Agra !! The city of Mughal!! This weekend we spent our time in Agra, which is a very famous tourist destination because of its Mughal-era buildings, most known are Tac Mahal and Red (Agra) Fort. They are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Agra is commonly identified as the city of Taj too.
So we started our journey on Saturday early morning by bus. It is around 5-6 hours from Kanpur to Agra. A long travel through India.. It sounded a unique experience to everybody and it happened to be the case.
We were stopped in our way after around 30 mins. First we did not understand what was going on, we went out and tried to talk to the people but most of them (including our driver and his co-pilot) do not know any English. We informed VSO team and they became a bit concerned too, though the driver had all the permit and licenses.. Finally with Anju’s help we understood that we were stopped just to re-verify the papers and we were only waiting the officer to come. When we were out of the bus, everybody was staring at us again, they were taking pictures, and selfies.. (even one-to-one selfies 😀 ) It was fun 🙂 And when it was around 9, we got the necessary stamps to go ahead..
The road were very bad, no signs, no rules, like any road in Kanpur and they call it highway ??. I think after half way, we come to a real highway, it was unbelievable in the India we have seen up to now..
Finally we arrived to our nice hotel (Hotel Gateway) around 1:30 pm. Agra is a small city, comparing to Kanpur, it only has 1.5 million people, so the traffic was not that bad.. Of course you need to think how our perception about traffic and crowd has changed. We met our guide Anu and agreed to start with Red Fort and leave Taj Mahal to Sunday morning, to see this beautiful place in sunrise. Anu was a great guide, he told a lot of details, I will try to note as much as I remember.
Red Fort is a very huge construction, which was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1560s. It’s real name is Agra Fort but as it is built with the red stones, it is also called as Red Fort. It was converted into a palace and some parts are rebuilt with white marble when Shah Jahan was the emperor. The exteriors of Red Fort was usually full of waters with crocodiles inside. After the first door, there were two tigers, one on each side, with no direct contact but always furious because of their territorial instincts. If you are welcome, you would be able to enter and appreciate the first garden, divided into four pieces. Anu asked if any one of us knows about the secret of 4 in Islamic religion, but none of us had an idea, so he left this quiz to tomorrow.
After seeing the palace, we came to the most gorgeous and important section of the palace: of course Harem. It was full of white marble and shining. Anu mentioned that Shah Jahan had more than 600 concubines. He also had some contracted wives, the contracts were for 3 years, 6 years, 9 years (any number that can be divided to 3) and after the contract ends, the wife had the right to decide to stay or leave. All of concubines had a room in the Harem and they were responsible to teach the younger ones. The lady that will spend the night with the emperor was decided by the eunuch who has no sex, looks like a man but dressed like a woman. He (or she or it) is the safest person in harem because he does not feel anything to the women.
In harem, there is the unimaginable bedroom of the richest man in the human history. It does not have any doors, but they were closed by carpets or blankets.. Even a bird could not fly without emperor’s permission.
There were also the bedroom’s of Shah Jahan’s 2 daughters on the two sides of emperor’s bedroom, which were again in white marble.
Then we went inside the palace and saw the place where the emperor and his consultants, ministers stays with him when they announce anything to the public We learned how to salute the emperor and leave the Red Fort doing that.
After Red Fort, we went to the Mehtab Bag, to see Taj Mahal form a different perspective. This place is also known as the black Taj Mahal that was planned to be built. Anu told that it is a myth, it is only the Taj Mahal’s reflection on water at night which is a black version of it. There are a lot of different information about this in the internet. We saw Taj Mahal for the first time on one side and it was looking wonderful. We took a lot of pictures and our excitement for Taj Mahal has increased a lot more for the next day.
