Entranceway to the Taj Mahal

The picture everyone takes

Taj Mahal

Pilgrims cross by the Taj

Facade of the Taj Mahal

Side mosque at the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal from the courtyard

Minaret and walkway near the base of the Taj Mahal

Entrance to the Agra Fort

Columns in the Agra Fort

Decorated ceiling and walls in the Agra Fort

A monkey enjoys the view from the Agra Fort

Courtyard at the Agra Fort

Locals admire the Taj Mahal in the distance

Agra Fort

Stables at Fatehpur Sikri

Carvings at Fatehpur Sikri

Interior chambers at Fatehpur Sikri

Courtyard at Fatehpur Sikri

Agra, India

The Taj Mahal - check

August 1, 2013


Of all the things I value most of all

I look upon my earth and feel the warmth

And know that it is good

- Black Sabbath

The Taj Mahal is supposed to be one of the wonders of the world and it was impressive, particularly the first glimpse of the sun on the brilliant white marble as you step into the shadows of the arched entrance chamber. At that moment everyone stops and takes the same photo, probably because it is the best photo. For me, that view and the ones just past it were the best. Up close, and inside, the Taj Mahal was somewhat disappointing. It didn’t have the same level of intricate stonework or carvings I have seen in other tombs and the decoration was very somber and staid. Fortunately the ambience is enhanced by the presence of mosques in colorful red stone on either side, each with more detailed craftsmanship. The location on the river bank also affords nice views of the mammoth position of the Agra Fort just nearby.

While the majority of the foreign tourists plan their visits to India around a trip to the Taj Mahal the amount of tourist traffic does not seem to have had much impact on the local economy, despite the hefty 750 rupee entry fee. The overcrowded roads that you have to travel in order to reach the Taj Mahal looked about as bad as anywhere else in India. By the side of the road I saw some scruffy city monkeys bathing in dirty looking puddles and I wondered if city monkeys exhibit similar characteristics as humans that live in big cities. Maybe people are encouraged to move on immediately after visiting by the vastly improved infrastructure, in the form of a smoothly paved multi-lane toll road, between here and Delhi that can be traveled in 3 hours.

If the Taj Mahal is the first stop then the Agra Fort is undoubtedly the second. This massive fort stretches out along the edge of the Yamuna River and it is clearly visible from the Taj Mahal, even through the hazy humid summer air. The interior features several courtyards with nice gardens and grass lawns laid out in maze like fashion. Some of the rooms showcase some really excellent carvings and detailed stonework, and I even saw a monkey lounging there and enjoying it.

The last stop around Agra was Fatehpur Sikri an old capital of the Mughal Empire. The main view of the site from the road to Jaipur was much more impressive than any of the contents, with the possible exception of the main mosque. The mosque was dominated by a tall entrance gate and a shining white mausoleum in the center. No shoes are allowed inside and the strong sun heats up the stone floor to near burning temperatures. This was the most active section and as it was outside the confines of the ticketed area there were plenty of peddlers and other annoyances. Back inside the sprawling site, vacant buildings were deathly quiet and relatively few other tourists were interested in exploring during the heat of the day.