India was the launching point for our trip to Tibet and Nepal. We were greeted by the New Delhi Airport’s Hands Sculpture at the T3 Terminal. The nine beautiful mudras or hand gestures in the sculpture are an intrinsic part of Indian classical dance, yoga and visual arts. This was just the beginning of the beautiful works of art we’d have the privilege to see on this journey.
I learned at a young age that it’s a good idea to travel with a troll or two. Their constant smiles and open arms are reminders of how we should be as travelers, and almost everyone laughs when you bring out your troll. On this trip, I was accompanied by my troll Aurora. Here she is on the Superfast Shatabdi Express train from Delhi to Agra, where we spent our day in India.
Our first stop was Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory), a cultural and imperial capital built by Emperor Akbar (1556-1605). He decided to construct it in 1571, on the same site where the birth of his son, the future Jahangir, was predicted by the wise Shaikh Salim Chisti (1480-1572). In 1585, Akbar abandoned Fatehpur Sikri to fight against the Afghan tribes and chose a new capital, Lahore. The site was abandoned until its archaeological exploration in 1892. (If you visit Fatehpur Sikri, please heed the signs that thank you for “not scratching on the monument.”)
As we walked between monuments at Fatehpur Sikri, we got our first taste of little — and I mean little — kids with pencils or other items for sale. They were some of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen, in some of the saddest conditions I’ve ever seen.
The complex of monuments and temples at Fatehpur Sikri, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid. It was like a mini Taj Mahal, which was our next stop.
We walked past this group of Indian tourists. I fell in love with all of the colors and patterns that they wore. It’s SO much lovelier than the “grey and black” uniform we lapse into in Chicago.
Shortly before arriving at the Taj Mahal, we were advised to remove electronics and candy from our bags. They’re on the list of “Prohibited Items at Taj Mahal” (along with “colors” — a.k.a crayons — and “helmates”). What I didn’t know is that trolls are also prohibited, under the category of “Toys Item”. My bag was descended upon by security and Aurora was about to be taken from me forever when …
… our tour guide (Gobol) saved the day. He talked the security guards into returning Aurora and gave her to one of his friends at the gate to hold until we finished our tour, thus avoiding a “trolls at Taj Mahal” episode of Locked Up Abroad.
My travel group was 14 women and 2 men. Upon seeing the Taj Mahal, more than one woman in our group asked why she couldn’t find a guy who would build a monument to her.
Maybe that’s why they separate foreign tourists from Indian tourists?
Foreign tourists are given shower caps for their shoes …
… while Indian tourists go barefoot.
Regardless of footwear, I knew I was very lucky to visit the Taj Mahal.
Aurora (in the lower left-hand corner) had a slightly different point of view, but she still kept smiling.