Then we went to a carpet store. You may know that Agra’s carpets are so famous because it is hand-made, because they are in high-quality, and also because the sellers are so convincing. First we have watched the real “show” of the man about how the carpets are prepared, the Persian and Turkish knots, the lock line etc. I remembered my elementary school times where we were asked to do a carpet as a homework. I still do remember the design I did 🙂 You can watch this show in the video below. Then we went downstairs to see the other steps of the carpet before it is ready to be used: cutting, cleaning and re-aligning the lines.. And finally we came to the showroom, that the men spread the carpets in front of us one by one, color by color, design by design.. They were so smooth. When we enter the store, myself and Stephen were talking that we will not buy anything. And even I was saying, we have the same in turkey why should I take smth form here. But in the end we were the ones who was struggling to decide which one to buy :)) Finally I decided to buy a carpet which has a very similar Turkish design and reminded me all my childhood memories in our home..
After we are done with the shopping we went to a restaurant, the food was very delicious again. We had the chance to talk to Anu, about the holy next weekend, about Taj Mahal and other stories. And the day was over to get ready for Taj Mahal at 6:15 AM 🙂
And the day started early on Sunday, we were ready to go and after waiting a bit for the bus, we came very close to Tj Mahal. The further places were not allowed by car, so we dropped and used the electric cars/buses. The bus we got in was four years old but it looked like 40 years.
We got our tickets, our complimentary waters and shoe covers and we were ready to go: for one of the lifetime moments.. After the queue (luckily Anu told us about everything that is forbidden so we did not get anything that will create issues), we came in front of the main gate: Darwaza-I Rauza. At those times, the groom did not have the chance to see the birde’s face before the wedding day. So Shah Jahan has also created such a metaphor for Taj Mahal too, you do not see this masterpiece directly. Also on this gate, the 89. Sura of Kuran Al-Fajr (Daybreak) is written which is the only section in the Kuran where Allah talks to people directly without prophet Muhammed: “My children, if you are pure form body, mind and soul, you are welcome to enter my paradise”. It is written with black stone on white marble that is brought from Belgium at that time. Passing through that door brought us that “wow” moment. What an amazing view, what an amazing love of Jahan to his wife.
Mumtaz Mahal has lost her life while she was giving her 14th birth in 19 years(but 17th children, 3 of them could not come to life) and Shah Jahan’s grief was so big that he waned to create this place as a tomb for her. The construction has started 6 months after her death and she was buried to her grave after a year in the center. It took 22 years and 20000 workers to complete this monument. The myth mentions that those people’s hands were cut not to do a similar construction but the reality is that they were banned to go out of the city and to work in any other construction.
Taj is a combination of Indian, Islamic and Persian architecture. It is the most symmetrically aligned building in the world down to the last milimeter, everything is exactly aligned on the other side except the calligraphic writings and the tombs. There is a mosque on one side (which is open only for prayers and only on Friday), and there is another building which is a replica of the mosque but it does not have any function. The 4 minarets: teach pairs has 15 degrees between them so that they look in the same order when it is looked from far. And finally Anu mentioned about the 4 garden puzzle too. Four garden is a symbol of the 4 drinks that will be in heaven: water, milk, honey and wine. Passing through the gate was a symbol of entering the heaven and these 4 gardens are the symbol of the drinks in the heaven. It was not a difficult puzzle to be frank but of course you need to know some details.
After such a good story, we wandered around Tac, took photos, touch the marble, feel this amazing building. I did not even use the shoe covers, directly took of my shoes to feel it deeply..
It was like a dream..
Before we start our way back to Kanpur, we had a breakfast, then check out, then went to the jewellery store and learned how the gems are embroidered. It is a very detailed and time taking hand workmanship. Then we went to a textile store and bought some pasminas.
The way back to Kanpur was shorter than the previous day, we arrived less than 5 hours. When we entered the hotel, we came across another surprise: a cake for Tamara’s birthday 🙂 We celebrated her birthday and agreed to meet at 7 for a stand-up meeting to talk about where we are about our projects, the executive summary deliverable, agreeing about the scope of CSC project with client etc. It was a good meeting and a mood change for preparation of new week.
The time passes so quickly, we are on the 2nd week and there are a lot of things to do the next two weeks. We need to work hard 🙂 and we will do..
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alladola, 25th Feb 2018, Agra