Monday, 1 February 2016

Agra part 2: Crafts and the Red Fort.

The next stop in Agra were some craft collective workshops, where we could see a demonstration of precious stone inlay work and embroidered textiles (just before the hard sell!). Hard white marble from the hills near Ajmer is inlaid with lapis lazuli, carborundum, mother of pearl, jasper, agate, malachite, black onyx and turquoise.

The stones are cut finely and the marble incised to take the shapes using just these two tools. The red colour is a temporary coating which allows the design to be seen. Finally the design is laid out and cemented in place piece by piece and the piece is polished smooth.

In the textile emporium this man was doing very fine silk embroidery with couched gold-work on velvet. Their speciality was incorporating jewels into the work, each of which had a particular meaning.

Then after a buffet lunch at the Pinch of Spice (where we had to leave our arms and ammunition outside according to the brass sign) 

was the Red Fort. Our guide had timed our visit so that the afternoon light enhanced the red sandstone walls. 

The gates were huge to allow elephants with their mahouts through - 

the outside ones complete with drawbridge and moat, every bit as interesting as the carved walls - look at the delicate zigzags on the iron bar ...

and inside it seemed that every inch of the walls and ceilings had been intricately carved or painted.

Tiled and painted panels about to be restored just inside the gate.

Within the walls were various individual palces used as rooms for living, two mosques and public audience halls. This one is Diwan-i-Aam (wonder if that's where a certain producer got the idea for his name from?)

These pillars are decorated with typical Hindu carvings of lotus flowers and elephants - lucky because their trunks are raised

More elephant trunks for good luck- this time holding up the roof

This was the Khas Mahal (Marble Pavillon) used as a bedroom  - curtains could be hung from the arches to keep it warm in winter or shaded in summer 

The inside was highly decorated with pattern and flowers in gold and blue paint - only traces still remain to glint in the sunlight

This was a bookcase , high up on the wall

And the well

Balconies so that women could view proceedings below without being seen themselves

A cool summer house

And rhe sun beginning to set behind the rooftops

The Red Fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 1560s and was added to by his grandson Emperor Shah Jehan to make it a palace, and from here he could see across the valley to the Taj Mahal where his third wife was ultimately buried.

As always the building wasn't the only thing to see - colourful saris and salwar chemise on visitors:

and workers: 

Various wildlife

And another huge gate

So that was the end of our day - just a drive through Agra's busy traffic back to our hotel for dinner and a rest - so tired we opted for room service dinner: vegetable biryani with dal and naan, washed down with ginger ale! Very nice it was too!

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