November 24, 2010
When visiting India a very popular route for first-time tourists is called the Golden Triangle made up of New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. This is the route I decided to take and drove with my tour group from New Delhi to Agra. The drive isn’t too long and it is very interesting to look out your window at the rural towns you pass along the way. What Agra is most famous for is of course the Taj Mahal. However, there is another UNESCO World Heritage Site 2.5km from the Taj Mahal by the name of the Agra Fort. The fort dates back to 1080, but the form it appears in now was built in the 16th Century by Shah Jahan, the man who also built the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan actually spent the last 8 years of his life imprisoned in the fort by his son Aurangzeb and that is why he never got to build the second Taj Mahal tomb for himself, which was to be across the river from the one he built for his wife. The tomb fort is very beautiful with lots of marble and red sandstone work. It also provides a first peak at the Taj Mahal from a distance. You can imagine how hard it must have been for Shah Jahan to be imprisoned in the fort, being able to see the Taj Mahal from his window. However the fort is pretty amazingly beautiful and there are much worse places he could have been imprisoned in!
Not as many foreign tourists come to the fort as the Taj Mahal, so it is a little less crowded and is great for people watching. You can also see some local wildlife from the grounds like king fishers, rhesus macaques, and rose-ringed parakeets.
Agra seemed to me to just be a very busy touristy city with not much else going for it. There is a very cheesy stage show that acts out the history of the building of the Taj Mahal. The show combines video and live performance to tell the story, which is performed in Hindi, but every seat has headphones to listen in your language of choice. The show also boasts to have the largest exact replica of the Taj Mahal made of marble, which they display lights on during the performance to show you what the building looks like in all weather conditions. I found the show really touristy and cheesy and would recommend just reading about the history and having a nice dinner instead of wasting an evening watching the show
Coming up tomorrow- The Taj Mahal!