"You'll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut..." - Dr Seuss
The city of Taj
After breakfast we drove towards Agra , the city of Taj Mahal via Fatehpur Sikri. The distance of about 235 km was covered in about 5 hours.
Fatehpur Sikri was built by Emperor Akbar in 1569 and abandoned after 15 years due to scarcity of water. The principal buildings of the imperial palace complex, clustered on a series of terraces along the sandstone ridge, formed the core of Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar's city. The royal complex contains the private and public spaces of Akbar's court, which included the harem and treasury.
The adjoining sacred complex with the Jame’ Masjid, Salim Chisti's tomb and the Buland Darwaza are separated from the royal quarters by the Badshahi Darwaza, an exclusive royal gateway. Stylistically, it marked the absorption of Gujrat into the Mughal empire and reveals a successful synthesis of pre-Islamic, Hindu and Jain architecture with elegant domes and arches of Islamic building.
The world famous Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan in 1630 in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. The monument said to be one of the most elegant and harmonious buildings in the world, is the manifestation of the wealth and luxury of Mughal art as seen in its architecture, garden design, painting, and calligraphy.
The 144 foot double dome of the Taj is capped with a finial and the four minarets each 131 ft high are crowned by an open octagonal pavilion, highlighting the perfect symmetry of the tomb. The filigree screen, meant to veil the area around the royal tomb, was carved out of single block of marble. Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph, raised on a platform is next to Shah Jahan's. The actual graves are in a dark crypt below and closed to visitors.
The Mughals believed that flowers were the symbols of the divine realm, thus in the Taj pietra dura has been extensively used to translate naturalistic forms into decorative patterns that complement the majesty of its architecture. Inlaid calligraphy in black marble was used as a form of ornamentation on undecorated surfaces, with the size of the Quranic verses increasing as the arch gets higher, creating the subtle optical illusion of an uniformly flowing script.
Agra Fort is a massive structure on the bank of Yamuna River. The entrance is from the south through the impressive Amar Singh gate. To its right is the so-called Jahangiri Mahal, the only major palace in the fort that dates back to Akbar's reign. This complex arrangement of halls, courtyards and galleries was Zenana or the main harem.
Along the river front are the Khas Mahal an elegant marble hall with a vividly painted ceiling, characteristic of Shah Jahan's style of architecture and two garden pavilions with bangaldar roofs. The Sheesh Mahal and the royal baths are to the northeast, near the gloriously inlaid Musamman Burj, a double storied octagonal tower with clear views of the Taj, where Shah Jahan was said to be imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb.