After a week spent in Delhi, we awoke at the crack of dawn to head south to Agra, home of the incredible Taj Mahal.
The spectacle was simply breathtaking. Walking through the gates and seeing the building rise off of the ground as if floating in the sky, one quickly understands why people travel across the world to see it up close. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 as a monument to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth, this palace dedicated to love is perfect in its symmetry, mathematical precision, and symbolism. The sites creator is said to have described it as being so beautiful as to make, “the sun and moon shed tears from their eyes.” It did not disappoint.
That evening at our homestay, we met a lovely woman from England who invited us to come with her and her guide the next day to Fatehpur Sikri – a fortified ancient city about 40km from Agra.
Our favorite part of this trip was visiting the mosque and taking part in one of the most famous traditions there. As the city’s founding story goes, the childless Emperor Akbar came from Agra to consult the Sufi saint who resided there and during his visit, the saint predicted a male heir to the Mughal throne. When the prophecy proved true, the overjoyed emperor moved his capital city from Agra to the saint’s burial place and built a grand palace there. According to legend, visitors can tie a string to the marble screen in the shrine built for the monk in three knots and with each knot make a wish. If the wishes come true, the person is supposed to return to the site before they die to pay their respects and offer their gratitude for having their wish granted. If you see us back there someday, you will know why!