January 21, 2012

Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-X) (End of the trip)

Return Journey via Mathura and Vrindavan:

We checked out our hotel at 11:30 and headed towards mathura on a full day taxi, contracted for showing us the temples and dropping at Mathura Junction railway station. Mathura and Vrindavan are places sacred to Hindus as they are related with Lord Shree Krishna. Temples of Vrindavan and Mathura themselves need 2-3 days as a separate package. Since temples are religious place and not a tourist spots, I was interested in offering my prayers to God than in taking photographs of the temples and also many do not allow the photography inside the premises. However a few shots were taken, which are shown here [Maa Vaishno Temple (http://www.maavaishno.org), Birla Temple and Pagalbaba Temple)-

Maa Vaishno Devi Temple as seen from highway
Birla Temple, Vrindavan
Birla Temple, Vrindavan
Birla Temple, Vrindavan
Pagalbaba Temple, Vrindavan
Pagalbaba Temple, Vrindavan
Now we were on way back to home Lucknow from Mathura via Mathura Patna Express.
Joy of returning his sweet home
Hope you will get a feel of the place and some benefit from our experiences. Your valuable comments and queries are invited.

Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-IX) (Agra Day 2 - Continued)

We reached Agra fort at Amar Singh gate after our exit from Taj West gate. This fort has a big area and a lot of history involved, so must be seen with leisure and a guide. It is open from sunrise to sunset like other Agra monuments. Entrance Fee for citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) - Rs. 10 per head. and for Others: US $ 5 or Indian Rs. 250/- per head (ASI). children up to 15 years are free. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
Here we tried the audio self guide in place of manual guide and found the experience immersive and worth repeating. Audio guide is a service provided by a company AudioCompass. They provide you an electronic equipment with recorded interactive commentry and a map of the fort with route and points marked on the map. The voice language is English (for INR 105) and many Indian languages (for INR 63). One instrument can handel two headsets. The second headset is provided at the cost of INR 37. If you have your own mp3 or mobile headset with you, you can plug that in for your travel partner for free. They keep your ID proof in original as a security and return it when there equipments are handed over back to them. You can take a look at there site http://audiocompass.in/agra-fort.html for more detail. We took 2 equipments with additional headset for total cost of INR 200 which was almost equal to the cost of a good manual guide, but the experience was altogether different and informations authentic. Only drawback is that you can't ask your silly questions from this audio self guide.

My son with Audio guide gadget and headset
Audio Guide pamphlet
Audio Guide Map for Agra fort
Agra Fort:
Agra Fort is situated on the bank of the river Yamuna. It is one of the most important and robustly built fort of the Mughals, with number of richly decorated buildings displaying Mughal art and architecture. It was constructed by the third Mughal emperor Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh. Sikandar Lodi (1487-1517) was the first Sultan of Delhi to shift his capital from Delhi to Agra. After Sikandar Lodi who died in 1517, his son Ibrahim Lodi held the fort for 9 years until he was defeated and killed in the battle of Panipat in 1526. Several palaces, wells and a mosque were built in the fort during the Lodi period. 
We entered the fort from Amar Singh Gate, and walked in following sequence listneing to a quality commentary in our Audio guide -
  • Akbari Gate
  • Shahjahani Gate
  • Akbari Palaces
  • Jahangir's Bath
  • Jahangir Palace
  • Bangla-i-Jahanari
  • Khas Mahal
  • Anguri Bag
  • Musamman Burj (Place where Shahjahan used to look at Taj in his last days)
  • Pachisi Court
  • Mina Masjid
  • Deewan-i-khas
  • Machchi Mahal
  • Deewan-i-Aam

Here are some of the photographs snapped at various stops of the fort:

Plan Map of the Fort
Jahangir's Bath
Carving on the bath
Jahangir Palace Entrance
Inside Jahangir's palace
Ruins of Akbari Mahal

Angoori Bagh

Musamman Burj

Tomb of Sir John Colvin
Hall of Deewan-e-Aam
See the Taj in center square of the Jaali
A squirrel in action in the fort compound
Eating 'Kurkure'
Mechanism of operation of Amar Singh Gate. 
When roller comes down, 
it closes the huge  gate by pulling the chain
The chain of the gate on other side. 
The chain goes in and lifts the gate
 which otherwise acts as a connecting bridge
Amar Singh Gate Entrance is entry and exit point for the fort
It was 1730 and we finished the round of the fort and proceed to hotel for a rest after a memorable day at Taj and Fort. The fort organizes 2 light and sound shows in the evening hours, one in Hindi and other in English, but we decided not to see this as the kids were tired and wanted to have rest. It was the end of our Agra trip. We checked out the hotel next morning and took a full day taxi for Mathura and Vrindavan excursion and dropping at the Mathura Railway station.
In my opinion if you are interested in historical places, it is must to do some prior reading about the place, always take a guide, watch the monuments in full detail with enough time and take your mind back in the era of the history to get maximum feel. Just a cursory walk without any detailing does not make any purpose for a historical place visit.
The photographs were taken on Nikon D5100 and are size reduced version of the original.

January 04, 2012

Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-VIII) (Agra Day 2)

We reserved the second day at Agra for a detailed viewing of Taj and the Agra fort along with a morning walk in Taj Nature Walk which is a very large forest area with lot of birds, dancing peacocks, gardens, lake and fresh air. It is situated on the road of East gate to Taj and worth a visit in early morning, If you are staying on East gate side of taj. Entry fee to this costs INR 10 per person. We visited this place from 0700 to 0830 without our kids as they refused to an early rise. I could not take any photos inside as my camera battery was not ready for the shoot.

Entrance gate of Taj Nature Walk
The next thing to explore after our breakfast of hot stuffed paranthas and curd in the chilled morning of Agra, was again the Taj Mahal. 
It is open from Sunrise to Sunset. Friday closed (open for offering prayer in the mosque between 12 Noon to 2 PM).
Entrance Fee: for Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) - INR. 10 per head. INR 10 per head as Toll Tax (Agra Development Authority) Others: INR. 250 per head.  INR 500  per head as Toll Tax (Agra Development Authority) INR 500 ticket of ADA is purchased at Taj is valid for the monuments of Agra Fort, Itimad-ud-daula, Akbar’s Tomb, Sikandara and Fatehpur Sikri (Free entry to children up to 15 years).Tickets on east gate entry are sold only at shilpgram.

Important notice for viewing the Taj
Notice about night viewing of Taj
Battery operated cabs from Shilpgram to Taj east gate (INR 10 per person)
Battery operated cabs at Hotel Taj Khema for back to parking at shilpgram
Introduction stone of Taj
Plan of the Taj Complex
The Taj is the most photographed thing in the world. We took a lot of photographs almost from all angles and corners but some typical shots, which are a kind of cliche shots, are being shown below. Actually you are so much mesmerized as you enter the premises that you lose all your creativity for shooting the Taj.

Following picture shows the famous 'Lover's bench' or 'VIP bench' or 'Diana bench' as it is popularly known. It is one of the most crowded spot inside the Taj and is surrounded by lot of photographers and their tourist clients. These photographers won't let you take possession of the bench for self photography and you may keep on waiting for your turn to come. We could get that seat after a lot of efforts and time as at that time the place was filled with a lot of people and their photographers. If you are there at early hours you may get it easily.

A pair of parrot on a tree in the monument of love

We stayed at Taj till 1300 hrs, enjoyed its beauty and charm from all points, also visited a museum on the left court after main entrance and came out of the complex from Taj West gate for visiting the Agra Fort or Red Fort.