Most of the team stayed in India post-CSC assignment to do additional traveling and we had a great time ‘running into each other’ in Delhi and Agra. The Taj Mahal did not disappoint and was amazing to see at sunset. The elephant ride into the Amber Fort was also a trip highlight.
We only had 4 days to see the sights and we made the most of it. Here’s how the itinerary went…
– Leave Delhi for Agra. Agra is in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
– Stop at the tomb of Akbar the Great, also known as the “Sikandra Tomb”, on the way. This tomb was built from 1605 – 1613 of red sandstone with white marble inlay. The entrance to this tomb was designed to imitate the Gate of Magnificence at Fatehpur Sikri (read on for our visit to this site on day 2).
This was a fairly quick stop but the architecture was really amazing.
– Arrive in Agra and go straight to the Taj Mahal. This mausoleum was built in memory of Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Mumtaz who died giving birth to their 14th child. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632, the principle mausoleum was completed in 1648 and the surrounding buildings and garden were completed in 1653. The mausoleum is constructed of white marble and is inlaid with semi-precious stones.
We lucked out that day because the weather was a little cooler than normal, only in the high 90’s instead of 100’s, and there was a breeze to help keep the temperature down.
– Head to the Agra Fort for a tour and views down the Yamuna River of the Taj Mahal.
This site is really more like a walled city and we toured several palaces and a mosque within the fort.
– Surprise stop at the ‘Baby Taj’, also called the Tomb of Itimad ud Daulah. This monument was built before the Taj Mahal, between 1622 – 1628, architectural elements – the white marble inlay techniques – used for the Taj Mahal were borrowed from the second phase of construction here.
– Arrive at Mehtab Bagh, the park across the river from the Taj Mahal, to see the sunset.
This park is well landscaped and is an awesome place to take photos of the Taj Mahal. We stayed until the sun went down.
– Arrive at Bansi Homestay for the night.
We had a fabulous thali dinner with the owner. Great place to stay! www.bansihomestayagra.com
– Start the drive to Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan.
– Stop at Fatehpur Sikri on the way. This deserted, red sandstone city was built by Emperor Akbar as his capital around 1560 – 1585. It is a walled city with a series of royal palaces harem courts, a mosque and private quarters. The site is two miles long by one mile wide.
This was our only stop that we didn’t have a guide lined up and we quickly realized that we needed one. So, we hired a guide once we got to the entrance, mainly to keep the hawkers from bothering us. We were pleasantly surprised to realize how knowledgeable he was and ended up spending over 2 hours on the tour.
– Arrive in Jaipur
– We drove into the city’s old quarter, known as the Pink City for its red-washed buildings.
We saw the Hawa Mahal, sadly under renovation, an ornate five-story facade designed to allow the women of the royal household to observe the street life without being seen.
Our first stop was the Jantar Mantar, an observatory built in 1726, with really interesting architectural and instrumental innovations like a gigantic sundial.
Across the courtyard is the City Palace Museum. We viewed the armory of old weapons and the collection of robes of the royal princes.
– Check into Girisadan Homestay, www.girisadanhomestay.com.
We found out that Maltilde (another CSC colleague) and her sister were checking in that night as well so we stayed up after dinner to wait for them. After catching up, we decided to tour together the next day.
– Leave for the Amber Fort, about 11 kilometers outside of Jaipur.
Our plan was to ride up to the fort on an elephant so we got had to get to the site before it got too hot. We made a quick stop on the way to get an outside view of the fort, to see a decorated elephant walking down the street and to watch a snake charmer. Once we arrived at the entrance, the line was already pretty long. But the whole operation was, unusually, well organized and the line moved quickly.
The elephants were so gentle and calm. Our guide made sure that we got on one that was well decorated. The elephant seemed much bigger once we were sitting up on top and the views on the way to the fort entrance were amazing.
The interior of the fort includes royal halls that are decorated with intricate ivory inlays, stained glass and interesting incorporation of mirrors into the wall paintings. There was so much to see at this fort, we were there for over 3 hours.
– Head back to Jaipur for a quick photo opp of the Lake Palace.
Unfortunately, this was also under renovation. When it is open, there is a restaurant and hotel on-site and you can take a boat out for a visit. This was a really quick stop. The view was great but the surrounding park was not so nice and it was time to head back to Delhi.
– Arrive at Charlotte’s B&B and get settled.
We were exhausted but hungry so we walked to a neighborhood restaurant that Charlotte recommended
– Start our tour of New and Old Delhi. We met our guide at the Shri Lakshmi Narain Temple. The temple is dedicated to the goddess of prosperity and good fortune & is commonly known as the Birla Mandir. This temple was built over a six-year period (1933 – 1939) and was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi on the condition that people of all castes would be allowed in.
The interior is beautiful with lots of activity as people go about their daily prayers.
– Drive to Raj Ghat, the memorial site of Mahatma Gandhi.
The grounds were landscaped nicely and it was very quiet and peaceful there. Delhi is one of the ‘greenest’ cities in the world with a green cover of almost 20%. It was also just starting to get hot so everything still looked lush and green from the cooler weather.
– Head to Humayun’s Tomb which was built in 1570. The building and grounds represent the earliest example of a Mughal scheme garden tomb, with causeways and channels. The double domes elevation with kiosks significantly influenced the style of the Taj Mahal, built almost a century later.
– Visit to the local Baha’i Temple.
It was fun to see the Baha’i Temple in Delhi and to make comparisons with the one that is a 10 minute drive from my house. The line to get into the one in Delhi was hours long and I never see anyone at the temple in Wilmette. Both buildings are lovely, the Delhi temple looks like a lotus flower while the Wilmette temple looks more like a very fancy orange juice squeezer.
– Drive to Qutub Minar, built in 1193, to see the tallest minaret in India. The tower is 238 feet tall (73m) and tapers from 47 feet (15m) in diameter at the base to only 9 feet (2.5 m) at the top. The tower has 5 distinct stories that each defined by a projecting balcony.
– Drive along Rajpath, the ceremonial avenue to get another look at the India Gate and stop at the Parliament House for a few photos.
We liked the details on the wrought iron gate surrounding the Rashtrapati Bhavan Presidential Palace. The view down the avenue was impressive.
– Head back to Charlotte’s B&B to meet up with Francis (another CSC colleague) and his wife and brother-in-law for coffee.
After spending a great month with Francis in Kolkata, it was a real treat to meet some of his family. It was an even bigger treat to be invited to dinner at his in-laws house. Dinner was wonderful and it was the perfect end to a fabulous adventure in India.
See more photos at flickr.com/jilldaffodil.