Sunday, August 12, 2007

Itinerary. Agra, India.

No offense to people who live in Agra, but as far as I can tell, the only reason to go there is to visit the incomparable Taj Mahal. The Taj was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to his 14th child. Construction on the Taj began in 1632 and was completed in approximately 1648 and I read somewhere that it took 20,000 laborers to complete the job. There's lots of facts that one can read up on about the Taj (the architecture, the precious jewels embedded in its walls, etc) but at some level, I don't really care about the facts. To me, the image and story behind it are enough - in my eyes it's the world's most beautiful mausoleum in the world and for my heart, it was built by a man in tribute of woman that he loved so deeply that he wanted her to be remembered for eternity. Could there be a more romantic tribute?

In planning my trip to Agra, I read that it's best to see the Taj either in the early morning or late afternoon because visiting during mid-day a) can be unbearably hot and b) with the bright sun shining, the monument just looks like a big, white marble building - apparently, not resulting in the impressive vision that visitors are expecting to see.

With this in mind, my game plan is to leave Delhi, for Agra, in the morning. It's about a 4-5 hour drive and I'm hoping it will give me a glimpse of the Indian countryside along the way.
After I arrive in Agra, I'll check in at the hotel - not sure what I will do for the remainder of the next.
Next morning, it's off to the Taj Mahal and then Agra Fort and Fathepur Sikri. All three are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are located within a handful of kilometres to each other - should be easy to get into a taxi and "hop" from one site to another.

Fort Agra is viewed by many, from a historical perspective, as the the most important fort in India. The great Mughal Emperors including Humayun, Akbar, and Shah Jahan all lived here, and the country was governed from here. In its heyday, it contained the largest state treasury and mint.

Built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid.

I'm thinking that visiting three historic sites in one day is plenty. Knowing me, I will head back to the hotel, wash up, grab dinner somewhere and call it an early night. I'll need to pack up as well since I will be returning to Delhi the following day.

On the way back to Delhi, I read that it's a "must" to visit Sikandra, the site of the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. In addition to Akbar's mausoleum (which by most accounts, is a very
spectacular building), the grounds of Sikandra have been been beautifully landscape and are inhabited by deer, peacocks and some apparently some, very cheeky monkeys. One website I read warned about not bringing food into the grounds - otherwise, you risk being attacked by monkeys. Yikes!

I think it's going to be a whirlwind of a side trip to Agra - I can't wait!