Our first stop in the district of Agra was Fort Fatehpur Sikri. We stopped here while driving into the city of Agra. This fort was founded by Emperor Akbar as the capital. They started construction in 1569. It took 15 years to build the fort, but the royal family left the fort in 1585, 19 years after beginning construction. They were forced to leave their new home and return to the city of Agra because the spring-fed lake had gone dry.
The fort has been used since by other families and governments. It is in good condition today. It has a five mile walk around the fort and a mosque inside, built for the original royal family.
The architecture in the fort intentionally reflected multiple religions: the arch was typical of muslim mosques, the stacked horizontal sections forming a pyramid were typical of hindu temples, and the dome was influenced by christian churches.
This fort was not our favorite stop of our tour of India. The fort also holds a mosque and you must remove your shoes to enter the fort complex. This is nothing new, and by itself no big deal. However, it was mid afternoon and 112 degrees outside. Walking (running, actually) across the red sandstone that had been baking in the sun all day felt like walking across hot coals! Megan actually had a blister on the bottom of one foot and both of our feet felt raw for the next few days!
We reached the city of Agra with enough time to get dinner and go to bed. We left the hotel at 6 am the next day to avoid the queues at The Taj Mahal. Neither of us are morning people and getting up at 5:15am was a tall order, but we both agree that it was worth it! The early hour in combination with it being off tourist season meant that we did not have any any queues or large crowds. TOTALLY WORTH IT!
To enter the Taj Mahal, you go through the main gate. This gate is quite impressive on its own. It is 93 feet tall with marble and semi-precious stone inlay. The very top of the gate has 22 small white domes on it representing the 22 years it took to built the Taj Mahal.
When you walk through the gate the Taj Mahal comes into view. It is breathtaking and caused us to stop in awe. Megan couldn’t believe she was actually seeing it; she has always imagined it, but to actually be there was overwhelming.
The Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She has died giving birth to their 14th child and the Taj Mahal is her mausoleum. It was started in 1631 and is entirely made out of white marble with inlay of precious and semi-precious stones. There are detailed screens carved out of the marble as well as marble with beautifully detailed flowers carved into it.
There are also beautiful gardens between the gate and the actual Taj Mahal. They were currently working to clean the white stone.
We (Megan) had to take a moment to say “goodbye” to the Taj Mahal and then we were off to Agra Fort. Agra fort was built by multiple different Emperors but it was started in 1556. It has multiple palaces and is a military fort. You go through three gates to enter the fort. The fort is protected by two walls and two moats.
One moat was originally a water moat and the other was a dry moat featuring tigers or other deadly animals.
Once inside the walls the palaces feel like a maze. There are multiple small palaces, courtyards, throne rooms and even a mirrored room.
It seemed like they were all different and detailed in their own way. Emperor Shah Jahan built the parts of the palace that are in white marble as it was his favorite.
He was later kept a prisoner in the fort by his own son. Emperor Shah Jahan had wanted to build a second Taj Mahal across the river and it all black marble for himself. He had already spent a lot of money on the first and his son imprisoned him in order to stop him from building the second one. Shah Jahan spent the rest of his life in the Agra Fort where he could only see his beloved wife’s resting place from afar. This was his room: