With the big picture of India often so overwhelming, the tiny beauties are often overlooked.
Here are some of our most memorable moments while travelling in India!
On Easter afternoon, we headed to the Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort. The fort is a walled city from the 1500s.
The above right photo is of a bath tub! I remember this bathtub clearly from my visit 22 years ago.
Below, the fort was buttressed by not one, but two, moats. The first moat was filled with water and contained crocodiles. The second moat was dry and filled with lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)
The most famous part of the fort is the fated bedroom where Shah Jehan sat in house arrest for the last eight years of his life, imprisoned by his son, the current king. From his bedroom window, Shah coudl see the Taj Mahal that he had built for his wife.
The photo below, captures well the experience of both kiddos at the fort. Carson wrestled with Ducky the entire time and play acted various Shakespearean style fights complete with fake punches. Kaden and her camera kept on snapping.
And again, the highlight of the visit? A small, common animal. This time–feeding little striped chipmunks.
We were to stop at yet another location–the Baby Taj–but instead we thought the kids would be happier with a pit stop at McDonalds for french fries and chicken nuggets.
Then it was time to drive an hour to Fatehpur Sikri. During the drive in the car, the kids watched “It’s Easter, Charlie Brown!”
Our trip to Fatehpur Sikri was ill fated. First, a bus accident blocked the road. In the mid day heat, we had to walk past the accident, including this damaged sign, and then take tut tuts up the hill because our van could not get past the chaos.
We managed to fit 11 of us in the tut tut. Even during the drive, local kids would jump onto the back of the tut tut to try to sell things to us. The inside of this tut tut (what they call autorickshaws elsewhere in India), was very colorful.
Fatehpur Sikri reminds me of the story of the Three Little Pigs. Sikriwal Rajput Rajas Last Emperor Maharana Sangram Singh (also known as Emperor Jahangir) had three wives. The first wife was Muslim and was an arranged marriage. She had a little tiny house, shown through the arches below. The second wife was Catholic. She was married for love and had a medium sized house. The third wife was Hindu and she was married to end a feud. She produced the son and thus had the biggest, fanciest house of all.
From the seat where we are sitting (above), the king would play a game of parcheesi in which he use life women as as the pieces.
Above, right, is the parliament building where the king held court, high above the ground.
Above, one of my favorite shots. Indians area always asking to get their pictures taken with us white folk. Here is one of my favorite ones of my friend’s dad. Above, right, some earring decorations on the vegetarian kitchen of the fanciest wife.
As interesting as all of this was, it was hot. Very, very hot. The little kids and the grandparents were wilting. Plus, the vendors were very, very aggressive here. To get from this palace area to the Muslim mosque we were totally surrounded by people. Sadly, this is as much of the mosque as we saw. It was too hot that day and too oppressive, in terms of vendors as much as the temperature. We needed a place to get a cold drink and recharge. But nothing nearby. So it was time to move on to Jaipur.
Our trip to the Taj Mahal was a tale of two kiddos. If only I could have cloned myself into two parents!
Both initially posed for obligatory shots with mom.
But Kaden was the kid who really embraced the spirit of the Taj Mahal.
She took at least as many photos as I did, and she was captivated by the designs of the structure and its beauty.
Although we kept swapping cameras, so I’m not entirely sure which shots are hers, these pictures really captured her eye for design and her interest in the details of the monument.
When in the Taj Majal itself, we had to either go barefoot or wear these shoe covers. Kaden chose shoe covers, Carson chose barefoot.
While Kaden enthusiastically embraced the Taj Mahal, Carson fell apart. The day before, we got up early, took a flight, then drove for 9 hours with many stops. Then the next morning we got up before dawn to see the Taj Mahal. It took just one silly comment from his sister for Carson to have an absolute melt down temper tantrum just as the Taj Mahal came into sight.
He whined, he complained, he cried through our entire visit at the Taj Mahal. And solo parenting, I was in charge of all of it.
