Monday, May 5, 2014

India Day Four: Sunrise at Taj Mahal & Fatehpur Sikri

We woke up extra early during our fourth day in India to catch sunrise at Taj Mahal.
Sunrise at Taj Mahal

An early morning visit at Taj Mahal meant that we avoided the crowds making us appreciate our surroundings more. 
Taj Mahal Monkeys

Though the sunset visit the day before was still fresh in my memory, seeing Taj Mahal for the second time took my breath away once again.

During the winter months (November to February), it's common for Taj Mahal to be covered in fog during sunrise. 

I didn't mind the fog for it added a certain mystique to Taj Mahal. 

Here's a picture of Taj Mahal using its intricately designed bench as frame. Wish the picture could have been better framed but it was a challenge to get shots underneath the bench because there was little room to maneuver on the cold marbled floor:

For me, Taj Mahal's beauty was at its peak during sunset but I preferred my sunrise experience because being in the midst of fog felt like walking on clouds. The mood at Taj Mahal early in the morning was also calmer, more peaceful and serene because fewer tourists were there.

The nearer we were at the base of Taj Mahal, the foggier it got...

to the point that other tourists looked like mere silhouettes: 

Because of my initial excitement during our first visit, I wasn't able to admire the intricacy of Taj Mahal. I made sure to appreciate the finer details during our second day:






The fog was already lifting when we were saying goodbye to Taj Mahal. I left Taj Mahal with a heavy heart because I'm not sure if I'll ever see something as magnificent as Taj Mahal again in this lifetime.

There was no time to feel sentimental however, because we still had a full day ahead. We first had breakfast at our hotel, Trident Agra, where buffet lines were extra long because everyone had just returned from Taj Mahal.

We were back on the road in no time heading towards Jaipur.

But first we stopped by the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri, which is just an hour away from Taj Mahal. We met with our guide who toured us around the city otherwise known as the City of Victory. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site built by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1569. It served as the capital of the Mughal empire from 1571 to 1585. 

The palace at Fatehpur Sikri was made from red sandstone which was very abundant in the area.

First stop of the tour around Fatehpur Sikri was the Mariam-uz-Zamani Palace which was the residence of Emperor Akbar's wife.

Entering the Queen's Palace, I was struck by the rows of pillars as it was built around a courtyard for privacy. 

Here's the courtyard in its entirety.

Moving along, we passed by Panch Mahal, a five story structure that was built for the ladies of the court. Panch Mahal was used for entertainment and relaxation. 
Panch Mahal

In front of Panch Mahal is a pool with a platform where singing competitions and musical concerts were held.
Anoop Talao

I will always remember Fatehpur Sikri for the courtyard with a life-sized board game, Pachisi Court. Pachisi is a game similar to chess and Emperor Akbar used human beings instead of pachisi pieces when playing the game. The chair is where he sat while calling the shots.
Pachisi Court

We also toured Diwan-I Khas or Hall of Private Audience where it is believed that Emperor Akbar stored the gems and jewels of the royalty. 

The hall is famous for its central pillar which has a square base and octagonal shaft. 

The pillar was carved with bands of geometric and floral designs.

Here are some of the other beautifully carved walls at Fatehpur Sikri.



Our last stop at Fatehpur Sikri was Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India.

Similar to other places of worship, shoes are not allowed.

It's very spacious that it can accommodate up to 10,000 people.

When we were at Jama Marjid, the worshipers were preparing for service so there were mattresses and pillows scattered at the courtyard.

It's also at Jama Masjid where the tomb of Salim Chishti lies. The mausoleum was constructed by Emperor Akbar as a sign of respect because Emperor Akbar felt that he owed the birth of his three heirs to the saint. We no longer entered the mausoleum because there was a line.

After visiting Fatehpur Sikri, we still had a lot of ground to cover to reach our next destination, Jaipur. In between the 3 hours & 30 minutes of land travel, we had late lunch at a restaurant along the highway. At this point, we were getting tired of eating Indian every meal so we didn't order a lot: 
Roti, Samosa, Curry

Next entry will be about our hotel in Jaipur.

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