They say that after you visit the Taj Mahal you can call it “The Taj” cause you’re on such first-name basis with that thing 🙂2012-07-28 India 58133 We went there. It was everything I expected: hot, a little bit unkempt, and one of the most beautiful and masterfully planned out things I have ever seen. But before I go into pictures of that, I have to back up to the route we took to get there. Because I can’t skip this picturesque abandoned hotel where we stopped for lunch on the way to Agra:2012-07 Agra Or Fatehpur Sikri, an amazing fort built by the famous Akbar:2012-07-28 India 57963See all those little black specks in the air?  Those are pigeons.  I swear there are billions of them in India.  Someone told me they are considered sacred so they feed them a lot around the sacred sights to keep them around, but that may be a wives tale.2012-07-28 India 58007 I loved this sign as we went in:2012-07-28 India 57873Boy they sure know how to take advantage of the foreigner. 2012-07-28 India 57875We learned so much that I will never have time to go into here.  Suffice it to say, the story about this place goes like this:  Akbar the great Mughal back in 1556, despite his 300 wives, wasn’t lucky enough to have a son {really???}.  So he went to a famous saint who sacrificed his own son so that Akbar could have one.  Sure enough one of the wives produced a son after that.  So Akbar built this amazing place called Fatehpur Sikri in honor of the saint who helped him get his son. You can take or leave the truth of the details of that story, but I will say this was quite the monument. 2012-07 agra3 Just to think of all the man hours back then carving all this stuff out of rock.2012-07-28 India 57880 Wow.2012-07-28 India 57903 This was Akbar’s bed:2012-07-28 India 579272012-07-28 India 579342012-07-28 India 57941 In the holiest section there were tons of beggars and people selling all kinds of food and trinkets.2012-07-28 India 57974 …and it was really dirty and we had to have bare feet.2012-07-28 India 57980But it was also pretty darn cool. And you can’t go wrong when you have goats walking around…2012-07-28 India 57996 I loved this sweet little thumb-sucker:2012-07 agra2 And these “screens” carved from sheets of pure marble had me in awe.2012-07-28 India 580172012-07-28 India 580232012-07-28 India 58033The kids were so darn cute and were pretty persistent but also happy about the pens we gave them.  2012-07-28 India 580352012-07-28 India 58040 Here’s a glimpse into what it was like in our van en route to the different places: Then it was on to the city of Agra where the Taj Mahal is located. They say it’s best to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise, so we did. This was our first peek:2012-07-28 India 580512012-07-28 India 580632012-07-28 India 580682012-07-28 India 58076 Apparently you have to take some kind of cheesy pictures when you’re at the Taj Mahal.2012-07-28 India 580842012-07-28 India 58104 This is looking back at the gateway house into the complex:2012-07-28 India 581152012-07-28 India 58124 Had to put this one in:2012-07-28 India 58127 But this one is my favorite.  It depicts so perfectly how these two felt about the excessive amounts of pictures I was taking.2012-07-28 India 58105 I loved listening to the age-old story again: how Shah Jahan, grandson of the great Akbar, built this as a monument for his favorite wife who died in childbirth.2012-07-28 India 58142 The workmanship is astounding.  Really.2012-07-28 India 58147 It took 20,000 men 22 years to build. All the inlaid stuff was incredible.  I liked how the verses from the Quran were carved so intricately around the door.2012-07-28 India 581582012-07-28 India 58150 Going in:2012-07-28 India 58160 It was so dark in there I couldn’t really take any pictures.  I wish I had a close-up of the precious stones inlaid into flowers everywhere.  Here’s one from the outside, but the outside isn’t nearly as detailed as the inside.2012-07-28 India 581642012-07-28 India 58191We just had to sit there in reverence and take it all in for a little while before we left.2012-07-28 India 581972012-07-28 India 582152012-07-28 India 582192012-07-28 India 582242012-07-28 India 58227 The next stop was Agra Fort.2012-07-28 India 58265 It was designed by Akbar as well and was extended by his son and grandson.2012-07-28 India 582692012-07-28 India 582722012-07-28 India 582742012-07-28 India 582752012-07-28 India 58283 Typical Indian tourists:2012-07-28 India 582892012-07-28 India 58294 From Agra Fort you can see the Taj Mahal.  2012-07-29 India 58313 This is where Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, lived the last years of his life in captivity at the hands of his own son, Aurangzeb, who killed his older two brothers to take the throne, destroyed many of the temples and tried to impose Islam on everyone in the kingdom. 2012-07-29 India 58318 The workmanship was again, so amazing.2012-07-29 India 58325 I loved the lighting.2012-07-29 India 58414 …and the place where the empress and royal ladies had to hide themselves away to watch what went on below.2012-07-29 India 58420 It poured with rain as we were getting ready to leave.  2012-07-29 India 58428The kids couldn’t have been happier about that. Drenched from the downpour, we headed to a rug-making factory when we were done at the fort.  It was fascinating.2012-07-29 India 584402012-07-29 India 584432012-07-29 India 58445Check out how fast these guys work:   It can take two people up to two years to make one rug. It sure made us all gain a serious appreciation for rugs.2012-07-29 India 58456 We also went to a stone cutting place where they do similar stone inlays like they do at the Taj Mahal.2012-07-29 India 58459 Man, there are some talented people out there I tell you. We packed up once again…2012-07-28 India 58241…and headed out for our next adventure: Delhi.

