Day Two – the Taj Mahal!

Today we set off from Kanpur really early to visit the Taj Mahal, in Agra. Harpreet and Aakarshan arrived at our hotel at 6am. Kanpur is a large city with over five million inhabitants, it is built around the leather industry and has huge tanneries which sell mostly to other parts of the world.  Aakarshan explained that the tanneries are the biggest pollutants of the Ganges and eating the fish from the river nearby is forbidden.  Kanpur is also India’s main producer of weapons; we saw many of the large factories as we drove out of the city.

Our journey was very interesting; all along the road side were people selling lots of different things such as water and food from canvas shelters .  Almost  all of the people who own these structures sleep in them as well.  The temperature at the moment is 35 degrees, however in January and February it falls to 0 degrees. We wonder how people will survive the winter months?

We knew that we would see cows wandering in the road but we weren’t expecting to see pigs, goats, dogs, chipmunks, monkeys and even camels Cows are sacred in the Hindu religion as they are believed to carry all three hundred and thirty million forms of God inside them. There are so many animals that roam around without belonging to anybody.  Our taxi driver had to stop and repair a puncture on the side of the road.  Whilst he did this, we needed to cross a very busy road to wait safely. Harpreet was just as anxious at crossing the road as we were; she held Mrs Phillips’ hand to help.

We were lucky enough to stop and visit a Jain Temple.  Jainism is thought to be one of India’s oldest religions that originates from the Buddhist religion.  Jains are strict vegetarians and have five vows that they live by; non-violence, not lying, not stealing, chastity, and non-attachment.  Before entering the temple, we had to remove our shoes and ring a bell, this signified our arrival in the temple. In the temple men and women were praying, whilst praying some were offering gifts.  For each wish asked a grain of rice, lentil, raisin or a clove was offered.

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We arrived at the Taj Mahal at around 11.30.  The heat was intense as was the amount of people visiting and trying to get our attention. Harpreet found us a guide called Asif who led us quickly through the crowds of people into the grounds of the Taj Mahal.   Although as foreign visitors we didn’t have to queue, Indian men and women were made to queue in separate lines.  Harpreet explained that this is normal in every city.

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We could tell we were getting close because excitement filled the area which lead to the Taj Mahal itself.  Our first sight was awe inspiring. The white of the marble against the blue of the sky was breath taking.  The Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.  He built this magnificent building to be the tomb of his late wife, who sadly died after giving birth to their fourteenth child.  Upon entering, we had to cover our shoes and were prohibited from taking photographs, out of respect.  There were in fact two tombs and two fake tombs.  Two contained the bodies of the Emperor and his wife and two were replicas

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The Taj Mahal took twenty two years to build and materials from all over the world were imported and used.   Due to the heavy pollution, the white marble has turned yellow.  The Government has ordered that no factories are permitted to operate within 10 to 15 kilometres of the building.  When we were visiting one of the towers was having a face lift; mud was used to clean the marble.   One final fact that we learned was that the four towers that protect the Taj Mahal are designed to fall away from the it in the event of an earthquake.

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Our journey back to Kanpur was also interesting.  The roads were jam packed.  Rickshaws, cars, lorries and bikes jostled and weaved in and out of each other.  All drivers beep their horns when passing each other – can you imagine that in Lowestoft? If you need a ride anywhere you can also jump onto the back of any truck – you may have to stand on tiptoe and hold on tightly with the tips of your fingers due to the amount of people already on. Mrs Phillips and I played a game; how many people (adults and children) could we spot on one moped? Can you guess how many? There will be a headteachers award for the correct guess.

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