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Friday, 22 January 2010

Rajasthan and the ‘Golden Triangle’ - Page 3

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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Rajasthan and the ‘Golden Triangle’ are exotic and amazing; its forts, palaces, natural wonders, culture and cuisine entice you at the same time that its poverty and pollution repulse you. All its contrasts create a vivid impression and an elixir for living vibrantly.

The guesthouse brought us paratha (stuffed bread) and tea before our early departure, and we made our way to the parking lot close to the Taj with our driver. From there we took a horse and cart the rest of the way to the Taj; in this zone within one km to the Taj gas vehicles are not allowed as they are trying to improve the horrendous pollution problem. The real problem is that just up the road are companies, including oil refineries, spewing black smoke into the air. Also, all over India, people burn their garbage (including toxic plastics) and those particles are also in the air. Then there is the water pollution—the river that flows by the Taj is one of the most polluted in India with chemicals being dumped from factories upstream. The fish from this river are inedible and people have become violently ill and have died from eating them.

Rajasthan and the ‘Golden Triangle’, travel Golden Triangle, travel Rajasthan, SITA India, travel india, Shapura Bagh, Jaipur, Pushkar, Shapura, Udaipur, Delhi, Agra, Jama Masjid Mosque, Red Fort, New Delhi, Humayan’s Tomb, Astronomical Observatory, Qutab Minar, Baha’i Lotus Temple, ISKON, Gandi Raj, Akshardham, Banana Leaf, Taj Mahal, Dayal Lodge, Bikaner Mela, Agra Fort, Fatepur Sikri, Hotel Pearl Palace, Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, Jaipur City Palace, Hotel Kishan Palace, Pushkar fair, Jaiwana Haveli, Udaipur City Palace Museum, Jag Mandir Palace, Shilpgram, Jagat Niwas Palace, Christina Kay BoltonThe pollution issue means that from many places with a ‘Taj view’ you can see just a faint outline of the Taj as the haze is so thick. Even from the famous viewing platform inside the Taj complex at the end of the reflecting pool the view is dimmed by the smoke. This was the major difference I saw from being in this same spot 12 years earlier when the sky was relatively clear and the sun actually shone. Archaeologists say that the pollution is slowly deteriorating the Taj’s marble and famous inlaid stones. Despite this disturbing development, the Taj Mahal is gorgeous and magical. Plan to spend some time gazing at the marble work and soaking up its ambiance.

 

 

 

 

Rajasthan and the ‘Golden Triangle’, travel Golden Triangle, travel Rajasthan, SITA India, travel india, Shapura Bagh, Jaipur, Pushkar, Shapura, Udaipur, Delhi, Agra, Jama Masjid Mosque, Red Fort, New Delhi, Humayan’s Tomb, Astronomical Observatory, Qutab Minar, Baha’i Lotus Temple, ISKON, Gandi Raj, Akshardham, Banana Leaf, Taj Mahal, Dayal Lodge, Bikaner Mela, Agra Fort, Fatepur Sikri, Hotel Pearl Palace, Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, Jaipur City Palace, Hotel Kishan Palace, Pushkar fair, Jaiwana Haveli, Udaipur City Palace Museum, Jag Mandir Palace, Shilpgram, Jagat Niwas Palace, Christina Kay BoltonWe had a pleasant local guide who we found at the entrance who showed us around, but didn’t rush us out. When we said we wanted to explore on our own and relax there a while, he graciously offered to meet us at the gate later. Later, I found out that he wanted to meet us at the gate instead of just being paid earlier so that he could bring us to one of the many inlay shops just outside the gate (which is a big business – if a guide or driver brings you to a shop they typically get a 40% cut of whatever you buy). Typically, we refused going in shops with guides or drivers, but in this case we went in for a couple minutes and looked around before leaving empty-handed.

We walked through the Oberoi on our way out, which is beautiful but expensive at about $600/night. However, you can go just for a drink or a meal. All the rooms have a Taj view, but the restaurant is on the lower level and doesn’t have the same view. We ended up having lunch at Taj Plaza Hotel because they had a rooftop ‘Taj view’ seating area which was a relaxing spot. Though the food was not very good and didn’t taste fresh.

Rajasthan and the ‘Golden Triangle’, travel Golden Triangle, travel Rajasthan, SITA India, travel india, Shapura Bagh, Jaipur, Pushkar, Shapura, Udaipur, Delhi, Agra, Jama Masjid Mosque, Red Fort, New Delhi, Humayan’s Tomb, Astronomical Observatory, Qutab Minar, Baha’i Lotus Temple, ISKON, Gandi Raj, Akshardham, Banana Leaf, Taj Mahal, Dayal Lodge, Bikaner Mela, Agra Fort, Fatepur Sikri, Hotel Pearl Palace, Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, Jaipur City Palace, Hotel Kishan Palace, Pushkar fair, Jaiwana Haveli, Udaipur City Palace Museum, Jag Mandir Palace, Shilpgram, Jagat Niwas Palace, Christina Kay BoltonAfter our long foray at the Taj Mahal, we were off to Agra Fort which is nicer than Delhi’s Red Fort. It is huge and full of elaborate marble palaces and red sandstone walls with carved columns. The inlay work on the palace is almost as nice as at the Taj. The Fort is where Shah Jahan (who commissioned the Taj Mahal) was imprisoned by his son (and he had a view of the Taj from his room). There is also a glass palace room which is currently closed for restoration, but you can glimpse into the darkness and see its shimmery mirrors. We watched the sunset at the fort and the marble turned a marvelous rosy gold before descending.

