#WPLongform, Agra, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri, Indian wedding, Keoladeo National Park, Mughal Empire, painted stork, photography, sandstone architecture, Taj Mahal, travel
November 29-December 2, 2012. We went to Agra for the Taj Mahal of course. We’d read that the city is dusty, dirty, polluted and uninteresting, but there are other things to see in the area. We saw nothing of Agra except to drive through it on our way to somewhere else.
Near to Agra is Keoladeo National Park, also known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. When we arrived there we had to walk a little way from the car park past a lot of tourist stalls to the entrance to the park where there are bicycle rickshaws. The guys who ride you around the park are great. They know where to go and they know a lot about the birds. You can also hire a bird guide if you want to. We didn’t but in true Indian fashion many of them tried to convince us we should. The most tenacious of them followed us all the way to the gate. When he finally realized he’d lost and we weren’t going to hire him he shouted after us You from America Michael Jackson Obama good country! What? One last appeal to our patriotism? Wrong country. There’s no denying India has it’s own special ways and charms.
The Keoladeo National Park is a wetlands wintering-ground for birds from all over the world, and absolutely spectacular. It was nesting time for the painted stork. Thousands of them. In one area of the park every tree was filled with nests, one piled above another, the nests filled with young of varying ages, the air filled with adults bringing food. Thousands of them. Easily a dozen nests in each tree, all the trees crowded together, hundreds of trees everywhere we looked. It really was breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like it. Hundreds of blue herons nest downtown in Vancouver every spring, high up in the trees in the west end. For those of you who live in Vancouver – it’s like that only about one hundred times more, and not so high up. There were other birds in the bird park, but nothing like the great theatre of thousands of nesting painted stork. We were completely delighted.
Trying to fly
An adult feeding its young in the nest at the bottom of the picture. In the centre of the picture is another nest and standing up in that nest is an even younger chick waiting for food.
Fatehpur Sikri, near Bharatpur, is an entire ancient abandoned city. Built a few hundred years ago by Akbar, one of the many Mughal Emperors, he established it as the capital of the Mughal Empire. Oh the whims of the rich and powerful. Emperor Akbar abandoned it after only about 10 years to go fight the Afghans, and then chose Lahore as the new capital. Another thing we read was they simply ran out of water . . . .
It was fascinating to wander around this huge complex, and marvel at the superb construction of red sandstone.
We also came across this little beauty.
Once back at our hotel we settled in for the evening knowing it would be a very early morning the next day to visit the Taj Mahal. At about ten o’clock there’s a banging on our door and Julie crying out Alison, Alison get your camera, there’s a wedding procession . . . . I was out the door in about two seconds!
The procession starts with this contraption, which I think is pushed along. See the huge speakers? They face all the people in the procession and there’s music blaring from them. See the thick power cord? It splits in two and goes down either side of the procession to power the huge triple-lanterns that are being carried at regular intervals, and to power all the lights on the groom’s carriage. And there’s a brass band too just to add to the general melee. You can’t have a wedding procession without a brass band!
At the other end of the procession is the groom’s carriage all lit up like a Christmas tree on steroids, pulled by two white horses, the groom resplendent in his most special finery riding high on his throne.
In front of the groom’s carriage, between the lanterns and the bright floral umbrellas is this
All the immediate family were dancing and singing and throwing money around. We were invited to join in with the dancing, at one point Julie and I both trying to dance Bollywood style with all the women. What a hoot. On and on and on the parade went, moving at snail’s pace as the music blared, and the band played, everyone danced, and the groom sat high on his throne able only to watch.
Two young men dressed in their wedding finery
Finally we came to the reception area, which seemed to be a huge area of a public park, walled off with shiny red and gold fabric, the ground carpeted, dotted with silken tents, and a grand stage at one end with golden thrones and couches, presumably for the happy couple and family at some later point in the proceedings. And another band playing. All along three sides of the area food was being prepared and served. Guests had been there since about seven o’clock. By the time the groom and his procession arrived at about 11.30pm everything was looking a bit tired.
The groom came down off the carriage. The white horses were unhitched, and the groom mounted one of them and rode into the reception area. I couldn’t believe it. The groom rides in on a white horse and the bride doesn’t even get to see it? It’s getting late. Julie and I know we have to get up at about five in the morning but we so much want to see the bride. The groom is now involved in a special ritual with two Hindu priests. It’s almost midnight and we finally decide we’d better go back to the hotel and get some sleep. Oh how I wish we’d waited. We found out later that the bride comes out at midnight.
It took over one and a half hours for the procession to get from outside our hotel to the reception area. Julie and I walked back in ten minutes.
The hotel we stayed at included free breakfast. Everyone gets up really really early to get to the Taj early, to get in line early, to get in first. The restaurant ostensibly opens at 6am so we come down ready for breakfast at 6am. We find it closed and in darkness. I peer through the glass doors. There’s a man asleep on the floor snoring loudly. So funny. But even funnier was they woke him, moved him to the side of the room behind some tables, and he went right back to sleep and continued to snore, loudly, all through breakfast. Only in India.
Everyone has seen pictures of the Taj Mahal. All I’m going to say is it really is as beautiful and magnificent as all the hype. Glorious.
The back, from across the river, in the evening light
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.
The Green Study said:
This post is full of so much that is wonderful, it’s hard to know where to start. I love the beautiful pictures of the painted storks, the intricate details of the walls of Fatehpur Sikri and the wedding. And visiting the Taj Mahal – wow! I love hearing about your travels.
