Cal VA
1 Agra
2 Agra
3 Jaipur
4 Jaipur
5 Rathenborn
6 Varanasi
7 Varanasi
8 Delhi
9 Delhi
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Taj Mahal
Agra Fort
Fatehpur Sikri

Up early to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise

As we waited in line for entrnce to the Taj Mahal we were treated to a hot cup of Marsala Chi from a street vendor just across from the entrance.
Lights lining the street to the Taj Mahal on the east entrance.

No people - we raced to get to the Taj Mahal before all the other tourists - and there were not so many early in the morning.

The Taj Mahal (Crown of Palaces) is a white marble mausoleum. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-1658), to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tomb is the centrepiece of a 42-acre complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a fortified wall.

In the morning light the Taj Mahal marble is soft
Virginia Ann and Cal on the steps of the Taj Mahal with a delicate marble screen in the background.

The tour guide had a bit of a trick taking a picture of Virginia Ann and Cal through the marble screen

Sun on the Taj Mahal dome

Construction of the mausoleum was completed in 1643 but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. The Taj Mahal complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653 at a estimated cost of $827 million in today's dollars. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

On the left (western) side of the Taj Mahal is a sandsone Mosque.

From the Taj Mahal looking back to the main entrance gate

While we were in Agra there was also a hot air baloon festival going on and the ballons were just taking to the sky as we were touring the Taj Mahal.

One of the minarets which are 130 feet high.

Each minaret is effectively divided into three equal parts by two working balconies that ring the tower. At the top of the tower is a final balcony surmounted by a dome that mirrors the design of those on the tomb. The domes all share the same decorative elements of a lotus design topped by a gilded finial. The minarets were constructed slightly outside of the plinth so that, in the event of collapse, a typical occurrence with many tall constructions of the period, the material from the towers would tend to fall away from the tomb.
The Taj Mahal walls are covered in marble carvings as well as the inlay work.

The calligraphy on the Great Gate reads "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you." The calligraphy was created in 1609 by a calligrapher named Abdul Haq. Much of the calligraphy is composed of florid thuluth script made of jasper or black marble inlaid in white marble panels. Higher panels are written in slightly larger script to reduce the skewing effect when viewed from below.

Virginia Ann posing in front of a marble screen on the Taj Mahal steps.

The tour guide encouraged Virginia Ann to pose and work the light at the Taj Mahal.

A tower off the Mosque over the Yamuna River with the Red Fort in the background.

The Mosque towers

Looking through the Mosque - there are no doors on the mosques.

From the Mosque looking at the Taj Mahal. There are 569 prayer rugs in black marble marking the places to pray.

The gardens of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal in reflection

Cal and Virginia Ann in front of the Taj Mahal

The main gate had several low buildings where there were rooms for pilgrims made of sandstone

Virginia Ann in the sandstone columns at the main gate

One the way from the Taj Mahal to the Red Fort we spotted a motorcycle with an unusual passenger.

Agra Fort redstone walls loom over Agra.

The present-day structure was built by the Mughals, though a fort had stood there since at least the 11th century. Agra Fort was originally a brick fort known as Badalgarh.
One of the towers of the Jahangir's Hauz - the house of the royal women. It is one of the earliest surviving buildings.

A balcony on the front of the Jahangir's Hauz

Decoration inside the Jahangir's Hauz made out of red sandstone

A wall niche

The marble is crafted so thin that the sunlight shines through. Just as amazing is the screen which is carved out of one piece of marble.
Stone inlay in marble - it is amazing that there is no paint - all of the column and wall adornment is inlaid stones.

Interior of the Musamman Burj

Shah Jahan in his turn chose this site to erect the multi-storied marble tower inlaid with precious stones for Mumtaz Mahal. It was built between 1631-40 and offers exotic views of the famous Taj Mahal.
Doorway to the Khas Mahal

Flanked by the majestic Yamuna on one side and the Anguri Bagh on the other, Khas Mahal was a private palace built by Shah Jahan for his daughters Roshnara and Jahanara. Construction of the Khas Mahal began in 1631 and was completed in 1640.

From the public Diwan E Aam looking toward the Red Fort mosque

The imperial throne chamber in the middle of the eastern walls is of white marble with inlay ornamentation.

The arches of the Diwan E Aam - or The Hall of Public Audience where the king heard the public. A beautiful building built in the early 1600s. Though built of red sandstone, the whole of it has been white shell-plastered, to look like marble.

We left Agra after the Red Fort and headed to Jaipur

We reached our destination - Fatehpur Sikri. It is a walled city with a fortress/palace/mosque overlooking the town from a hiitop.
Diwan-i-Khas or Hall of Private Audience, is a plain square building with four domes on the roof. However, it is famous for its central pillar, which has a square base and an octagonal shaft, both carved with bands of geometric and floral designs, its thirty-six serpentine brackets support a circular platform for Akbar, which is connected to each corner of the building on the first floor, by four stone walkways. It is here that Akbar had representatives of different religions discuss their faiths and gave private audience.

We were impressed by the stone carved screens used in the buildings. This is not wood but sandstone.

The city was founded in 1569 by the Emperor, Akbar, and served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585. Seeking to revive the splendours of Persian court ceremonies made famous by his ancestor Timur, Akbar planned the complex on Persian principles. But the influences of his adopted land came through in the typically Indian embellishments. The easy availability of sandstone in the neighbouring areas of Fatehpur Sikri, also meant that all the buildings here were made of the red stone.

The king's pet elephant's final resting place.

The top of one of many buildings

Sandstone screen

Palace with water feature in front of it forming a small island where performers for the king would play.

Hallway which leads to the King's bedroom

The Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) in Fatehpur Sikri was completed in 1575.

The rectangular mosque comprises a central nave with a single dome, two colonnaded halls on either side, with two square chambers crowned with domes. This is the front gate to the complex.
The top of the courtyard surrounding the mosque plaza

The mosque as seen through the east gate

So many little towers

Tomb of Salim Chishti built during the years 1580 and 1581 in the mosque courtyard.

The mausoleum, constructed by Akbar as a mark of his respect for the Sufi saint, who foretold the birth of Akbar's son, who was named Prince Salim after the Sufi Saint and later succeeded Akbar to the throne of the Mughal Empire, as Jahangir.
The main tomb building is enclosed by delicate marble screens on all sides

The screens are thick capturing the light

A whole wall of marble screen on the outside of the room

On the internal walls the marble screens have prayer strings tied

Devotees ask for the blessings of the saint and seek fulfillment of their wishes. It is believed that tying a thread on the marble screens of the main tomb building serves as a constant reminder to the saint of their wishes. This tomb is known for Child Birth Blessing
Tower at the top of the hill protecting the Mosque.

Sandstone columns in the mosque

Two women in the mosque

The interior of the east gate dome

The great wall of the front gate as seen from the mosque

Looking through the mosque from end to tend

After touring Fatehpur Sikri we rode three hours to Jaipur and arrived in early evening in time for a good meal at our hotel Samode Haveli which is a heritage property (one of the old palace homes) and very beautiful.
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