Overnight we had made an executive decision, we were tired out so we would have just half a day looking at things then chill out. It is supposed to be a holiday after all. And in the event it proved a good move on all fronts.
Our first stop was the Agra Fort, at least I’d heard of this before, and it really is magnificent. And huge. Made from great red sandstone blocks with battlements and defences very well planned out. Originally it had two moats, a wet one with crocodiles and a dry one with wild beasts; and all this before you reach the walls where arrows, huge rocks, hot sand and boiling water wait for you. Here’s part of the wall showing the wet moat now dry.
Once you get beyond the military part the royal palaces are quite beautiful and include the suite where Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, spent his last few years incarcerated by his son who had usurped the throne. At least he was able to look out onto the Taj Mahal in the distance, the tomb he had built for his beloved wife Mumtaz.
From Agra Fort went on to the Itmad-Ud-Daulah sometimes known as the “Baby Taj” and I think you’ll see why.
I’d never heard of this absolute little gem but is certainly worth seeing. Set in peaceful gardens it was the predecessor to the Taj Mahal in style and also as it was the first Mughal tomb made in white marble inlaid with coloured stone.
An interesting story is that this Emperor lusted after a woman who refused to marry him as she was already married to an army officer. Despite many offers she continued to refuse even though she knew the benefits of marriage to the Emperor; finally in frustration the Emperor sent his army into battle and had arranged for this officer to be sent on a suicide mission hoping that he would be killed. Sure enough he was and his widow was now free to marry which she did. Later she learned from army contacts about the Emperor’s plot and determined to take revenge which she did by feeding him more and more wine. In the end he became a hopeless alcoholic completely under her control and she effectively ruled the country.
Finally we had crossed the Yamuna River, seeing the water buffalo enjoying standing in the water, and went along to see what is really the back of the Taj Mahal. It was a misty sort of day following early rain and there were lots of Cattle Egrets in the gardens and it all looked rather lovely.
By now we were hot and hungry so headed back to the hotel for lunch. In the afternoon we rested in the shade, did a little light reading and took a stroll round the beautiful gardens. In the evening we gave the hotel’s Peshawari restaurant a try as we’ve never had Peshawari cooking before and it was delicious, an altogether enjoyable experience.
13 March 2015