Robin's Adventures

Adventures in the Asian Subcontinent

More City of Victory

The buildings in the city, which are built of red sandstone, include palaces, courtyards, meeting halls, and a mosque in a style which combines Indian and Persian architecture.

The tall five story structure, which has 84 columns on the bottom level and gets successively smaller on each level, was used by the women in the king's harem. The building had latticed screens so the women could discretely watch the entertainment that was on the stage over the pool in the courtyard.

Still More City of Victory

The Hall of Private Audience, which is a square shaped building with four domed canopies or chhatris on top, has a large elaborately carved central pillar at the center of four stone walkways.

Hiran Minar, which is a tall circular stone tower with tusk-like projections made of stone, is believed to be a memorial to the king's favorite elephant.

We also saw a series of long narrow openings over a deeper tunnel-like structure that our guide explained were used as toilets by members of the court. While it is an interesting, and perhaps plausible explanation of what this structure was, in doing on-line research about Fatehpur Sikri, I could not find anything to support his claim.

Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel

Following our journey by train from Ranthambore and our visit to the City of Victory, we arrived in Agra where we stayed at the Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel. Our room had a great view that offered us our first look at the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal, which means Crown of the Palace, took more than 20 years to build at an estimated cost of $827 million. The Taj was commissioned in 1632 by the emperor Shah Jahan as a final resting place for his beloved wife Mumatz Mahal who died giving birth to their 14th child. The structure is built of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones.

Just before our visit to India, some friends recommended a book called "Beneath a Marble Sky" that dealt with the building of the Taj Mahal. Although the book was fictional, and a very well written and interesting novel, it gave us a great deal of insight by putting the building of the Taj into its historical and cultural context.

More Taj Mahal

In addition to the marble mausoleum, the Taj complex includes a red sandstone gateway, a red sandstone mosque, and in order to provide symmetry, a building identical to the mosque on the opposite side of the mausoleum. There is also a beautiful garden split into quarters by long pools of water.

The central dome of the Taj, which is 240 feet tall, is surrounded by four smaller domes. There are also four minarets, one at each corner of the Taj.

A Closer Look at the Taj

Many of the designs on the Taj are made using an inlay technique called parchin kari, which involves cutting, fitting, polishing, and inlaying stones to create images. Around many of the archways, this process was used to inscribe passages from the Qur'an.

Inside the Taj

In order to go into the Taj, we had to wear special paper booties over our shoes. Once inside, we saw the two tombs which, although empty, represent the tombs of emperor Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The actual sarcophagi are located at a lower level of the building that is not open to the public.

The interior of the Taj was elaborately decorated with marble flowers carved in bas-relief, flowers of precious stone in-layed using the parchin kari technique, and delicately carved jali or screens that surrounded the false sarcophagi.

A Little Monkey Business at the Taj Mahal

We saw monkeys just about everywhere in India and the Taj Mahal was no exception. The building itself is so awe inspiring and we spent a great deal of time looking introspectively at its beautiful contours. It was nice to take a break from the Taj and enjoy the playful antics of the Rhesus monkeys.

Morning Commute at the Taj

When we arrived at the Taj in time to catch the early morning light reflecting off of the gleaming marble, we were delighted to see the monkeys making their early morning commute as well.

Monkey Shenanigans

Check out this video of some Rhesus monkeys at the Taj Mahal.