There are no words to describe its long history, its vast architecture, the purity of its materials. During my visit, a minister or the someone was supposed to be visiting, so the exhibition closed to the public in mid-morning. Because of this I had to abandon my visit earlier than planned. Personally I would have stayed the whole day. The feelings that invaded me were magical, as if there was something more than corporeally. I'm still looking forward to returning. I recommend a visit at dusk, I visited at dawn, but with the pollution and haze of the early hours, you can barely make out the silhouette of the Taj Mahal. My travelling companions visited at sunset and the sky's orange hue gives a touch of magic of colour to the white marble of the centrepiece of the Taj Mahal. Spectacular. I marvelled at the coexistence of animals, both among themselves, and with us human visitors. One aspect of India that accompanies you all the way.
Varanasi is a city where earth and mysticism combine. It's one of the holiest cities of Hinduism and a place of one of the first preachings of Buddha. In the city you can find everything from the most typical small bazaars to small temples, and you can even see the cremations of the dead that take place on the banks of the Ganges. With all the colors mixed from the sun and the smell of incense and food, Varanasi is a delight for the senses. It's a perfect place to get lost wandering the streets, and discover little nooks where you can taste typical street food and desserts from the area (sensitive stomachs should be careful). Undoubtedly my favorite little corner of the world.
You can see people cremating their dead, and also bodies which have not been cremated floating down the river. People bathing in it to purify themselves. A crazy tourist jumped into the river without fear of mutation: D When you think that there are dead bodies in the river, you think "yikes ... Too bad, no?" But then when they tell, and that for them is the most coveted think upon reaching the end of their life on earth, and understand that it is still a ritual, as it can be for a Christian, or any other, you understand, respect it, and still you think it is daunting.
This was one of the most incredibly powerful experience I've had during my travels. The ghats are terraced stairs that give people access to the Ganges river. They're always bustling with activity from the crack of dawn when the women come to wash clothes and others come to wash themselves. It' also a popular meeting point among locals. There are many painters who gather there to reflect on the beauty of the Ganges as the light changes throughout the day. It an "essential" area that gives off an air of peace and tranquility.
They also have cremation rituals on the ghats and, honestly, it's not a big deal if you have a look. In fact, one person was cremating his son and told us all the passes of the ritual. You should, of course, abstain from taking photos in that circumstance.
In the city of Agra, surrounded by the river Yamuna, you can find the monumental Red Fort, which was built in red sandstone by the Emperor Akbar Mongol. From here, there are great views of the Taj Mahal, it is beautiful. It is one of the most important strongholds and representative places in India, for its location and for its construction, surrounded by a moat with water from the river. It is here that the treasures of the state were kept, and it was inhabited by several Mongol emperors. The Red Fort was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983. There is a legend that says that the son of Shah Jahan, after murdering his brothers and taking advantage of his father´s sadness due to the death of his wife, he locked him in a tower overlooking the Taj Mahal, until his death.
According to the story, the Mughal emperor Akbar came to a famous miracle worker in the city of Sikri concerned about the death of all his sons. Salim, as he was called, predicted that he would soon have a new son who would inherit his empire. After one of his wives became pregnant he built a palace in the city of Sikri, Rang Mahal, near the miracle worker to obtain good influences. The child once born was called Salim in honor of the "prophet". He decided to build a city which he called "City of Victory" after the recent conquest of Gujara, currently part Pakistan. Fatehpur, the City of Victoria, was abandoned in 1585, 14 years after its founding, due to lack of water. The city is still in perfect condition and you can see the Rang Mahal Palace and the small town of Sikri.
Along with the famous Manikarnika Ghat, the Ghat Dasaswamedh is one of the most significant and visited things in Varanasi or Benares. The name "Dasaswamedh Ghat" comes from an ancient legend, which means "10 sacrificed horses on the riverfront" . It isn´t a literal translation, but that gives you an idea of what it means. Legend has it that 10 horses were sacrificed by Lord Brahma and that through this offering, Shiva let him back after his banishment. During the night, the Dasaswamedh Ghat is a fantastic show in which the sound of the music and the light of the offerings are mixed together with the songs of Aarti ceremony sadhus performing religious ceremonies. In the morning, when the life of the river starts a new day, this Ghat is set apart from others by the fabric and bamboo umbrellas that sit on its steps, which serve to give some relief from the heat . There are pilgrims, family of dead and boatmen ve are cleaning their boats or waiting for travelers eager to discover the banks of the River Ganges and see some of the most amazing sunrises in the country.
One of the experiences I remember most about my trip to India was the Aarti ceremony on the banks of the river Ganges.It was carried out every night, and can only be performed by young members of the Brahmin caste (the upper class in India). Many people come together to enjoy the moment, the truth is that it is a unique experience. You start being a spectator, but as the minutes passed, the local people encouraged you to participate, so you get involved and you get to have a special moment. The atmosphere is unique. I recommend you to just let go. It is one of the images of India that you get to take home.
