Saturday, December 29, 2012

India - The city of Agra

Some of you may know this, but some of you may not (I didn't) but the Taj Mahal is near the city of Agra.  Whenever I pictured the Taj Mahal in my mind, I thought of a structure that was just there.  I didn't give any thought to what might be near it.  Well, here are some pictures of the city itself.  Some of them are from us driving through the city and others are from when we stopped to eat.  One set of pictures in particular are from a very special visit to someone's home.  

Please note, most of these pictures (if not all) were taken by my co-worker Phil.  He really captured the Agra experience.

In Agra as in other cities, we mostly saw motorcycles on the road.  The're small, nimble and economical too.

I don't know what these guys were transporting on that tricycle, but it must have been heavy since 1 person was pushing from the back.  The temperature that day (11/3/2012) had to be around 80f/27c and these guys are wearing long sleeved shirts and in some cases a scarf.

I have no idea what those round rocks are for.

In Agra, we saw more carts/wagons pulled by cows than we did when we were in Chennai.  

There were a lot of food shops just off the street.  At night they were very crowded.

A cow resting near a road divider.

There were a lot of these carts too, usually pulled by a horse.

Vendors waiting for customers.

What you see behind the motorcycle is a vendor selling cauliflower from a cart.

Our Cognizant co-worker/guide, Mohit took pity on us and brought us to a McDonald's in Agra.  He probably realized that we were getting a bit tired of Indian food.  At the India McDonald's there were no hamburgers on the menu that contained beef.  You had a choice of veggie burgers or a chicken sandwich.  I can't remember if they had fish on the menu at this one.

It may be spelled wrong, but it get's the point across.

Here is the apartment complex that we visited.  Mohit's brother lives here with his family and we were invited over to their apartment for coffee & tea. 

Here are some of the flowers in the courtyard of the apartments.  The yellow flowers are Marigolds and the red flowers are what we call Cockscomb.  They were over 3 feet tall!  What makes this so amazing to me is that I have never seen them grow more than 6-7 inches in a season where I have lived in the USA.  They were quite stunning.

Tea, coffee and refreshments.  It was a wonderful break in the day.  Just being able to relax and meet Mohit's family was nice.  They were very gracious to have us visit on such short notice.  Oh, and Mohit's brother owns an ice cream distributorship in Agra, so we got to sample a LOT of product before we had the refreshments you see here.  What a wonderful, wonderful experience!

Here's a picture of Melanie, me, Mohit & Mohit's uncle.  The coffee we were drinking was GREAT!

A view of Agra from the apartment.

Another view of the apartment complex.

Back on the road, here you see a packed Tuk-Tuk.  I think there may have been 6 people piled into this vehicle, including the driver!

Not a very focused picture.  Not bad though considering it was from a moving vehicle.

This guy (cow) looked like he goes wherever he wants.

Toll booths.
The city of Agra was an exciting place to be and I am very happy we got to see it.  Click here for more travel information on Agra.

Friday, December 28, 2012

India - The Taj Mahal

Where has the time gone?  I meant to get the pictures posted sooner, but time flies around the holidays.  So, here are the pictures that were taken when I went to the Taj Mahal in November 2012.  Click here for a brief history.

We toured the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort on the same day.  I'll post picture of Agra Fort later.  Just know that by the end of the day, we were worn out!

Here's the entrance to the Taj Mahal grounds.  At this point, we have not even seen part of the structure itself.  This place is HUGE!  The 'tent' you see there is a security checkpoint.  They were at every place we visited when we were there.

After we went though the entryway, this is what we saw to the left and right of us.  From what our tour guide said, these openings were offices for the various supervisors that were overseeing the building of the Taj Mahal.  Each supervisor had a unique rug in his office for identification.  For instance, a supervisor may have had a rug with a rose as the design.  If someone needed that supervisor, they would send a runner and ask for the 'rose' supervisor.  There were so many managers on this project, and so many workers, it was the most practical way to get things done. 

A side view of the offices

Here I have stepped into one of the offices and taken a picture.  You can see several other offices too.  Note the symbols above the doorways, this was probably an identifier for the various supervisors as well (my guess).  I can't remember the number of offices on the grounds, but I do know that the ones you see here weren't even 1/4 of them.  There were a LOT.

Here is the building everyone has to go through to see the Taj Mahal.  It is called Darwaza.  The main gateway (darwaza) is a monumental structure built primarily of marble which is reminiscent of Mughal architecture of earlier emperors. Its archways mirror the shape of tomb's archways, and its pishtaq arches incorporate the calligraphy that decorates the tomb. It utilizes bas-relief and pietra dura inlaid decorations with floral motifs. The vaulted ceilings and walls have elaborate geometric designs, like those found in the other sandstone buildings of the complex.  From this distance you can already see the balance and artwork in this amazing structure.

All the artwork you see here on the front of the building has been done in marble and other stone material.  The actual work is called pietra dura.  Seeing the tourists here also gave me my first clue as to the amount of people we would be seeing.

Here I am, in front of the entrance to the Taj Mahal.

Going through the gateway

My first peek at the Taj Mahal.  The smog was bad in Agra, it did clear up some in the afternoon though.  The little dots you see at the base of the structure are people.  The big dots you see at the bottom of the picture are people too.

Some garden landscaping

You can see some of the building detail here.  Did I mention it was huge?

We had to either take our shoes off or wear booties when we went into the Taj Mahal.  Since it was a sacred place, we were not allowed to have our shoes touch the grounds.

On either side of the Taj Mahal were two building, one of them is a mosque and the other is a jawab (answer), whose primary purpose was architectural balance, although it may have been used as a guesthouse. 

A picture of the Taj Mahal before we climbed the steps to the grounds.

One of my co-workers (Phil) wanted to get a picture of the guy with the gun.  So I told him to take a picture of me, but 'miss'.

The entrance to the Taj Mahal.  We were not allowed to take pictures inside the building.  Click here for more facts about the Taj Mahal.

A close up of the outside artwork.

This technique is actually called pietra dura.   It is a term for the inlay technique of using cut and fitted, highly-polished colored stones to create images or artwork.

My last look at the Taj Mahal.