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  1. You're killing me. My husband served his mission in India and we absolutely can't wait to go together. He has a nice picture of him and his companion doing a jumping high five in front of the Taj, appointment cards flying out of his pocket and all. They got in a bit of trouble from the president for that one.

    1. That's awesome that your husband served in India! My son is serving there now in New Delhi. He loves it so much! He has taught and baptized over 30 people. The people are ready for the gospel there! I am going in April to get him and am so excited!

  2. Gorgeous photos!! When we went to India together as a family, we took our family Christmas picture in front of the Taj. That's probably our most awesome family picture. As we were leaving there it started to pour as well! So we sat in the underhang for a while. Also loved visiting the Red Fort. Great pictures!

    perfectly priya

  3. So amazing. I have to recommend a book to you called The Twentieth Wife. It's a long, long love story about Jahingar (Akbar's son) and his twentieth wife who was supposedly the power behind the throne. All throughout the book they reference the places you visited here – Agra, Fatemeh Sikri, etc. I love historical fiction and think you will enjoy it having actually seen these places where the story takes place!

  4. Thank you for sharing your adventures in India. It makes me want to load up the family and visit. So fun to see it through your family's eyes.

  5. Oh! I am so glad that you got to go to the golden triangle area, and especially to Fatehpur Sikri. Obviously the Taj Mahal is magnificent, but I just fell madly in love with Fatehpur Sikri. It is so perfect and in such an amazing setting! I was mesmerized by the fact that it was only occupied for a short amount of time and has been abandoned for far longer than it was used.

  6. I thought this was interesting; contrary to popular belief, "Soon after his ascension, Aurangzeb abandoned the liberal religious viewpoints of his predecessors.[21] Though Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan's approach to faith was more syncretic than the empire's founder, Aurangzeb's position is not so obvious though his conservative interpretation of Islam and belief in the Sharia (Islamic law) is well documented. Despite claims of sweeping edicts and policies, contradictory accounts exist.[22] Specifically, his compilation of the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, a digest of Muslim law, was either intended for personal use, never enforced."

  7. You should read the book Beneath the Marble Sky. It is historical fiction, but you will probably love it since you have been to the Taj Mahal. Love these photos!

  8. Oh my goodness, I have just loved these last few posts! I have heard several people say that India was by far their most favorite trip ever. I am so impressed and in awe. What an unforgettable trip!

  9. I am loving this blog and your posting. We traveled over to India so long ago only to spend 3 days pick up our daughter, who was born there. We never made it to the Taj and we are going to have to make a birthland trip there for her to see it. Your photos are so inspiring. Did you take the jumping one with a tripod or did someone else take it?

  10. A question…how did you handle telling your other kids they weren't going on the trip to India? We want to take a trip back east with my two oldest, but my 3rd is going to flip out when we tell him. Any advice is much appreciated!

  11. Wow. I am speechless.
    I hope you print that photo of the Taj that you took.
    Great photos and amazing adventure. Thanks for the history lesson today.

  12. We had the same tour guide when we were there! You must have gone through Praveen as your agent! 🙂 (Did the guide tell you his Julia Roberts story when you were at the Taj?? He was pretty proud of that!) 😉 We went to the same exact rug place and sat on those same blue couches as they brought us "sodas" with straws and tried to get us to buy some rugs (they succeeded!).

    I am LOVING your pictures and commentary; they seriously make me want to go back. Right now! Keep the India post coming!

  13. Just returned yesterday from our trip to India so am loving your photos and insights. What a country of contrasts!! So many amazing historical sites and yet so much filth and squallor.

    BTW, I'm one of the many fans of your parents' books who feel like I know your family because of all the stories about you in the books!
    It's fun to read about your adventures.

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