Monday, December 10, 2007

Taj Mahal & Fatehpur Sikhri

That sublime monument; one of the seven wonders of the world; the epitome in the expression of love for a soulmate;the pinnacle of serenity - the Taj Mahal. It has got to rank as one of the privileges in my life of having seen this mesmerising monument twice in my life, the second trip that happened last weekend.

It was a sudden trip that one of my office colleagues suggested, to which I just nodded. And I was so happy that I went with them. We had a great time together, thoroughly laughing through the day, sharing some seriously good jokes with each other, walking endlessly around the historic monument, and yet, having the bent of mind to understand and appreciate just why such a great monument attracts people from all over the world.

The Saturday that we reached Agra was one of those days when the Taj would be open for only half a day - a visit by some dignitary would close the doors of the great monument for the public at large after 1.00 p.m. This was the first message that greeted us at Agra Cantt station. But thankfully, the cab driver was genuine and knew what he was talking and infact drew up the agenda for us through the day.

We reached the Taj Mahal at around 11.00 a.m. and after winding our way through the weekend crowd, we finally reached the great tomb in 45 minutes or so. The very first glance at the classic monument had me breathless. I was gasping for words and staring at this world-famous structure endlessly, while my friends were busy taking photographs. The charm of the place, the serenity that hits you, the passion that the king(Shahjahan) had for his wife (Mumtaz) hits you hard.The symmetry of the monument catches your breath, the path-breaking architectural thinking that masons of those days had dumbfounds you, the greenery of the garden around and the subtle trickle of the fountains in front of the monument adds great flavour to the moment.Quite simply, an exhilirating experience.

And as you near the monument and see flocks of people from all walks of life and from innumerable countries, you realize how great a monument it really is. And not just monument- it is an expression that the world understands. The expression of love.

We walked around the entire marble structure and took a number of snaps. We looked at the hallways, the intricate designs, the freshness of the marble, the inscription of the Quran etc as well. Simply, mind-blowing!

Finally, we waded our way out of the monument, given that we had to exit the place by 1.00 p.m.

Fatehpur Sikhri
Once we were out of the historic place, we nudged along to the parking lot to head to Fatehpur Sikhri. I have never been to this place. But it was yet another experience to remember.On arrival, we were hounded by more than a handful of local guides, claiming expertise in their knowledge of the history behind the place. Finally, we chose on guide, who was persuasive and seemed committed(don't they all?!). But he turned out to be a good choice. I personally learnt a lot about the history of the place.

We went around the huge open space in Fatehpur that had long hallways, huge corridors, vast open spaces, blocks on the wall that was an announcement booth to signify the arrival of King Akbar for his prayer, hostel rooms, huge lights,a small pond and a temple that had marble windows such that nobody could see anything from the outside but the reverse was possible.

Heading out of Fatehpur, we got into a rickshaw and went to Sikhri, the huge palace.This was a sublime experience. the perfection of the place, the magnitude of the palace, the thinking behind the various structures - vegetable market, women's shopping corner, panch mahal(5 storeyed tower), school, meditation centre, palace, prayer hall, one palace for each wife of the king(3 wives - on Turkish, one Islamic and one Christian- lucky king!),the carvings, the gardens, the walkways & paths, the surrounding horizon, the elephant tower - was truly a fantastic experience.

This trip taught me the lesson about how much of a royal time the Mughal kings had in India. They may have taken away a lot of the riches from India back then, but they also contributed immensely to the current historical landscape in the country with such stellar monuments such as the Taj Mahal and the palaces & forts at Fatehpuri Sikhri.

All in all, a weekend well spent and truly memorable indeed!

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