Hello blog readers! Only one more post left before we return to the U.S.! Today we woke up very early (before 5 am) to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. It was very beautiful and we were glad we went to see it so early as there were much fewer tourists.
The Taj was built by Shah Jahan, the same man who added the white marble to the Red Fort. It was built for his favorite wife when she died suddenly at the age of 39. They had married out of love, whereas his previous two marriages had been arranged. She had 14 of his children, but only 7 of them survived. It is likely that her death was due to complications during childbirth. It is said that on her deathbed she asked her husband to make the world aware of their amazing love, and thus he build the Taj Mahal. Both husband and wife are buried there, the tombs that you see when you visit are decorative. The actual tombs are in a secret chamber to prevent their bodies from being plundered if the city was conquered.
We took a horse and buggy ride on the way back from the Taj Mahal. Natalie even got to drive the horse! We returned to the hotel for breakfast and saw a woman we had befriended at the hotel named Mary. She is from Cornwall and visited the Taj at the same time we did. She was very a sweet, old lady and enjoyed hearing about our adventures. We wish her a safe trip back to England today!
At this point we began our 5 hour drive to Delhi. Our drive was uneventful, but as soon as we arrived in Delhi we stopped at Akshardam, the largest contemporary Hindu temple. It was built in 2005 with strict adherence to Hindu architectural principles, the first temple built this way in centuries. It took 7,000 artisans only 5 years to build the temple and the beautiful sculptures and carvings. Jackie was excited to see that the temple had a peacock gate with hundreds of peacocks carved into the stone.
Nearly 70% of tourists who visit Delhi also visit this temple. No photos were allowed, so unfortunately we don’t have pictures within the temple. However the memory of the very thorough frisking we each experienced in order to enter the temple will be engrained in our minds forever.
Once we were settled in the hotel we watched a Bollywood movie, Jodhaa Akbar. Akbar built the Red Fort in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri which we saw on our trip. The story involved Akbar’s marriage to one of his wives and the consolidation of Hindustan. Their marriage was arrange to form an alliance between the Mughals and another ruler, Jodhaa’s father. Akbar was Muslim and Jodhaa was Hindu, however, Akbar did not force Jodhaa to convert and ever built her a small temple within her palace. As the movie progresses he slowly wins over her love and also all of Hindustan. The movie was a little cheesy and we all enjoyed commenting on the hilarious special effects, including people getting stepped on by war elephants.
Tomorrow we will be exploring the many sights of Delhi and heading home at midnight! Stay tuned for our final blog post by our fearless leader, Shobhita.