Taj Mahal

Agra is, I’m told, a city of some 2.5Million inhabitants but there is little to recommend it to tourists other than the obvious Taj Mahal.

Seeing these world famous sites does not always live up to our expectations and I have to say that the Taj is one of them as far as I am concerned. I far preferred the Golden Temple in Amritsar where my expectations, due to my ignorance, were low, but that said the site was far cleaner and better presented than the Taj Mahal. A little like the Red Fort in Delhi it needs cleaning and the grounds require far better maintenance.

Most major tourist authorities around the world, in charge of sites that I have had the privilege of seeing, make an effort to present not only the site to the best of its ability, but also the surrounding area. The conditions, I am afraid to say, in Agra are that the roads are atrocious, the streets strewn with rubbish and goodness knows what else, and there are really none of the facilities in the immediate vicinity of the site, such as quality souvenir or book stores. It appears that the official attitude is “this site attracts thousands every year without our having to make any worthwhile investment”. I am sure that there must be some people out there that totally disagree with me, so come on and write your comments on this page.

Although the filming of the interior grounds is forbidden, I have somehow come into the possession of some footage that I will upload as soon as possible.

I have said little or nothing about the animal life that abounds in Pakistan and India to date partly because I have little or no knowledge of the names of many species. However, those interested in butterflies would have a field day, particularly in the mountains of the Himachal Pradesh region. The only one that I recognised was a “pintail” I believe it’s called. The colours of some are simply beautiful and some are the size of your hand.

I did mention in my introduction to India the mongoose which I have found to be very common. Otherwise there are camels, water buffalo and on the drive from Delhi to Agra I rounded a corner to be faced by an elephant. It had a handler with it thank goodness and its head was brightly decorated which I believe is quite common.

Animals are a considerable road hazard with carts pulled by horses, donkeys, asses, I have even seen a moke, camels, the India domestic cows and buffalo. It is not at all unusual to find a group of cows, not enough to call them a herd, sleeping in the middle of a highway and there are lots of wild dogs that run out without warning.

Finally, today, the bird population is fascinating with every colour imaginable. I have seen Hoopoe, a Maharatta Woodpecker with a magnificent red crescent and a Rosy Ringed Parakeet. For the enthusiast there will be a photo of a notice naming all the usual breeds.

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