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August 22, 2011

Fatehpur Sikri


Fatehpur Sikri was the first planned city of the Mughals.  It was designed in Mughal architecture and served as the Mughal Empire’s capital from 1571 until 1585.

Most importantly, however, the city provides an extremely valuable lesson of relevance to our fundraising efforts for WaterAid.  After taking 15 years to build, the Mughal palace was abandoned after just 14 years because the water supply could not sustain the growing population!

The complex of buildings includes the royal palaces, courts, and the Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque).

August 22, 2011

Agra Fort


The sister site to the Taj Mahal is the Agra Fort.  Just down the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, the fort offers great views of the Taj and a glimpse at royal life during the Mughal Empire.

Akbar, grandson of Babur (founder of the Mughal Dynasty), made Agra his capital and began rennovating the deteriorating fort around 1565.  Akbar’s grandson, Shah Jahan (who built the Taj Mahal), ruled the Mughal Empire from 1628 until 1658.  When he fell ill, he was imprisoned here by his son, Aurangzeb.  Shah Jahan died in the Muasamman Burj, a tower of the Agra Fort, with a view of his great monument to love.

One of the more interesting points reported in the guidebook was Shah Jahan’s weakness for beautiful women, even after he had grown very old.  When he was detained in the Agra Fort, Aurangzeb permitted him to retain “the whole of his female establishment, including the singing and dancing women” according to Niccolao Manucci, a European chronicler.  He went on to note, “it would seem as if the only thing Shah Jahan cared for was the search for women to serve his pleasure.”  Was he compensating for the loss of his beloved Mumtaz Mahal or just overly indulgent?


August 22, 2011

Taj Mahal


We arrived in Agra late on the night of July 4th, and set our alarms for 5:00 am to see the sunrise at the Taj Mahal on the following morning.   When we got to the entrance, we were some of the first people inside the grounds. We had a guide but he didn’t tell us much more than what was in the guidebook.

Shah Jehan, great great grandson of Babur, built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.  It was built between 1631 and 1648 using white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones.  We saw similar construction at the Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, but the stone inlay and the color of the sun’s reflection off the white marble make it the Wonder of the World that it is today.

Kunal told us that we could make a wish if we walked around the base of the Taj seven times. This seemed like a reasonable proposition. Walking around and around the base for an hour enables you to pick up on the epic beauty that Shah Jehan wanted to convey to all who saw the tomb. This vision gives the observer a glimpse of the love he felt for his favorite wife.

There are more captions in the pictures below.