Roadside in Agra

16th February 2014 (Day 8) Agra.

We are now leaving Agra for Gwalior and the bus stops for a while at an ATM so some of the party can refresh their supply of rupees. I took advantage of this to photograph people passing by. It was early morning so they were probably heading for work or market.
.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

How many people can you fit in a tuk-tuk?

.

.

.

.

.

A rural bus

.

.

.

.

National Folk Festival 2014, Canberra

Briefly breaking from posting on India, here are some images from the National Folk Festival in Canberra in 2014.   It happens every year for several days over Easter.  I went to photograph Leah Flanagan but since I was there, I photographed several other performers as well.

.

John Bennett

John Bennett

.

Richard Perso

Richard Perso

.

Moochers Inc

Moochers Inc

.

Moochers Inc

Moochers Inc

.

Moochers Inc

Moochers Inc

.

Gina Wiliams and Guy Gouse

Gina Wiliams and Guy Gouse

.

Valanga Khoza South African Jive

Valanga Khoza South African Jive

.

Valanga Khoza South African Jive

Valanga Khoza South African Jive

.

Valanga Khoza South African Jive

Valanga Khoza South African Jive

.

Frank Yamma

Frank Yamma

.

Leah Flanagan

Leah Flanagan

.

Leah Flanagan

Leah Flanagan

.

Leah Flanagan

Leah Flanagan

.

Leah Flanagan

Leah Flanagan

.

Leah Flanagan

Leah Flanagan

.

Leah Flanagan

The Barons of Tang

.

Trouble in the Kitchen

Trouble in the Kitchen

.

For more images (65 in total), see a slide show on JAlbum….

Red Fort in Agra

15th February 2014 (Day 7) Agra.

.

.

.

The Red Fort in Agra, not to be confused with the Red Fort in Delhi, was one of the bastions of the Mogul Empire.

.

.

.

.

There has been a fort here for a very long time. When Babur, the first Mogul Emperor, defeated the Lodi Sultans of Delhi, they were based in Agra and living in the fort. Humayan was also crowned here but the walls we see here are those built by Akhbar. Originally the fort was brick but Akhbar rebuilt it with a brick core and outer layers of red sandstone. It was completed in 1573 after eight years of construction.

.

.

.

.

In Akhbar’s time there were 500 buildings in the fort. Shah Jahan demolished some of these to make way for his white marble palaces but most were demolished by the British to make way for barracks. There only thirty buildings left in the South-Eastern corner and this is the part of the fort that is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

.

DSCF0176-2

.

When Shah Jahan’s favoured son Dara lost to Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan took refuge in this Red Fort.  Aurangzeb cut off the water supply and Shah Jahan had to surrender.

.

.

.

.

.

Jahangir Palace.

.

.

Jahangir’s Hauz, Jahangir Palace.

This is Jahangir’s portable bath.  I kid you not.  He took it with him when he went on campaign.  Dating from 1610, it is five feet high and eight feet in diameter.  It has both external and internal stairs.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

This man requested a portrait for himself and his young son.  I presume I gave him a card so perhaps he will see this here.

.

.

.

A view of the Taj Mahal from the Red Fort, such as Shah Jahan must have seen during his captivity.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

On the Road around Agra

15th February 2014 (Day 7) Agra.

.

.

The first image above is outside the Taj Mahal as we are returning to our bus, in a small open “bus” like the ones in the distance.

.

.

.

All images are from a day on the road in Agra, or between Agra and Fatehpur Sikri.   The image above and following ones are taken from the bus as the world flashes by…..

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

..

.

Notice the curious tricycle in the front here with hand operated pedals and indeterminate steering (bar with blue-grey grip, not the pipes in the background).

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The sign at top right “Welcome, Beauty Parlour”, behind the detritus on the roof, seems somewhat incongruous.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Not an abode, they are selling pots.  The woman in the field behind is making cow dung pancakes, for use as fuel on fires.

.

Fatehpur Sikri

15th February 2014 (Day 7) Fatehpur Sikri (near Agra).

.

.

