We met our guide downstairs at 9:30 am, and went to Agra Fort. Somehow, I had forgotten to charge any of my batteries last night, so I only had the one in my camera.
We saw where the king was imprisoned after he started building the black Taj Mahal, and his son decided he was spending too much money, so locked him up. There was beautiful inlay work on the walls. It was really foggy, so all the places to look out and see the Taj Mahal were just gray sky.
After the Fort, we headed over to the Taj Mahal! It was breathtaking.
The excitement built from the first glimpse of it over the wall, and just grew as we got to wander in through the gates, then up into the Taj itself.
Towards the end of our visit, we ended up seeing some Indian movie stars who were filming at the Taj Mahal. A huge crowd gathered around them, and there were lights and make-up and reporters all over the place. Mike ended up sitting next to the main actress, Anushka, even though he didn’t realize she was a famous actress at the time. He offered her his seat on a bench, and she took it. He talked to her about ginger tea, since her stomach wasn’t feeling well. Then a bunch of teenaged guys ran up and surrounded them and started taking photos with their cell phones, and Anushka’s bodyguards stepped in between and told them ‘no photos!’ – I missed the whole thing, off somewhere else…
After a while, we left, and ignored all the hawkers all around outside (or Hookers, as Kumal calls them), and our guide tried to help some people leaving with bags of chips to avoid the monkeys. The people had closed bags of food, carrying them in plastic shopping bags – and the monkeys still were running at them and trying to grab the food – they can tell just by the sight of the bags that it was food. The couple had to stuff the bags into their shirts so the monkeys couldn’t see them. The monkeys didn’t bother us, though. We didn’t have any food they wanted.
We went to a marble shop – they had gorgeous semi-precious stone inlay work – tables, plates, etc. The small piece I looked at (and Mike picked, too, without knowing it was the one I liked) was 300 USD. I think it was worth it, considering the work, but a bit out of my budget. I got a pregnant elephant carving instead…
We went to lunch afterwards, and talked with the ladies – planning our next trips to India…
After lunch, we had a little drive through town and across the river to the Mahtab-Bagh – the moon garden.
It was the site of the black Taj Mahal – all that was built was the foundation. It was to be exactly like the Taj, only in black marble instead of white.
(The Taj Mahal was built for the king’s favorite wife, after she died. The king wanted to build something that would show her beauty and his love for her, so he had the Taj Mahal built. He was to be buried in the black Taj across the river, forever in view of each other, and the two monuments were to be joined by a massive marble bridge. After the completion of the Taj Mahal, and the start of the black Taj, that was when the king’s son locked him up – to not spend any more money on these projects…)
The view of the back side of the Taj was impressive – plus, there were MANY, MANY less people over on this side of the river. The gardens were beautiful – lots of fruit trees and birds.
We stayed until the sun set.
We saw where bodies are cremated across the river – the smoke was rising even as we watched. Our guide said that every time he goes to this place, he is reminded of his family members whose ashes are scattered there in the river, and how his ashes will be there one day. He even scattered his German shepherd’s ashes there after she died.
We stopped briefly at a touristy shop for the ladies – Mary is doing some last minute gift buying before she heads home on the 21st. They did have the forehead powder that Mike wanted, though, so that was a nice thing – they even gave it to him no charge. I got online to try and do some research on ashrams, but didn’t really get much info, so we will wing it…