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.