Day 2 in India began with the pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal in Agra (some 200 miles to the south of Delhi). Our drivers name was Raj who not only does he own a farm but he must be a Hollywood stunt driver in his spare time as he tore down to Agra through a fog that can only be described as the incantation of a mad wizard!! In fact I couldn’t even see Karen in it and she was sitting next to me. This did not bode well for the camera later on.
Part of the reason we were so fast in getting to Agra is that we were able to take the Yamuna Expressway – an 8 lane corridor that opens up Agra and Delhi like never before. It also links Delhi to the Buddh International Formula 1 Track – which Raj pointed out to us on our journey south.
We arrived in Agra and met our Tour Guide, also named Raj, who after “inviting” us to his wedding ,proceeded to lead us into the Taj Mahal complex.We cleared security with a smile after I told the guard that the bulge in my pocket was in fact our other lens for the camera. It was in here that we met our director of photography for the day.
We decided to get some “professional” photos taken as we were convinced that our western camera and photography skills are no match for Agra’s finest! In hindsight it was a great decision as they turned out amazing and he took similar photos on our own camera as well so double trouble. The best bit however also he directed the photos like he was Andy Warhol!
Sir.. One leg here and put arm around ma’am’s shoulder
The Taj Mahal is indescribable. 22 years and 25,000 worker’s efforts certainly gets you a sight to behold. I will let the pictures below tell their own story but I would seriously recommend seeing it for yourselves!
The first surprise is to find out that it is a Mausoleum that houses the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal – favourite wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. (The same one who built the Red Fort in Delhi). Understanding that allows you to believe in the effort and details put into its design and finish. It is the ultimate love poem.
After the Taj we visited the customary demonstration and sales pitch and after that spent a few hours at the Agra Fort, which offered really good long distance views of the Taj from its battlements and across the Yamuna River.
There were numerous motifs in the fort that we would see again throughout Rajasthan and beyond. Inner Gateways, Gates at 90 degree angles to the ramps to not allow Elephants to gain momentum when charging . Numerous courtyards, gardens and embrasures were to be found also.
The Fort also plays a key role in a Sherlock Holmes Novel (The Sign of Four). It is here that the character of Jonathan Small is waylaid by two sikh men and is invited into their conspiracy to rob the pearls at the centre of the mystery.
Next up was the drive back to the big smoke (Delhi) and some dinner at a local hotel (more dhal) before we packed up our circus and prepared for the next day and the train to Jaipur – the Pink City.