Tired of seeing cows doing what they want, wherever they want, I was surprised when I saw two of them, in the Taj Mahal, tied to a car... working! Wrong impression - caws worked in the old Portugal, not in India. They were buffaloes, of course.
It's hard to a western guy to understand that difference between both animals, and reading doesn't help much.
It seems that the cult of cow comes from the Vedic times, when a celestial caw Kamadhenu, supplied to the owner all the needed milk, and became the mythological nourisher of all the earth.
However, buffalo milk seems to be better than caw milk so why the difference?
I read that injuring a caw is (or was) in India a serious crime, more serious than killing a person. Do you imagine my concern when, in Gwalior, a small cow decided to attack Fernanda, and I had to interpose myself?
Everything ended with a small scratch in my left hand, and I didn't even think about disinfection, because it was a blessed scratch. Or not?
My God! It's hard to adapt to so different cultures.
The interior of the Taj Mahal is indeed very beautiful with more inlaid marble, a decorative tile floor and delicated jalis or pierced screens surrounding the cenotaph. HOWEVER - there are not only several signs up asking you not to take photographs within the tomb, the guards at the entrance reinforce this message. I was quite disturbed to see how many people were completely ignoring this request and taking flash photo after flash photo. This is a tomb. Please be respectful and remember that. It would have be a peaceful and reflective place if not for the behaviour of a few thoughtless tourists.
I guess many things have changed in India since my visit, after so many years of galloping economic growth. However, in 2003, they still used this archaic yet charming method to mow the lawns in the perfectly manicured gardens of the Taj Mahal.
Come February and it's springtime. The time of the year when nature dawns all it's colorful splendour and Agra bursts into colorful celebrations. For 10 days there is a sheer celebration of Uttar Pradesh's rich heritage of arts, crafts, culture, cuisine, dance and music. Yes, it is Taj Mahotsava time again. There are festivities all around and Agra truly puts on the colors of joy and gets transformed into one non stop carnival. Organised by Uttar Pradesh Tourism, and held as an annual event at Shilpgram, literally next door to the Taj Mahal, the Taj Mahotsav is indeed a fitting tribute to the legendary skills of matercraftsmen and exponents of art, music and cuisine. Not only this, it is also a gentle peep into the rich heritage and extraordinary legacies of this wonderful land.
The festivities commence with a spectacular procession inspired by Mughal splendour. Bedecked elephants and camels, drum beaters, folk artists and mastercraftsmen.... all help to recreate a visual delight reminiscent of the golden era of the Mughal Darbars.
Bateshwar lies on the banks of the Yamuna river around 70kms from Agra. During the October and November there is a large fair which happens between Shashtki of Kartik month to Panchami of Agrahayan month. Because Bateshwar is an important cutural and spiritual centre, devotees come to the town en-mass to worship Lord Shiva and also take holiday dips in the Yamuna River. The usual market atmosphere is around and some serious buying and selling of livestock also takes place.
The best time to visit Agra is winter when the temperatures range from a low of 4.2C to 31.7C. The summer months can get very hot and up to 45C. I was there in the first half of April and it was getting pretty hot there during the middle of the day but still comfortable. Agra lies 169 metres above sea level.
Rambarat is the marriage procession held in Agra during Ramlila (or Ramleela) every year. The 10 day event celebrates the marriage Sri Ram. The town is richly decorated and a procession of Jhankis and Swaroops of Ram-Lakshaman passes through various parts of the town mounted on elephants with a new location being chosen each year
During August and September you will find the Kailash Fair which is celebrated for Lord Shiva who is believed to appeared in this area in the form of a stone lingam. Kailash is about 12 kms from Agra.
Shilpgram holds the Taj Mahotsav festival every year in February. There is entertainment in the form of classical dancing and folk music, arts and crafts, camel and elephant rides as well plenty of good food with a food festival being incorporated. The event last for 10 days. Shilpgram is about 1 km from the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal
You will need to remove your shoes when walking inside the Taj and certain areas of Fatehpur Sitri. Remember to wear socks as the marble at the Taj gets really hot in summer. Socks will also ensure your feet stay clean.
Wear simple walking shoes, keep the expensive ones at home.
Restoration work was being carried out to some of the walls and decorations as we were there. The scaffolding and work methods were very primitive in our eyes. It was fascinating to see how painstakingly and lovingly they would do this though.
Walking trough the street of India you will see all the people (i saw only man) smoking such a small sigar, called BIRI. In India there are a lot of tipes of Biri and it is a normality smoke a biri. (it costs also only 5Rs Vs 50/70Rs for a package of cigarettes), they smoke wherever, on trains, buses, restaurants and so on....
If you would need to caugh a bus, a train or a flight, then you will have the problem of the queue.
In India, as well as in a lot of places in Asia, there is no respect for queue
The rule is: the first one speak is the first that has to be listened!
Altough you are waiting for your turn, you will detect that hundreds of people will jump on your shoulder trying to overtake you...it will take away your hair..something really bad! Be patient, that’s the only thing to do!
Hand lifting the Taj Mahal is one of the local custom I quite sure. The local peoples especially those near the Taj Mahal would offer you the Hand lifting the Taj photo which is a pose showing your hand lifting up the Taj Mahal while they take the photo for you. You will know when you are here.
remove your shoes and put it outside before entering worshipers' places like mosques and temples. and do not forget when entering Taj Mahal. it's became a mandatory: you have to put your shoes in front office [cellphone also not allowed]. but if you feel lazy enough to open, you can rent a pairs of shoes' covers --like the red ones which covers this guy's shoes in my picture.