Fatehpur Sikri

After 25 miles from Agra lies some very interesting sandstone buildings in the city of Fatehpur Sikri. It was capital of the Mughal empire for a time during the 1500’s. The ruler Akbar had multiple wives of different religions because of that you can see a mix of faiths in the design and architecture.
I love the integration of all the different symbols on the walls.

The central pillar of Diwan-i-khas

Panch Mahal

Diwan-i-Khas – Hall of Private Audience

“Life” designs not seen in too much Mughal architecture.

This is a bed. So high!!!

Queen’s Palace

A squirrel buddy at a nearby tree.

Jama Masjid (mosque)

Tomb of Salim Chishti

Agra

Most people visit Agra as a day trip from Delhi or as part of the golden triangle tour of (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur). We stopped in Agra for 2 nights as part of our extended golden triangle tour. On our way we stopped at some rest stops and purchased interesting oregano cookies (above).
Lunch today was at the interesting hotel Bundelkhand Riverside with exotic toilet paper.

We helped ourselves to a buffet meal.

After another lengthy car ride we end up at the train station in Jhansi. Cows can do what ever they want in India. This cow wants to walk back and forth between the trains. No one is concerned that it will accidentally get hit or anything.

Our itinerary says first class. We look forward to relaxing in comfort for our long ride only to find that below is what first class looks like. It is crowded, dirty, and loud. The upside is that it was air conditioning, they serve you a meal, and it is relatively safe – even for female solo travelers.

We are very happy to arrive at our 4 star hotel. We had a nice meal at the hotel restaurant at the top floor. I thoroughly enjoyed my butter chicken and wine.

The hotel was pretty busy. There was a private party going on in the courtyard. It might have been a wedding or a conference.

The next morning we woke up to visit the Taj Mahal for the second time (post about it is here).
After spending some time negotiating a price for a marble plate at a  local vendor, we ended up at I’timād-ud-Daulah’s tomb or what is affectionately called the baby taj.

We ended our tour of Agra with a visit to the Agra Fort.

Orchha

After visiting Khajuraho we visited Orchha enroute to Agra.
It was of course another long car ride with lots to see on the way. Everything and their mother is on the road and in some cases coming toward us like the cow and bike below. I am thankful that I do not have to drive in India.

One piece of fashion that you rarely see in the US but is still intensely popular in India (in the winter) is the men’s sweater vest.

Old structures are scattered throughout this region.

Our drive took us past this small village on the way to our next destination.

We ran into this group of kids on the way. The driver told us that they play music and the kids follow the truck to church. I guess that is a creative way to get kids to go to church.

Eventually we arrive in the ancient city of Orchha.

Our exploration begins with the pricey admission to Orchha Palace or Jahangir Mahal. This is one of the spots that on top of the admission fee, you must also pay extra if you like to take your own camera in.
Jahangir Mahal is another great place to see Mughal architecture. The structure is in good condition but cosmetically it has not been maintained. Still you can catch a glimpse of how magnificant it must have once been as you walk around the palace.

Just like most Islamic art symbols are used primarily in the decor.

Off in the distance you can see more Orchha buildings.

Walking through Orchha city.

Bundela Chhatries

Along the Betwa river is a collection of old chhatries or moments to respect older rulers. Some are not very well maintained but they do give you an eerie calm feeling as you walk about them near the water. I think it may have to do with it being the least crowded place we visited in India.

Of all the places we visited in India, Orchha was the most pleasant. We were very rarely harassed there. I think they don’t get as much tourism so have not become as dependent on it like other communities. What ever the reason, it was a pleasant visit. I wish we would have chose to spend a night in this calm city.

Taj Mahal

During my trip to India earlier this year I got to visit the Taj Mahal twice. For the first visit the company that was hosting us chartered a bus to take us. For the second visit my husband and I had a private tour.

The Great gate

Calligraphy

And there it is after crossing through the gate.

You have to wear show covers to walk inside.

Very detailed stone work.

Minaret

The mosque

Side building

Later they took us to see stone artisans in action.

And there is always an opportunity to buy.

Khajuraho

After our visit to the holy city of Varanasi we flew to  Khajuraho to learn about Jain religion and a whole other side of Hinduism.

This little bitty Spicejet plane we took to Khajuraho from Varanasi was one of the nicest forms of transportation that we experienced in India. The one hour flight was very comfortable. We were pretty much the only English speaking tourists on the plane.

After our comfortable flight we had another long car ride to our hotel in Khajuraho. Everything in India is a long car ride away. The scenes on the way are quite like the pictures below. Most Indians are poor and have a very hard life. They lack what we would consider basic necessities like a toilet and sewage system. You will see many men relieving themselves on the side of the road (number 1 and number 2).  Visiting there was a very eye opening experience. We really don’t know how great we have it in the United States.

Also typical, cow dung is saved into round “plates” and used as burning fuel. 

Soon we are back to the luxury of our 5 star hotel again since we are rich Americans. (Note: We are not really rich but nice hotels like these are cheap to stay at for us but unobtainable for most in India)

Our hotel overlooks the temples we are able to see later.

The temples in Khajuraho were built by the Chandela dynasty from the 10th to 12th century. The dynasty eventually fell and the temples were “lost” until rediscovered by the british in the 1800’s.
The artwork on the temples is quite amazing. The western group of temples are most famous for their erotic images. We started with a smaller temple and worked our way around.

Vishnu’s Varaha Temple (boar)

We then explored the other temples with all the detailed images. Each depiction had a story behind it.

We then moved on to view the exterior of the other temples. We notice stories being played out in stone like the one below where a man looks like he is being torn apart.

And this very voluptuous woman.

Ganesha is everywhere.

Scene after scene appears on the walls.

One of the smaller temples nearby.

This lady is showing this little man or doctor the splinter in her foot.

Soon things get interesting. We get to see what the temples are really famous for. They are know for their erotic religious scenes. It is believed that this sect of Hinduism used sexual energy to bring them closer to god.

The time of day was great to watch the sunlight drape over the temples. All in all it was a great day to visit. We did later visit a group of Jain temples but they were soon to close and we rushed through them. I unfortunately did not get any pictures. I will say that the Jain monks have very strict diets and a sect of them spend time naked. You can read more about it here.

Later on that evening we returned for a light show of the temples.