Agra is anywhere between 3.5 to 5 hours drive away from Delhi, depending on traffic. We booked a taxi from the hotel in Delhi, to leave around 6.30 am in the morning. We ordered breakfast in bed (thanks to the fantastic currency exchange rate, a deluxe breakfast fit for a king cost 1.5 Canadian dollars). Then we were off.
The drive was - fascinating - and eventful - especially near some of the state borders where the drivers have to stop and fill out paper work, and you can be entertained (if you wish) by dancing monkeys. I had chosen a private taxi from the hotel rather than a chartered bus because the bus does other Agra sight seeing, whereas we were interested in only the Taj Mahal.
I also found it very amusing that everyone in Delhi (from taxi drivers to rickshaw wallahs) spoke a dialect of Hindi that was much like what Salman Khan spoke in Dabangg!
This is The Great Gate (Darwaza-i-Rauza), or the entrance to the Taj Mahal. This, though red, is also made of marble. There were LOTS of louts near the area, pretending to be guides (seen Slumdog Millionaire?) and promising they will get you to skip the lines. I saw some of them slipping bribes to the guards with their clients.
The first sight of the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is known throughout the world as a symbol of love. Do you know how MUCH love? It was built in honour of Emperor Shah Jahan's THIRD wife, who died giving birth to their FOURTEENTH child.
This is a view from far, just upon entering the complex. You can see the beautiful gardens and the pool leading to the Taj, The whole complex is made in a symmetrical design.
Viewing the Great Gate (Darwaza-i-Rauza) from inside.
The 'reflecting' pool. Shah Jahan was one of the first to use pools and fountains as places of tranquility in architectural designs. It had now become quite dirty.
The Taj Mahal looks the same viewed from any direction. This is from inside the mosque, to the side of the Taj Mahal (there's a mosque on either side of the Taj, mirror images of each other).
A quiet corner in the mosque.
Passages from the Qur'an are used as decorative elements in the Taj. The texts refer to themes of Day of Judgment and God's power, end times and death.
A very rare sight - at least for someone visiting from Kolkata - Indians standing in a line in an orderly fashion
A view of the masjid (mosque) to the right of the Taj. A mirror image exists on the other side.
Overall the Taj Mahal is a beautiful piece of architecture, a moment of magic captured in time forever, and the long trip back and forth from Delhi is all worth it just to see this splendid tribute to human imagination. Pictures fail to do it justice - it really is a wonderful and glorious place to visit.
There are some things to be cautioned about though - outside the Taj is a place known as a den of thieves, so come with a private taxi and keep a hold on your valuables. You don't need to take a rickshaw to go from where cars are not allowed to the Great Gate - it's just a ten minute walk - and you will see peacocks! And be very aware of those louts and "guides" - politely decline all attempts to skip the line and you really don't need a guide. If you are a white skinned person who does not speak the language be prepared to pay through the nose for everything. Sometimes it pays to be mistaken as an Indian! You have to pass through the worst of India before you can see the best of India - but once inside - it's all worth it.