Thank you so much. I so glad you’re enjoying it.
Beautiful, incredible pictures – but I keep going back to that gorgeous child. Your story is so full of interesting things Alison. Such an adventure. 🙂
Thank you. It really was an amazing adventure. I think I’m still trying to process it all.
I have many photos of the beautiful children of India. It’s hard to choose which ones to include.
Emmett Michaud said:
What an amazing journey. Thank you for sharing your experiences, your photos and all of your gifts you receive along the way….. Love you both……
Thanks Emmett. It’s so lovely to hear you’re enjoying the stories of our ramblings.
Love to you both too!
ingrid rose said:
first peek of the taj mahal in morning light made me cry! thanks ali for your love of beauty & your humour…
“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of imagination. What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth – whether it existed before or not.” John Keats
Thanks Ingrid. Yes the Taj really is breathtaking isn’t it? Such exquisite design. Apparently it came in a dream to the guy who had it built (whoever it was – oh dear I’m woefully ignorant when it comes to those kinds of facts). The fact that the design came in a dream is far more interesting to me than the name of the guy that had the dream!
Love that quote from Keats. Yes there is beauty in everything if the heart can open to it.
Hugs from us
WOW!! Gorgeous, amazing, stunning. You are on the adventure of a lifetime. I adore the sleeping dog picture and the small child. I loved it all. Cool wedding shots too.
Thanks so much. So glad you’re enjoying my photos. Yours are so beautiful.
Oh yes, it is certainly an adventure! Stumbling by luck into the wedding was amazing. And then being invited to join in!. The Indian people are so welcoming.
I look forward to following more of your adventures. India looks amazing. I am sure you have so many stories to tell. :0)
Kay Nairn said:
I got so excited by your description and photos of the wedding. I was disappointed, as you were, to not see the bride. The painted storks were incredible! You are such a gifted photograper, Alison.
Would have loved to see the bride 😦
We kept asking people when the bride would come but no-one seemed to know for sure. I think it was one of those occasions when we should have decided to just do without sleep. Oh well. We did get to see quite a lot of it, and what we did see was fabulous. Next day someone told us the bride comes at midnight.
Hugs from us
I can’t believe you saw so much beauty in a 24 hour period, Alison. I love how the guide said Micheal Jackson and Obama in regards to America. Reminds me of how much progress we have made in terms of equality, especially since we just celebrated Martin Luther King’s birthday.
Your photos are incredible, Alison. My biggest fear is that I will go back to India and it won’t be as beautiful as your photos. haha.
Yeah I liked the Michael Jackson and Obama references too, indicating perhaps the two biggest American names in the Indian psyche at the moment. I mean everyone but everyone has heard of Michael jackson. And now Obama too has become a part of the perception of the US in India (and in many other countries also I believe).
Thanks re the photos. India will always be beautiful if you find it so 🙂 besides there is so much beauty there it’s hard to miss.
Great blog – http://indiandesignsandcrafts.wordpress.com/
Thank you. Glad you’re enjoying it.
I love the photos of all the beautiful Indian design and crafts on your blog. The country is very rich in creative endeavour. So much beauty!
Pingback: The Nomadic Life – Serendipity Part 2 | Adventures in Wonderland
Peta Kaplan said:
Alison, we LOVED the bird park!! (We were in India a couple years ago in the North only, and are now thinking of going back to spend time in the South, as well as hopefully be there for the camel fair in Pushkar! ) We loved the bird park so much we ended spending three full days there and skipping the Taj. (We make those kind of on the spot decisions when we love a place.) We were not there at the nesting time for the painted stork so it’s fabulous to see your photos of that. But it was one of our favorite places in N. India.
Alison and Don said:
Isn’t it fabulous?! We couldn’t believe the painted storks – I’d never seen anything like it.
Do go to the Pushkar Camel Fair – extraordinary experience! Nothing like it. Every moment drinking new sights sounds smells activities. It’s really quite extreme. In a good way.
Vicki and Modris said:
Hi Alison and Don, I have enjoyed reading your travels around India. I read about you on the Nomadic Matt blog. My friend and I spent 5 weeks in India 12 months ago, it was my first time there but his second. We sent to Rajasthan and to Benares so was reliving our trip through your words. We saw the Wine and Bear shop amused by what you could buy in it’ we also had a similar experience in our hotel in Delhi waking up the waiting staff in the morning. India is the most amazingly beautiful, frustrating and stunning country I have been to. I am looking forward to returning to this magical place. Your blog has inspired me to do it sooner than later – just need to convince my friend into a third trip.
Alison and Don said:
Hi Vicki and Modris, nice to meet you. Thanks for your kind words, and I’m always happy to hear people are inspired by our travels, as others have inspired us.
I agree India is a magical place. And entirely unique. There is no place like it and I think everyone should experience it at least once. It certainly opens your eyes, and your heart.
Hope you fulfill your dream of getting back there.
Did you visit Agra fort as well? I had been there many years back and loved the fort more than Taj Mahal 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Alison and Don said:
No we didn’t go to Agra Fort. At least not that I remember, and I’m sure I would have posted about it if we’d been. I loved the Taj, but my strongest memories are of the Painted Storks at Bharatpur – it was such an amazing sight!
Pingback: Gateway to God: Haridwar on the Ganges | Adventures in Wonderland
Pingback: Hello to the Queen! And other tales from Rishikesh, India | Adventures in Wonderland
Pingback: Buildings, Too, Are Children of Earth and Sun* – remarkable buildings around the world | Adventures in Wonderland