My Study Tour to Agra
Study tours to various historic places in India is part of the IIMC development journalism courses. We have made 2 trips to main historic areas within the New Delhi since January 2016, and today’s trip to Agra, the state of Uttar Pradesh, is the second and the most fascinating one we have ever made for me. Because I was thinking of visiting Taj Mahal among other world tourism destinations in India since when I first heard about it when I was secondary school in the world history subject class, and so I did not want to sleep in the night before the trip.
Waking up early morning on Saturday, 13th February 2016 before my alarm watch rings at 5:00, I marched to the IIMC main gate where the tourist bus IIMC has rented for this special tour is assumed to park. Unlike other days, I took a seat near to window so that I will be able to see the life on both sides of our way to Agra as much as I can. All other participants of the tour came late to the bus after my country fellows who followed me. After we make sure everybody is in and that we all have had our passport and ID Card with us, it seemed too long until the driver pushed the bus’s motor at 06:10 and headed to north of IIMC.
Although it was getting dawn, the light on the roadside is yet on and, altogether with queuing cars on Delhi roads, I rose up high and high. Most of the fellows in the bus went asleep. The driver and IIMC staff members with us chat by Hindu. But my eyes are on the cars, buildings, lights, and sometimes on the people in the car.
Soon after 40 minutes the bus entered onto the Yamuna Express way. I realized that this 6-lane access controlled Expressway with facilities of 4 Toll Plazas stretches to 165 kms and connects Delhi and Agra, among others. I became too fanic comparing this amazing express way with 89 kms 3-lane one in my country. Noida, the wish city with amazing skyrocketed constructions, the Jaypee Green sports city, DND flight way, etc are all very thrilling to me. With appreciations to green sides of the express way, and farm lands of the semi rural villages with hey of crops mountaining I noticed India is food sufficient unlike my country, Ethiopia.
By 10:30 we arrived at Agra. The IIMC tour facilitator with us informed us that we are near to Taj Mahal which we will be visiting before lunch. He also notified us that we will be channeled by an English speaking tour guide and we have to follow his advises carefully because we are new to the area and so may be lost or tossed by hackers.
Agra looks an old city but has non-fading face. I could not understand much about the names of the villages and other areas around as most displays and demonstrations are typed in their own domestic language. However, I easily noticed that Agra is still a city of glorious beauty in an old face. I wished I could have much time to wander around. The narrow way to Taj Mahal is so crowded with vehicles and people walking on foot. It is so amazing for foreigners like me to see the site is visited by such many domestic and international tourists.
By 11:00 we were almost at the Taj Mahal car parking. The guide got into our bus before we leave it. He explained us about the rules we should stick to along with safety cares, professional photographers we can use, and so on. The guide handed us (the foreign nationals) a Rs. 750 pre-paid entrance ticket (I doubt I could have not visited it unless IIMC sponsored me, anyway). Then we headed to the East gate of Taj Mahal.
I could not count the people in queue to purchase tickets. All motorized vehicles are not permitted beyond this parking area, and so we got into another battery driven vehicle to the entrance which is about 1 km far. I thanked the Indian government for taking this measure to protect the area from pollution.
By the time we went the Taj Mahal was surrounded by millions of people, both domestic and foreign. One can see how magic it is from the gate. Passing to the monument, our guide explained a bit about why, when, how, and who built this monument. We stood facing south gate on our back and west gate on the left. I looked amazingly at the mausoleum crafted in soft and pure marble and jeweled with semi precious stones. An immense mausoleum of white marble which was built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife. It is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage in the UNESCO list.
It seems unreal and once the initial shock of seeing something so beautiful wears down, can one appreciate the beauty of the monument. The grace of perfection of proportions and magnificence of the splendid garden and crowd of visitors enhanced the poise of the whole complex together and added radiance to the delicacy of this rectory of love, dedication and purity. I was much impressed with all things I saw apart the architecture. Everything looks so perfect. Oh, how lucky am I!
Three other smaller gateways follow the red sandstone towers topped with domes in white marble together make a pretty picture. The ceiling is adorned with floral patterns and the decor of floors with geometric designs. The inner of the main structure is carefully covered with marble. As one goes around, the most breathtaking part remains the exquisite inlay work that looks up from every corner of the front wall. The blooms are worked out in immense detail and every dot and alphabet of the Holy Quran is neatly imprinted. The flowers, chiefly lilies mirror the Mughal love for gardens. Outside one would have to crane one’s neck to look up at the apex of the dome, high and mighty against the skyline. Behind the Taj Mahal, there is a river called Yamuna, which our guide told us its course was diverted for construction of Taj. No words to explain all!
Having had lunch at The Retreat Luxury Hotel around the Taj Mahal, we headed to the Agra fort, which is also described as “a walled city” or the “red fort of Agra.” The Agra Fort is another UNESCO World Heritage site located in Agra. We drove about 2.5 km northwest the Taj Mahal.
As many as the people who were visiting the Taj Mahal were also in the Red Fort. We entered through the Amar Singh Gate, one and the largest of the fort’s four gates. It was designed in such a way that no enemy can conquer it. As we were told by our guide, the Fort was built by Akbar in Red Sandstone when he was through with the consolidation of his power after accession to power in 1654. The fort worked both as a military strategic point as well as the royal residence, and 75% of its area is yet inhabited by Indian army. We visited only a quarter of the fort’s are, but still it was too huge. Nevertheless, the building stars highly. Its history is amazing. It is also possible to see the Taj Mahal from the fort.
Entering into the fort, one sees Akbar’s private residence and various living rooms aside. The central chamber is built from white marble and shows some of the same decorative touches as seen in the Taj Mahal. The side rooms though are of red sandstone covered with white plaster. Concluding our tour at around 05:10 on the same day, we said good bye to the Red Fort and headed to IIMC, Delhi where we arrived at on 02:30.
To put into a nutshell, our study tour to Agra was so fascinating. The trip was not only for sightseeing. It also boasted some breathtaking views to the life out of New Delhi. As a development journalist as well as a foreign visitor, I gained much experience which I had to add to the tourism industry in my country besides appreciating what I saw. Our guide also made this tour incredibly interesting as he shared so much of the history behind the construction and design of both Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. But I wish we could have put enough time aside to enjoy exploring these sites more relaxed. I am very thankful to IIMS for facilitating the tour.
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