Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Agra and the Taj Mahal

After a brief visit to Fatehpur Sikri we arrived in Agra as dusk took hold. Darkness did make it a bit more difficult to realize the true dinginess of the city. Whereas many of India’s other cities also have issues with being crowded, dirty, congested, and polluted, the main city of Agra lacks color and vibrance.

Taj Mahal
The following morning, we got an early start to arrive at the Taj when it opened. Battery-powered vans quietly rolled past, reminders of attempts at limiting pollution around the World Heritage site. Bicycle rickshaws creakily paddled up to us and asked us if we’d like a ride, unsuccessfully convincing us that the Taj was “very far.” The dense fog ruled out any chance of getting those “picture-perfect” photos of the Taj Mahal against blue skies; now just seeing it from any distance would be a goal. Along with the already-growing cluster of tourists gathering at the front gate, some four-legged critters were wandering about. Some of the animals donned “coats” made from burlap sacks. One goat completed the fashion with a knitted cap. Our bags were checked prior to entering. My friend’s 4” wooden figurine of a big-nosed Serbian wearing a traditional shajkaca cap was detected and denied entrance. When asking why, the female guard said, “bad karma.”

After the figurine was checked in at the baggage center, we proceeded inward. A few typical photos later, we walked in the mausoleum through the large door and admired the incredibly intricate marble screen around the two fake tombs briefly illuminated by camera flashes going on in the “no photo zone.” Even though I had seen the structure before, I couldn’t help but be awed by its artistic workmanship, including the flowers created by tiny pieces of inlaid semi-precious stones, and raised flowers carved from the same white marble as the rest of the structure. Letting the Japanese tourists posing in their new saris get their photos and move on, I took a few photos of the Taj, other buildings, and grounds in more creative views.

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