Agra, page 5 of 5
Our last day in Agra we took a small tour to the other side of the river. We hired our own auto riksja with a very shy driver, so for a change I didnt worry to much about him and just jumped out whenever we got stuck somewhere and took a lot of pictures.
Here you see one of Jacques and our driver, arent they sweet!! I have to ask your special attention for the text on our auto riksja, something like Green Agra!. A contradictio in terminis I would say, this text on an auto riksja! In Agra, like in all bigger cities in Northern India, there are big pollution problems. The government does seem to take the pollution serious, since the perfect white marble of the Taj Mahal is attacked and slowly changes in a sloppy yellow. Now there are green zones in Agra of course dont try to walk there, youve read what happens. Also it is not very convenient to take a bike riksja, because of the big height differences you have to cover. And it is really very embarrassing to sit in a bike riksja when your driver has to walk and push the bike! Of course you want to walk with him and anyway that would be much faster, but he wouldnt allow it, no problem, he is afraid you would get the idea of walking all the way maybe?
Here on the bridge you see the standard dead lock of the Indian traffic: you have to stop for unknown reasons and of course you try to pass all waiting people and from the other side riksja's do the same and somewhere in the middle you really get stuck!
Before entering the mausoleum we want to visit, I make some pictures of the neighborhoods. So much dirt and all animals are walking free; this is quite normal in India. I met two street boys, a bit dirty but they have lots of fun!
Now we enter the mausoleum, Itimad-ud-daulah. A beautiful small Tah-Mahal-like building, maybe a kind of exercise before the real thing. The pietra dura, the marble inlay work, is almost as perfect as in the Taj Mahal. A big advantage is that you are allowed to take pictures - for a small amount of money of course, everywhere you have to pay to photograph and to pay much more to make a video. Not all this money disappears traceless (as I thought at first a little distrustful), over here the inside of the mausoleum is being restored.
This mausoleum is built for Mirza Ghiyas Beg, and in case you dont remember, this was a Persian chief minister. His beautiful daughter Nur Jahan later married the emperor and constructed this tomb for her father (1625). Of course our Dutch minister presidents can only dream of such an impressing building for their remembrance - even if one of their daughters would marry Alexander (successor to our Dutch throne)!
After this we visit the nearby Ram Bagh, the garden of God or something like that, old Moghul gardens. But the gardens are totally destroyed, although women workers try to restore it a bit. You can see it will take ages. But we think it would be nice to let the water flow again in the garden through all the canals and out of the fountains, this would improve the gardens already very much. Water is so essential in this Arabic gardens, of course, the essence of heaven on an earth so dry.
The Mausoleum of Akbar in Sikandra to the NorthWest of Agra is much better preserved. This is not true of the road we have to follow to get there, but the very relaxed and indeed almost paradise-like atmosphere of Sikandra makes everything all right. There are a lot of Languor monkeys over here and there is a big garden, or rather a big field, where you can watch deer walking far away. Luckily some of them are very lazy and lay indolent on the terrace in front of the Baradi Palace.
Akbar is one of the greatest Mughal Emperors, who started to built the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, discussed on this pages. He started also his own mausoleum! We visited his tomb, quite an experience since it was located in a dark room in the center of the mausoleum. To enter the room you must go through a dark passage, the only light being emitted by a far away slightly swaying light hanging above the tomb. A silent guard was sitting next to the tomb to complete the effect. A lot of screaming school children attempted to destroy the ghostlike atmosphere, but they didn't completely succeed at it, so I guess they were a little frightened also...
The son of Akbar completed the mausoleum. It is a mixture of Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Christian styles. And maybe he took the best of every style, because the mysterious buildings, full of the past, in combination with the big, quiet garden inhabited with all the lazy monkeys and deer come close to my idea of paradise. Maybe even closer than the Taj Mahal, which is too much impressive and too dominant to allow you to relax and feel paradise-like. But please never tell this to Shah Jahan, who would be terribly disappointed.
Jacques tries to enter the world of the monkeys. He succeeds, as you can see, watching this shall we shake hands or not. But of course the interaction gets also a bit aggressive, like all meetings between two dominant males (never thought that of Jacques!), especially when food is concerned (or females?). Anyway, Jacques didnt have enough interest in this mysterious fruit to defend it with his life - the monkey was very lucky he wasn't eating any peanuts!