 

 

 

 

 

Rajasthan and the ‘Golden Triangle’, travel Golden Triangle, travel Rajasthan, SITA India, travel india, Shapura Bagh, Jaipur, Pushkar, Shapura, Udaipur, Delhi, Agra, Jama Masjid Mosque, Red Fort, New Delhi, Humayan’s Tomb, Astronomical Observatory, Qutab Minar, Baha’i Lotus Temple, ISKON, Gandi Raj, Akshardham, Banana Leaf, Taj Mahal, Dayal Lodge, Bikaner Mela, Agra Fort, Fatepur Sikri, Hotel Pearl Palace, Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, Jaipur City Palace, Hotel Kishan Palace, Pushkar fair, Jaiwana Haveli, Udaipur City Palace Museum, Jag Mandir Palace, Shilpgram, Jagat Niwas Palace, Christina Kay Bolton

 

 

 

Fatepur Sikri

Rajasthan and the ‘Golden Triangle’, travel Golden Triangle, travel Rajasthan, SITA India, travel india, Shapura Bagh, Jaipur, Pushkar, Shapura, Udaipur, Delhi, Agra, Jama Masjid Mosque, Red Fort, New Delhi, Humayan’s Tomb, Astronomical Observatory, Qutab Minar, Baha’i Lotus Temple, ISKON, Gandi Raj, Akshardham, Banana Leaf, Taj Mahal, Dayal Lodge, Bikaner Mela, Agra Fort, Fatepur Sikri, Hotel Pearl Palace, Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, Jaipur City Palace, Hotel Kishan Palace, Pushkar fair, Jaiwana Haveli, Udaipur City Palace Museum, Jag Mandir Palace, Shilpgram, Jagat Niwas Palace, Christina Kay BoltonThe next day we headed towards Jaipur, but stopped along the way at Fatepur Sikri, the ill-fated spot (because it didn’t have enough water) chosen as a capital city by Akbar for a brief period. Still, it was built up in royal style with a large fort and a majestic mosque. It is well preserved and the mosque is actually very active now. Fatepur Sikri is definitely an important place to stop, just be sure you find a good guide.

 

The guide we had tried to get us to go around the gate where the guards rip your tickets (probably to re-sell our tickets later) and security was calling us. I stopped to wait and see what the security guard wanted while the guide urged us away from him. Eventually, we went in the right gate and had our tickets ripped, but our guide was definatly more interested in talking on his cell phone and showing us the shops back at the parking lot than telling us anything about the history. By prodding the guide for information, we Rajasthan and the ‘Golden Triangle’, travel Golden Triangle, travel Rajasthan, SITA India, travel india, Shapura Bagh, Jaipur, Pushkar, Shapura, Udaipur, Delhi, Agra, Jama Masjid Mosque, Red Fort, New Delhi, Humayan’s Tomb, Astronomical Observatory, Qutab Minar, Baha’i Lotus Temple, ISKON, Gandi Raj, Akshardham, Banana Leaf, Taj Mahal, Dayal Lodge, Bikaner Mela, Agra Fort, Fatepur Sikri, Hotel Pearl Palace, Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, Jaipur City Palace, Hotel Kishan Palace, Pushkar fair, Jaiwana Haveli, Udaipur City Palace Museum, Jag Mandir Palace, Shilpgram, Jagat Niwas Palace, Christina Kay Boltonmanaged to learn that Akbar had three wives: a Muslim, a Christian, and a Hindu, and that it was the Hindu who gave Akbar his one child. She had a huge house inside the fort, while the Christian’s was about one-third the size. The Muslim’s house was tiny—just enough space for a bed, but it was covered with magnificent carvings and diamonds (which had been removed by invaders). Continuing our drive, we quickly crossed into Rajasthan (neither Delhi nor Agra is in the state of Rajasthan – though both are right on its border).

On each of our drives we entertained ourselves and our driver by asking him the names of things in Hindi, mostly animals we’d see roadside and telling him the funny correlations in English. For example, in Hindi the word for cow is ‘guy’, but of course, in English, we use that as another word for man. Our driver was indispensible and made the trip so much easier, and some places we wouldn’t have been able to get to at all without a car.

(Page 3 of 6)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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