‘Taj Mahal’ means ‘golden palace’ and even though there was little gold to be seen the symmetry of the buildings stood out. It’s funny really that the only thing breaking the full symmetry of the palace is the tomb of the king who built it (he was later buried beside his wife who was laid to rest in the centre)

It was a great day and the grounds were not as crowded as we had expected. We then went on to see Agra Fort, which was very busy. We spent an hour there, but by then the tiredness was setting in and as we had all seen what we came to see it was time to return home to ISI – and straight to bed.

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