India, March 1, 2017

Day 17, Agra

We awoke feeling fine after our champagne birthday celebration, showered and ran down to breakfast to fuel up for a big day.  First up was the Taj Mahal, one of the 7 wonders of the world, of which I’m sure you’ve seen a multitude of photos. Hope you don’t mind suffering through a few more.  There are 3 gates into the complex, with the river on the 4th side.  The east gate is for public entry.

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The fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Japan (grandson of Akbar the Great) started building the Taj Mahal in 1632 as a final resting place for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. They met at the courts annual Market bazaar, with the court women selling jewelry, textiles, etc. and the men doing the buying.  Shah Japan was interested in a necklace Mumtaz Mahal was selling.  She knew he was a prince, so she asked an astronomical amount of money, which he promptly paid.  He was 15 years old and she was 13 years old when they fell in love and arranged to marry. They had to wait until they were adults and then Mumtaz had to go back to Persia to her family, they ended up marrying at 19 and 17. Mumtaz Mahal, daughter of the finance minister, was the only wife to live with the emperor.  They had 14 children, 6 of which survived to adulthood.  The birth of the last child, a girl, was the cause of Mumtaz Mahal’s death at the age of 35.

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The Taj Mahal is in the process of being cleaned, they are working on the last minaret and body of the building. You can see that the left white marble columns are much whiter than the body of the mausoleum. It took 22 years to build the structure, using 20,000 artisans and 1,000 elephants. The architecture has a combination of Persian and Mughal elements.

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No chemicals are used in the cleaning.  A special mud is rubbed on the stone, allowed to dry, then is washed away with cloths and water.

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There is a mosque in the complex that is still in use today.  Each of the design squares on the floor are for a man to kneel in prayer.

Then we were off to the Agra Fort….what another fort!!  This may be our last one, if there’s anyway to wiggle out of the rest.  We would much rather see the bazaar and spice market in Delhi.  Anyway this fort is unique with a moat and drawbridge and another beautiful palace.

Suzanne and I were flagging by the time we got to the Baby Taj.  The name is a misnomer.  The only elements they have in common are the white marble and the fact they are both mausoleums.

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The Baby Taj was built in 1622 and is a jewel box of paintings, whereas the Taj Mahal is all inlaid semi-precious stones. Also the architectural styles are different, with the Baby Taj strictly Mughal. The mausoleum was built as the resting place of Mirza Ghiyas Beg (grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal) by his daughter.

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The little figures in the sky portion of the paintings look like a representation of wind or birds, but in fact they are spirits.

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Here is a photo of our most excellent driver and friend, Paramjeet (left) with our guide for the last two days, Zeesahn.

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