The only way I could figure out how to deal with his horrible moods was to strategically sit him in various locations and let him sulk and sob while we took in the sites. In this picture up to the right, he was carry on so dramatically that a security guard came up to him to see what was the matter. I told the security guard that perhaps he could talk some sense into him.
Then, miraculously, as suddenly as it started, it was over. On our way out of the Taj Mahal, we spotted some green parrots in the trees. After looking at the parrots, we left the Taj gates and suddenly he was fine. Go figure.
With the histrionics, the kiddos differences in the kiddo’s interest continued to vary. After breakfast and a quick swim at the hotel, we visited this shop that demonstrated how the inlaid marble in the Taj Mahal is constructed. Kaden had such a fascination that she took many photos and asked many questions about the artisan process.
The above flowers, for example ,are actually up to 40 different pieces of precious stones inlaid into the marble. One person can make only 2 flowers in a day.
While Kaden was learning these facts, Carson was showing his WWE wrestling cards to the store clerks!
Fresh out of school, we joined the Varvarigos family on a trip to Agra and Jaipur! My friend Kathryn’s parents were visiting from Seattle, and we were so grateful to join them on this journey. We couldn’t visit India and not go to the Taj Mahal, and it was so much more fun to go with friends.
We started our journey at the Dehli airport, where we boarded a van that felt like it had stepped out of the 1970s and started the five hour drive to Agra.
The kids took over the back seat and became fast friends. Carson and Ducky enjoyed playing motorcycle games on the I-Pad, and Kaden was very sweet with four year old Gogo. Here she is showing him the Wild Kratts show.
We arrived in Agra much later than we hoped due to the long drive. No swimming time that evening! The kids collapsed into bed and all too soon it was 5:30 Easter morning. Time to rise and shine and head to the Taj Mahal! We got to the Taj that early because of the heat and the crowds, plus we had a long ambitious schedule for our day that would end us in Jaipur by dinner time.
As we arrived at the Taj Mahal grounds at sunrise (6 a.m.), I was shocked to see that the local park was FILLED with local people enjoying the morning. There were hundreds of kids and adults playing cricket, relaxing under trees and visiting with one another. When the heat of the day gets to be over 100 degrees, I guess you take advantage of the one time in the day that you can be out and enjoying the weather!
Right at the Tajgate (above), we found some locals engaged in prayer.
Once we gained entrance to the Taj, our tourguide (in the white hat), gave us a brief history of the monument. This trip was my second visit to the Taj. The first was my visit to India as a teenager. That first visit I remember being bowled over by the Taj’s beauty. With two kiddos with me, I was a bit distracted this time, but the sheer beauty of the place is hard to describe.
We all stopped to pose at the entrance gate.
The entrance has scriptures of the Koran written around its edges. The architect designed the letters to be bigger on the bottom and smaller at the top so that from a distance they appear to be exactly the same size.
The white building, the one we think of as the Taj itself, is a mausoleum. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She died during the birth of their 14th child. It is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, which is a blend of Persian, Turkish, and Indian styles.
Throughout the day the Taj Mahal seems to change colors, from pink in the morning, to yellow mid day. On a full moon, it looks pure white. Always it seems like it is floating above the earth.
Even at six in the morning, the crowds were quite heavy. I can’t imagine the crush of people mid day, and the heat!
Above, the Taj is flanked by mosques on both sides. This one here is an actual mosque. The other side hosts an identical looking mosque that is actually a shell of a building–placed to provide absolute symmetry. Amazing!
Behind the Taj is the Yamuna River, one of two holy rivers in India (the Ganges being the other one). Behind the Taj, the king had hoped to build a black Taj that was an exact replica of this one for his own body. But his son put a stop to that and instead the king is buried inside the white Taj Mahal next to his wife. His casket is the only part of the Taj that is not perfectly symmetrical since his burial was not a part of the original design.