Next we visited Fatahpur Sikri, about forty kilometres from Agra.  Akhbar built it as his new capital city and it functioned as such from 1571 to 1585. After this brief period it was abandoned.  Akhbar first shifted the capital to Lahore, while he was campaigning in the North and when he came back, Agra became the capital again.

.

.

Entrance to Jodh Bai’s Palace.

Fatepur Sikri was partly built partly to honour the Sufi saint Salim Chisti, who had correctly foretold that Akhbar would have three sons.  It was never reoccupied not so much because of inadequacies of water supply, as is often suggested, but because it was more isolated and less secure than Agra when his sons had started to go in rebellion against him.

.

.

Entrance to Queen’s Palace.

It generally has a basic Persian style, overlaid by Indian flourishes.  As such it symbolised Akhbar’s tolerance to different religions and cultures and was also the setting for extensive discourses between the proponents of different faiths.

.

.

Jodhbai’s Kitchen.

.

.

Jodhbai’s Kitchen.

.

.

.

.

.

Diwan I Khas, or Hall of Private Audience (middle right distance).

.

.

.

.

.

Anup Talao.

.

.

Anup Talao.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

This young lad is well presented with his trousers even pressed.  He asked me to take his photo so I did.  He then asked me for money.  I told him that if I ask him whether I can take a photo he can ask me for money and I may pay but if he asks me, then I’m doing him a favour and there’s no reason why I should pay.

Had he not asked me I would have had little interest in such a photograph because posed portraits usually hold little interest for me.

.

.

Entrance of the Taksal or Mint.  Only rubble lies beyond this.

.

 

Taj Mahal

15th February 2014 (Day 7) Agra.

.

.

The front gate.  You can see a bit of the Taj behind it.

We arrived at 7am to photograph the Taj Mahal, which is when the gates open.  You can’t actually photograph it at sunrise or sunset or at nighttime from a regular location.

.

.

Through the front Gate.

.

.

.

Shah Jahan ruled 1627 to 1658.  He was a contemporary therefore of Charles I of England and you’d have to say a rather more successful monarch although they both ended up being displaced from their thrones.  His favourite wife was Mumtaz Mahal, his cousin, who he married when he was 20 and she was 19.  They shared all the vicissitudes of life including his campaigns and the four years he was battling or on the run from his father Jahangir.

.

.

.

Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631 while giving birth to their fourteenth child.  Shah Jahan was grief-stricken and retired for a year and when he re-appeared, he devoted all his energies to a mausoleum for her.  This is the Taj Mahal, built between 1632 and around 1653.

.

.

.

Mumtaz Mahal insisted that children of other wives should be aborted to ensure the succession of their children but that did not prevent succession disputes.  After she died, Shah Jahan threw himself into licentious activities with a great number of women.  In 1658, he fell ill as a consequence of taking a seventeenth century equivalent of Viagra.  For a while it looked as though he would not survive.  Dara Shikoh, his nominated heir, assumed Regency and provoked a four-way civil war with his three brothers.  This continued even after Shah Jahan recovered.

.

.

One of the two mosques, part of the overall enclosure.

Aurangzeb, the experienced war leader, defeated and killed the other three.  Shah Jahan survived, no longer Emperor, in house arrest in Agra Fort, where he could see the Taj Mahal.  Originally, he had wanted to build a black duplicate of the Taj Mahal as his mausoleum on the other side of the river, connected by a bridge, but this was not to be.  When Shah Jahan died, Aurangzeb buried him in the Taj Mahal alongside Mumtaz Mahal.  His cenotaph is on the ground floor beside hers.  They are buried in a private chamber below that.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

This image and the next five are from or at one of the two mosques.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Near the main gate.

.

.

Near the main gate.

.

the Baby Taj

14th February 2014 (Day 6)  Agra.

.

Roadside market.

.

.

Indian construction techniques.

These first two images are from the highway between Vrindavan and Sikandra.
.

.

Truck parked at the side of the road.  Long-term parking, I would say.

From Akhbar’s Tomb we travelled further on into Agra.   The image above and the next seven are from that journey.

.

.

Intersection.

.

.

Making the best of your housing.

.

.

Looking down on a street.

.

.

Petrol pump transactions and a curious load.

.

