It was a full day for us, and that afternoon we headed to a taste for Taj, viewing it at the back from across the river Yamuna. The Taj is perfectly symmetrical in all four sides so you will have the same view from whatever angle.
Our next stop over was to the Itmud-ud-daula known as Baby Taj. The main gate is made of red sandstone, with a double storied structure which has got inlay work of white marble. Towards it and towards Yamuna, a beautiful Baradary is there, in which below there are some rooms which were provided with curtains of Khas-khas and were used as a cool retreat from the summer heat. The upper chambers were used as bathrooms by the Royal Ladies. The ceiling was decorated with gold and silver, were scrapped away by the Jats during their short occupation of Agra, but were repaired later on by lord Curzon. But many original things in there had been long stolen by the people.
Itmud-ud-daula was built by Empress Noor Jahan in the memory of her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg. It is basically a tomb, which is of very peculiar interest as it was the fore-runner of of the Taj and of the many designs of it were made in the Taj. It is the first Mughal Architecture before the existence of Taj, which was made of white marble. It was the first Mughal building, totally constructed of marble and is the first building in which extensive use of “Pietra Dura” has been made, which is characteristic of the Taj. The marble walls are decorated with inscriptions from the holy Quran, cypress tress, wine flasks and jugs carved on marble, are very beautiful. In the center of the hall are the cenotaphs of Itmud-ud-Daula and his wife Asmat-Ul-Nisa. The rectangular shaped tomb of white marble is enclosed by a beautiful garden fenced by high walls on three sides and the fourth side opens towards river Yamuna, which gives a beautiful view of the city.
Our tour guide has been very nice and informative, a real tour guide who knows them all a tourist will ask. The hotel driver that drives for us was also a quiet guy who drives good. (In India vehicles are right-hand driven; and “horn please, OK”.) Anyway. It was already passed noon so we have to eat at some Pizza Hut place and get a good lunch. I wanted us four to eat together, hubby and me, the tour guide and the driver, and I kept asking for the driver but he did not get inside. Right, hubby later told me that the tour guide, might have not wanted the driver to join us, as there is still in this place awareness and sensitivity of social status.
At Oswald Emporium we stopped by after the tour to the Agra Red Fort to see the demonstration of inlays. It is not an ordinary work their expertise in shaping those delicate semi-precious stones are obtained by years f experience, and they actually come the families or descendants of those who who build the Taj Mahal and the Fort. See they still used some conventional method that had been used by the 13th century builders for there is no equivalent apparatus in today’s technology that can do the same precision and ease of the equipment. See how wise the old age is. Below is a close-up of one side of the octagon showing how the small stones were inlaid.
This is a finished product of marble cut octagonally to depict the pattern used in Taj Mahal with thousands of very small semi-precious stones inlaid to create the final design.
These are some of the stone carvings and semi-precious stones inlaid in the columns and walls of red sand stone they imported from Rajasthan and of marble stone, known as the hardest kind. Thousands of their workers came from Persia (Iran) and Turkey who were experts in stone works. All imported materials were transported by camels, and I can say that it is pretty fast transport, see my camel ride experience.
Their type of marble is the hardest kind yet they had carved into it shapes and patterns to accommodate their designs. These marble stone were crystallize, and with proper light, will reflect light from behind thus making it look like transparent. Some of the in laid semi-precious stones also reflects back light.
Upon touring around the fort perimeter and numbers of palaces and buildings, they seemed like just ordinary ones except for the delicate works of stone, but checking everything, you can see the wisdom of old. This window is just an ordinary closed window as seen from outside but when inside, it serves as a natural air conditioning that it really sucks air and makes the room cold and maintain it that way as it can’t go out. It is even more powerful that the modern fans. On the right, I didn’t know that there is someone on my back, lol. On the first photo, it is a well that used to collect the waters which cool down every room in summer, how they cooled them down is through their hollow stone walls circulating the water around with slaves and workers pumping the water up to the palaces. For me it is just simply, amazing.
The Jasmine Tower, Samman Burj, or Musamman Burj or Octagonal Tower is one and the same building, which was built by Jahangir for his empress Noor Jahan. Later on it was remodelled by Shah Jahan for Mumtaj Mahal. It is a miraculus work of marble fulligral work, in laid with semi precious colorful stones. As there are so many jasmine pieces adorned in this tower – hence it is called Jasmine tower also. It is aslo the same place where Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, was kept as a prisoner by his son Aurangzeb. It is also his death place, where he breathed his last in the lap of his dear daughter Jahan Ara gazing towards the Taj, the tomb of his beloved consert. It is also the place from where the Taj Mahal is visible very clearly and appears like a shining piece of moon or the most beautiful palace of the heaven that has fallen on the earth.
From the Saman tower this is the only view we can see of the Taj Mahal, my very first one, in that foggy day.
To see such massive architectural works that has been standing for so many centuries is amazing enough, knowing the efforts and the transportation of the materials and peoples in that time, using camels, elephants and other beasts of burden carrying their imported jems and the stones to build the palaces and buildings, but what made us appreciate it in total awe is the inlaid works that seemed so intricate and delicate work of art by expert people of that time. Jewels and semi-precious stones were inlaid to the main stone creating colorful and beautiful pattern depicting their style in their era. It was really amazing considering the amount of work and man-hours those thousands of workers and slaves had to do for so many years to complete the fort and palaces. It is just a shame that those semi-precious stones were now gone as they had been stolen. But the remains of the structure is still the same in strength and beauty, you can’t help looking past the people that had done every intricacies to create such complicated designs.