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Guest Blogger continued…

Taj Mahal

Upon closer inspection of the Taj Mahal, the workmanship of the building is amazing. All the designs and writings are done with inlay technique using precious and semi-precious stones. 

Stone Carving

After our visit to the Taj Mahal, we went to Marble Krafts to see a demonstration of the artisans making the marble inlays using the same technique as found on the walls of the Taj Mahal. The family artisans create their own designs but will do special orders as well.  We were told during the demonstration that the artisans are descendents of the original craftsmen who worked at the Taj Mahal. But the tour guide also told us about the legend of the Black Taj Mahal which has been refuted. Hard to know what to believe…

India Stone box with precious stones

The semi precious stones such as Lapis lazuli, Onyx, Jasper, Cornelian, etc  are combined with various marble colors to create items such as small boxes, bathroom tiles, chess boards & table tops. The decorative art is known as pietra dura inlay which has floral and geometric patterns  ~ creating a beautiful result. 

India Stone Box

I’ve had an opportunity to travel extensively but can’t always take my family. During my travels, I like to bring a little something home and I started bringing small locally crafted boxes for my daughter. This box seemed perfect to add to her collection.

India Market

Speaking of shopping, upon returning to New Dehli, a few of us decided to go to the Dilli Haat Market. What a great place ~ it is organized with stalls from all the different regions in India. Also, there’s a nominal entrance fee (about 20 rupees) which means there weren’t any pickpockets or beggars to distract while we walked around the stalls. The central food area looked interesting but since I had just recently arrived in India, I was still not ready to tackle street food.

India Hand Stitching on Pashmina

Hand stitched pashmina.

India Pashmina with hand stitching

Before I went to the Dilli Haat market, I had never heard of a pashmina but after speaking with the vendor from Kashmir, I was convinced I had to get one for my wife. He said the material came from the neck ~the softest part. Later I learned there’s a trick to telling a good pashmina. Pull it through a ring and if it goes through smoothly, it’s good quality.

For more information on:

Marble Krafts, click here.

Dilli haat Market, click here.

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Taj Mahal

Even though India is high on my list of places to visit and the Taj Mahal is at the tippy top of the list, it’s doubtful I’ll be there anytime soon. John (my husband), on the other hand, spent the month of May on a school trip to India, Nepal and Bangladesh. I’ve been living vicariously through his stories and photos. And bonus, he’s agreed to share his travels here on Displaced Beachbums as a guest blogger ~ we’ll need a few posts to cover the three-week trip. Hope you enjoy reading about his adventures as much as I have. All photos taken by John.

We woke up early to catch the two-hour train ride from Delhi to Agra. The train ride was our first full day in India and we were bombarded by the cacophony of sights, sounds and smells. Having just come from London, the 42°C (107°F) temperatures were oppressive. The most striking aspect of the journal was the people ~ everywhere! Sleeping on the sidewalks, crowding on the trains. Sadly, many children begging.

India Train Station

Agra Train Station, India

India Tuk Tuks

Tuk-Tuks at the Agra Train Station

Entrance Gate to Taj mahal

Entrance gate to the Taj Mahal.

We took a coach from the Agra Train station to a parking area not far from the Taj Mahal. Because they just cleaned the Taj Mahal complex, gasoline/diesel vehicles are not allowed due to the pollution. Only battery-powered vehicles are allowed (think giant golf cart). The Taj Mahal complex is massive ~ not just the one white building. The buildings surrounding the Taj Mahal are made of red sandstone. 

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal was built as a memorial to the third wife of Shah Jahan. Her name was Muntaz Mahal and she died giving birth to their 14th child. The entire complex was completed in 1653. As you get closer to the building, the details become more apparent. You can go inside the building but you must take off your shoes or wear booties over your shoes. This is to protect the beautiful white marble floors.

Tower near The Taj Mahal

Upon closer inspection, the minarets appear to be leaning slightly. This was actually incorporated into the design because the area is earthquake prone. The designers built leaning 5° outward so if they fall, they will fall away from the main building. The minarets are strictly decorative.

Taj Mahal

A view of the Taj Mahal from the entranceway. Not sure why there was so much digging going on ~ new sod perhaps.

Taj Mahal Entrance

Entrance gate from the inside.

After two hours or so at the Taj Mahal, we headed over to the Agra Fort which is about 2 miles away. During the 16th century, Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire. In 1565, the huge red Agra Fort was built. It was built as a military structure but Shah Jahan changed it to a palace in the 17th century.

India View of Taj Mahal from Red Fort

In 1658, The Shah’s son Aurangzeb seized power and imprisoned his father in Agra Fort where he could look out of his window to see his beloved Taj Mahal. He died eight years later and was buried inside the Taj Mahal beside his wife.
View of Taj Mahal from Agra Fort, India

Taj Mahal as seen from Agra Fort

India The Red Fort

Entrance into Agra Fort ~ there’s a moat but currently no water is in it.

Monkey at Agra Fort India

To my surprise, the entrance to the Agra Fort is guarded by a few monkeys (look closely). The monkeys didn’t bother anyone and it certainly added to the ambiance of the fort.

Gardens at Agra Fort

Beautiful Gardens inside Agra Fort

Gardens at Agra Fort

It was Sunday and there were a lot of local India families visiting the grounds.

What better way to start off a tour of South Asia then a visit to the famous Taj Mahal. It certainly set the tone for the trip…

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