[images picture_size=”fixed” lightbox=”yes” class=”” id=””][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”http://alisecortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/IMG_0795.jpg” alt=””][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”http://alisecortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/IMG_0793.jpg” alt=””][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”http://alisecortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/IMG_0783.jpg” alt=””][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”http://alisecortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/IMG_0774.jpg” alt=””][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”http://alisecortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/IMG_0782.jpg” alt=””][image link=”” linktarget=”_self” image=”http://alisecortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/IMG_0767.jpg” alt=””][/images][fusion_text]As we have been traveling throughout India to various parts without internet access, I am a little behind in cataloging my travels.  But let me share the fantastic adventure we had on Saturday December 6th traveling to the city of Agra. Agra is about 2.5 hours by bus from Delhi, and a group of about 30 of us from the BIMTECH conference participated in the tour.

Our first stop was the famous Taj Mahal. This place is everything I had always imagined it would be – and so much more.  The story is truly remarkable. The Taj is a mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his most adored, third wife Mumtaz Mahal. Our tour guide told us the Emperor already had two wives, but he married Mumtaz “for love.” Together they had 13 children, and she died giving birth to the last one (word has it he never had children with his first two wives). Overwhelmed with loss and feeling the bind of eternal love, he had the Taj built out of white stone to honor and remember her. The sheer number of inlaid jewels is beyond anyone’s comprehension. With construction beginning in 1631, it took 22,000 workers to complete the job by 1648. The story gets even more interesting, though …. The romantic Emperor was beginning plans to build a black stone mausoleum for himself to rest next to his beloved upon his own death when one of his own sons intervened. Since the son was not the oldest and so was not in line to inherit the throne, he killed his two older brothers and then imprisoned his father in the Red Fort just down the Yamuna River because he felt his father was wastefully and needlessly spending the family’s money on this second mausoleum project. The Emperor father complied and simply asked that the jail room he be kept in afforded a view of his lovely Taj Mahal so he could see his beloved wife’s resting place – and there he remained for the last eight years of his life.  That’s love, eh?!

Though there were many other wonderful sights to see in Agra, including innumerable monkeys walking on top of public buildings, the next big stop we made was the Red Fort. This enormous palace was built in the mid 1500s by Mughal Emperor Akbar. I was expecting what I typically see in forts – you know, lots of munitions placement and storage, etc. But this fort surprised me not just because it was still truly beautiful but also because of the sheer number of rooms and the way the place was used for living. The guide told us some 1,500 people had lived in this place, and it had a lovely, vibrant energy about it still, some five centuries later.   There were two bedrooms for the Emperor’s two daughters and numerous dining halls throughout the place. The garden area was simply spectacular – see photo below of the ornate manner in which the beds were separated and tended. It was impossible for me not to think of how severe the “have” versus the “have not” divide must have been in those times. We also saw the room where Emperor Shah Jahan spent his last eight years – and yes, the view of the Taj just down the river is completely awesome – I guess his scandalous son honored his father’s only request to have a view of the building holding his wife.

Here are some photos of the Taj and Red Fort.

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