We were up bright and early to take a bus to the train station for our trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. What an experience!
First, the bus went to the wrong train station. Then once we reached the right station, our tour guide took us in the wrong direction. So we walked all the way to the end of the station before doing a quick turnaround and jogging in the opposite direction. As Barb said later, it was like the survival of the fittest with the weakest getting left behind. She was doing her best to keep up and I was trying to keep our guide in sight ahead, and Barb and Ed in sight behind. Finally, I gave in to the “every man for himself” attitude and focused on getting onto the train. We all made it, arriving sweaty and shaky! With all that excitement, I didn't take a single photo.
One memory that sticks in my mind...it was still dark and there were people sleeping everywhere on the ground outside the train station. We were scurrying amongst them as we ran to our platform with our suitcases and bags barely clearing their sleeping heads. One little girl was sitting on a piece of cardboard, watching us, and she caught my eye and gave me the biggest smile that just lit up her face. It broke my heart...I won't ever forget that face and that smile.
The train ride was uneventful and pleasant. India Railways is the biggest single employer in the world and is run by the government.
We arrived in Agra and boarded our buses to drive part way to the Taj Mahal. Gas vehicles are not allowed near the Taj, so we then had to get into battery powered vans to go the rest of the way. Here are some of the vans used, along with horses and carriages.
When she was about to deliver her 14th child at age 39, Mumtaz realized that she would die. She asked her husband to promise her three things: 1) to build the most beautiful mausoleum in the world for her body; 2) to never marry again in his earthly life; and 3) to bring up his children as a father and not an emperor. Shah Jahan kept those promises. Unfortunately, his third son wanted to be emperor so badly that he killed his two older brothers, and imprisoned his father in the Agra Fort. Shah Jahan died at age 76, still imprisoned and looking at the Taj Mahal which was close by.
We arrived at the fort.
It was originally a brick fort dating back to 1080 AD. The Mughals captured the fort and its vast treasure, and then expanded the fort to include the many palaces.
The Mughals were direct descendants of Gengis Khan. The Mughal empire began in 1526 and continued into the 18th century. They were the dominant power in the Indian subcontinent until the army was disbanded by the British in 1805.
What a memorable day! We have another early start tomorrow with a wake-up call at 5:30 a.m. as we head back to New Delhi on a five hour bus ride.