.

Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah or Baby Taj.

This was our next destination but we hadn’t quite got there yet.

.

.

Roadside market.

.

.

Road clogged with tuk-tuks.

.

.

Main gate for the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, or the Baby Taj.

Here we are at the outside gate and wall of the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah.  A distant relative of the Safavid royal family who ruled Persia from 1501, he came to India to find a position under Akhbar and ended up chief minister under Jahangir.  His title Itimad-ud-Daulah means “Pillar of the State”.  His daughter Nur Jahan became the favourite wife of Akhbar’s son JahangirJahangir was a capable ruler who consolidated the empire rather than expanding it.  However, he was overly fond of alcohol and opium and consumed excessively.  Nur Jahan grew in prominence during the reign of Jahangir and she came to sign official documents, feature on coins and act as Emperor when he was away or incapable.

.

.

.

The end of Jahangir’s reign involved conflicts with his sons.  Kusrau, the eldest son rebelled and Jahangir blinded him.  Parwiz, the drunken second son rebelled but died anyway.  Khurram, the favoured third son rebelled and spent four years fighting or on the run.  He also killed Kusrau, a potential rival even if blind.  Nur Jahan married her daughter to illegitimate Shahriyar and tried to position him to be Emperor.

.

.

Itimad-ud-Daulah’s tomb, or the Baby Taj.

 

However when Jahangir died, Nur Jahan’s brother, Asaf Khan, ensured that Khurram succeeded.  Apart from being the most capable candidate, Khurram was married to Asaf Khan’s daughter, Arjumand BanuAsaf Khan temporarily installed a son of Kusrau, Dawar Baksh as Emperor, Khurram marched from the Deccan and in short order executed Dawar Baksh, Shahriyar and other remaining male cousins.  Khurram then became the Emperor Shah Jahan and Arjumand Banu became his Empress Mumtaz Mahal.

.

.

.

Nur Jahan survived but her political power was at an end.  She retired on a massive pension and devoted herself to building a tomb for her father, Itimad-ud-Daulah, Chief Minister of Jahangir and also grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal.  Specification of the white marble architecture was her focus and the tomb has the nickname of the “baby Taj” because it is clearly a precursor to the Taj Mahal.

.

.

Delicate decorations on the inside walls of the Baby Taj.

Unfortunately, our visit to the Baby Taj was very rushed.  There were a wealth of details I would have like to explore but only five or ten minutes to race around.

.

.

.

After a short bus journey, our next stop was the Mehtab Bagh, or the moonlight garden.  There were some very curious instructions on this sign on the way in.

.

.

Taj Mahal (did you guess?) from Moonlight Gardens.

And here we see the purpose of the Moonlight Gardens, to view the Taj Mahal by moonlight.  Unfortunately this is not possible because the gardens are not open after dark.  Also, as of the last year or two, you are no longer allowed close to the river.  My guess is that this is a security reaction to the Bombay bombings.

.

.

Click image for much larger view.

Here is the full view, showing the mosques on each side, which are part of the overall complex.  You can click on any image for a larger view.  This one however is a panorama comprising five images and there is a full-sized image behind it that you can zoom around in if you click it.

.

.

.

This is near the Taj Mahal on the same side of the river but not part of the Taj.  According to Google Maps it is on the edge of the Taj Protected Forest.

.

.

.

The first Mogul Emperor Babur constructed gardens on the site of the Taj Mahal and also on the site of the Moonlight Gardens.   Akhbar granted the land (on both sides of the river) to Raja Man Singh of Amer.  Much later, Shah Jahan purchased the land from Jai Singh I of Amer, the great grandfather of Jai Singh II who built Jai Singh Gera where we stayed in Vrindavan.  The river is the same an in Vrindavan too, the sacred Yamuna, and in theory it might have been possible to travel by river from Vrindavan to Agra though I suspect there is no river traffic these days.  Shah Jahan’s Moonlight Garden was covered in mud by successive floodwaters so the current one is a recreation.

.

.

.

Just a reminder that there is more to India than the Taj Mahal.  This is not far from the Moonlight Gardens on the way back to our hotel, in the receding light.

.