Although it is not an Indian city that I would recommend, you should go there to visit one of the great wonders of the world. What I did find very quaint and attractive was the number of businesses and the trade taking place in the street. There I took my first train in India and it was a surprising and intimate experience.
The Mughal Emperor Akbar, is buried in this small town of Agra. It is believed that Akbar sketched and ordered the construction of his own mausoleum during his life, which was changed and completed by his son. The result is this stunning perfectly symmetrical resort, in which the tomb fills a large walled central garden. The front door is an amazing red sandstone structure with a huge central arch finished with a lush white marble a polychromatic mosaic, slate black and colored stones. The large garden where monkeys walk around, is a typical charbagh, a walled garden divided in four quadrants.
The great mosque called Jami Masjid Agra is situated in the city of Fatehpur Sikri, which became the new capital, founded in 1569, by the Mughal Empire for a while, but then they left due to the lack of water. The Great Mosque begins across the victory bridge, the Buland Darzawa, and it is one of the finest mosques of the Mughal era. It is here that the tomb of the Emperor Al Sawlah lies. What impressed me most was the "bridge". It is not so much a bridge, but rather a kind of door that symbolizes the passage from earth to the great beyond, into the land of the gods. Fatehpur Sikir is an hour away from Agra, and it is well worth a trip there. The part of the magnificent bridge was built by Akbar in 1602, in order to celebrate the conquest of Gujarat. There are 42 steps to climb up to the mosque, and the door is over 53 meters high. It is made of red stone from the region. One interesting thing about the mosque is that there is no minaret.
I found this historic place very close to Varanasi. It's where Buddhism originated. In this park (known as Deer Park) was where Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, gave his first speech on the ways to travel the path of Dharma. Today it's a place of worship where faithful pilgrims from around the world come to worship in the Dhamekh Stupa, built where Buddha once preached.
The tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah's is popularly known as the Baby Taj. It's architecture reflects that of the gates of the Taj Mahal, but is not as well-visited. It's a good stop if you are going to watch the sunset from the Taj Mahal's riverbank. If you're coming by ricksaw, tell your driver. There is an entrance fee, which is cheap, around 2 euros. It's a nice place from an architectural point of view (Muslim influences) and has beautiful views of the river.
The Yamuna River, is one of the largest tributaries of the Ganges river and also one of the major rivers of North India, because its length is 1370 kilometers, and also because for the Hindus it is named as one of the seven sacred rivers of India, and is second in importance after the Ganges. The river is named for the goddess Lamuna, the sister of the Hindu God of death. In India the rivers have a very important role in everyday life as they are used for washing, washing the dishes, disposing of litter, purification of bodies , fun and ... You finish up in one of them when you die. The Yamuna river, although the waters are not are clear, are by far much more transparent than the Ganges, which in some sections seem more stagnant water than water. Although now not part of the safe water supply of the city, if they use it to irrigate a wide area. The most beautiful stretch of the river in my opinion, when it is passing by the edge where the Taj Mahal is located, especially when dawn takes the golden reflection of the sun and illuminates the "jewel" of India.
Bharat Mata Temple, which is also known as the Temple of Mother India, was the first landmark we visited in Varanasi. It is quite unusual and cool, there is not much to beat it in Varanasi. This temple was built in 1918 and its main attraction is a huge white marble map where you can see the Indian subcontinent in relief. It is from this that you realize how big and diverse India actually is. Apart from the giant map on the floor, Bharat Mata has little more to offer. The only other notable thing is a fresco with the mythological figure of Mother India. This place is meant to represent the unity of all religions and cultures living in this great country. Its possible, to take photos and videos inside the temple, although you have to pay of Rs 10. We did not go with a video camera, but the entrance fee cost 20 rupees. Do not be surprised because this practice is very common in many Indian monuments and historic sites.
The Red Fort is another of the wonders of the city of Agra after the Taj Mahal, which perhaps overshadows it with its beauty. However, it is no less spectacular, as each corner keeps a piece of Indian history and architectural treasure. Within the grounds of the Red Fort, there's a large courtyard where the so-called "Diwan i Khas" is. It's a great room for an audience, where the emperor daily addressed his subjects, received envoys from other countries or dispensed justice . The Diwan-i-am is an open pavilion formed by a triple row of columns. The building was initially the work of Shah Jahan, and completed by his son, being covered in sandstone stucco.
On Ganges Road, near the main ghat, is the market. The typical bustle of active centers in Indian cities, with all its charm but also its chaos (watch your bags). Lassis, samosas, delicious fruit juices, many of which I had never seen, vegetable stalls, flower sellers or craft, forming a color chart that I will never forget.