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Every travel trip leaves behind beautiful memories. And if it is a trip to the majestic Taj Mahal then every moment becomes immemorable.
I have gone to Taj Mahal three times at different stages of life. As a school student, just after marriage and then again with my daughter.
My First Trip to Taj Mahal & Fatehpur Sikri:
I still remember, for the first time, when I was in eighth standard I had gone there with my maternal grandfather, my Nana ji. He was a professor in a college and had arranged an all-girls trip to Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri from the college. He took me along when I requested.
It was a very exciting trip and I enjoyed every bit of it. It was a six-hour long road trip to Agra. Girls sang, laughed and enjoyed on the way. First destination was Fatehpur Sikri. A guide was hired to show us around in Fatehpur Sikri. I still, distinctly, remember all the architectural details of Panch Mahal, Diwan-E-Aam, Palace of Jodha Bai and Buland Darwaza. We spent good number of hours and each detail of that place is still fresh in my mind after so many years. We totally enjoyed this place and I promised myself that I will visit again.
Post Fatehpur Sikri, the group headed towards Taj Mahal. Anyone who has seen Taj Mahal for the time can only explain the experience of first glance of the majestic beauty. I was mesmerized by the sight. It was like a dream sequence, white structure in front of the blue background. It was a sight to behold for the rest of the life. Nobody mattered at that moment.
Agra, relatively, remains warmer than Delhi or other places around. Especially Taj Mahal, since it is all stone structure. Therefore, it is always recommended to visit Taj Mahal during winters.
It was a perfect trip as the weather was very pleasing and the company was amazing. I always wanted to go back again in life.
My second visit to Taj & Fatehpur Sikri
My second trip was after my marriage. As a ritual, every newly married couple in north India visits Taj Mahal to swear by the supposed love of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz. Taj Mahal is a symbol of eternal love and couples want to start their married life by visiting and clicking themselves at this grand monument. Ours was a similar thought process.
We went to Agra by Train which took nearly three hours. The train reached at ten in the morning. It was unplanned, impromptu kind of trip. So, we were not sure how to go about from the railway station. We thought of contacting someone who could show us around and also guide us at the monuments. But, at the railway station, another newly married couple approached us to hire a taxi together and move around on our own. The idea clicked and we hired a taxi together.
We decided to first go to Fatehpur Sikri. I wanted to relive the memories with my husband this time. But to our surprise the taxi driver took us to another place called Saleem Chisti Ki Dargah. Though it was a new place to me, I still did not question and started seeing around clicking pictures. But you need hardly an hour to see the place. When I asked the driver where is Panch Mahal and other buildings, that I had seen in my childhood, he said, they are on the other side. He obviously cheated us as he said the money quoted was for the shorter route.
Totally disappointed, we decided to walk to the other side. Afterall that is what we had come for in Agra. It was natural for my enthusiasm to wither away. But once inside we got busy clicking pictures and forgot the fraud done to us. Though it was December, the sun was very harsh at noon. I was not comfortable in the sweatshirt.
At Fatehpur Sikri, there are two distinct architecture, one of a Mughal style and the other more of a Hindu style. The Buland Darwaza, Dewan-e-Khas and Jama Masjid have been built in Mughal style and the Panch Mahal and Jodha Bai’s Palace are in Hindu style of architecture. The Buland Darwaza leads you to Jama Masjid and Diwan-e-Khas.
I noted one thing. Though the monument generates enormous revenue the precinct outside the monument has not been maintained properly. In fact, it is dirty and smelly.
We finished our tour of Fatehpur Sikri and moved towards Taj Mahal.
At Taj Mahal, my husband was awestruck by the first glimpse. It was the second time for me. Still the aura of the white beauty struck me this time too. My husband got busy clicking each detail of the monument. We, as a couple, got pictures clicked in front of Taj Mahal for keeps sake.
This time I had come as an Architect and my perspective was completely different. I had read about the geometry, design and planning of the building as an architectural student. We spent good amount of time.
River Yamuna flows at the back of the Taj Mahal. There is another unfinished monument that Shah Jahan wanted to build at the back of the Taj Mahal, on the other side of river Yamuna, which is clearly visible from this building.
Here also, I didn’t like how we are maintaining our priceless heritage. Visitors too do not keep the premises clean.
We wanted to visit Agra Fort but somehow time didn’t allow us. Overall, it was a nice trip. We came back by Taj Express train and reached Delhi at night.
My third trip to Taj Mahal & Fatehpur Sikri :
It was in June 2018 when my brother had come from USA and was desperate to see Taj Mahal. Though the summer was at its peak and the temperature was touching 45 degree centigrade, we took the risk. This time, with us, was our kiddo.
We decided to go by car so that we don’t get harassed by taxis this time. We decided to start around five in the morning to reach Agra early in the morning. We took Taj Expressway. The expressway has a cement road, not good for tyres, especially during summers. But it is the quickest road to Agra from Delhi.
But with kids it is always difficult to start on time. We started a little late. On our way we had amazing paranthas at the roadside eatery, known as Dhaba in north India. We reached Taj Mahal at eleven ‘o’ clock. Sun was scorching and the heat was terrible. After parking outside, we took rickshaw to reach the gate. I saw mad rush despite the heat. I guess it was summer vacations for children and that is why more people were travelling. We were carrying e-tickets to spare ourselves from the long and maddening queue for tickets.
I did not see any foreigner this time. I was in there for the third time in my life. Inside, the temperature must have been around 50 °c on that day. We later got to know that the maximum temperature in Agra that day was 47 °c. The temperature of Taj Mahal, being a stone structure, is always 2 to 3 degrees higher. One can imagine the heat that we subjected ourselves to. Thankfully we were carrying umbrellas and enough water bottles with us.
My brother, without saying, liked the monument immensely. We couldn’t spend more time than we had intended to.
For lunch we headed to Taj Gateway hotel as I was a member of Taj Hotels. It was a welcome relief from the sweltering heat. Taj hospitality was as usual very good. We thought of skipping Fatehpur Sikri due to the heat but I wanted to go for a personal reason. It is said that if you tie a dhaga (thread) at the Dargah and make a wish then you must come back and open a thread so that your wish comes true. Superstitious me wanted to go because you never know when the next trip would be.
It was a straight road that we took, guided by google maps. Everything was nice till we reached near Fatehpur Sikri. About a kilometer before the monument, a few men carrying sticks were blocking every vehicle on the road. We got hell scared, more because there was a child us. We were told that there was no parking at Fatehpur Sikri, we need to park our cars there only and take rickshaw from there. It sounded very strange as we knew that we could park our cars near the monument.
We saw few vehicle owners being bullied and being asked to pay hefty charges for parking and rickshaw ride. We decided not to pay and dig our heels in. When we saw a couple of police personnel, we asked them for help. They, initially, asked us to do whatever the men were saying. But then said if you are taking car you can only go to back gate that takes you to Dargah, which we agreed.
My husband sat in the car with the daughter, me and my brother went to the Dargah. The road to Dargah was filthy. So many young lads started chasing us to become our guide. We were hell scared so we thought of hiring one of them to be safer. He took us inside quickly. I did my prayers and came rushing outside.
I wish our tourism departments make these places pleasant for tourists to visit. I wish my I could give the same experience to my child that I had in my childhood. But she is very young and we will definitely go again to create memories for her.