Of Tigers and Mausoleums

The final leg of our journey brought us through the "lake city" of Udaipur where we spent a pleasant night. Along the way we stopped and met some local village children who showed us the irrigation well on their farm, still operated by a team of oxen. From Udaipur we drove to the stunning Devi Garh Fort Palace, now a restored heritage hotel, where we enjoyed a serene respite (right) from the bone-jarring roads and bustling city life. Nestled in the village of Delwara amid the Aravali hills, the 18th century Devi Garh commands one the three main passes into the valley of Udaipur.

From there we ventured on to a highlight of our trip, the famed Ranthambhor National Park, one of the key locations included in India's Project Tiger conservation project. Ranthambhor is the former private game reserve of the maharajas of Jaipur, who once brought their personal guests here for tiger shoots. The park is eerily beautiful, dominated by the ruined battlements of Ranthambhor Fort which looms over forest like a sleeping giant.

Though we were able to stay for only one night and a half day, we did get in a (bracing!) morning game drive during and a brief (and remarkably close) encounter with one of the park's wild tigers. We learned later that we were the only vehicle to manage a tiger sighting that morning.

While in Ranthambhor we spent some time visiting the striking Ranthambhor Fort. Originally built in AD 944, it is one of the oldest forts in Rajasthan, and owes its defense in part to the surrounding jungle. It is said that the Mughal emperor Akbar, unable to capture the fort after a 37 day artillery barrage, finally did so by surprise after disguising himself as an ordinary mace-bearer and entering the fort surreptitiously along with one of his generals.

View of Delwara village from the Davi Garh Fort Palace, Delwara, India. Nikon D70, 18-70mm DX Nikkor.

 

Woman, Ranthambhor Fort, Rajasthan, India. Nikon D70, 85mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor

On to Agra

From Ranthambhor we continued to the city of Agra in the nearby state of Uttar Pradesh, home of the world famous Taj Mahal, regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The Taj Mahal, a mausoleum, was built between 1632 and 1653 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife, Arjumand Banu Bagam, also known as Mumtaz Mahal (Persian for "Elect of the Palace"). It is a symbol of India and could easily make a modern list of the seven wonders of the world.

After a very long drive, we arrived in Agra late in the day and just made it into the monument with 5 minutes to spare. The light was hazy and overcast, not ideal for photographs, so I shot reflections of the building and visitors in the surrounding pools. However, a hint of sunset afterglow is barely visible on the white marble walls of the monument in one of the classic views of the Taj Mahal (below).

Village boys, Udaipur, India. Nikon D70, 18-70mm DX Nikkor.

 

A young girl mans the irrigation well on her family farm on the outskirts of Udaipur, India. The oxen walk in circles
tirelessly to draw water from the well. Nikon D70, 18-70mm DX Nikkor.

 

My friend Abhay Maskara and my wife Jessica bundle up from the cold as we enter Ranthambhor National Park for
a morning game drive. Nikon D70, 18-70mm DX Nikkor.

 

Would we really see a tiger? After driving through the park for almost two hours, our guide finally spotted these
fresh tiger tracks on the road. Nikon D70, 85mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor.

 

Success! Well, sort of--we never got a real view of this tiger's face as it
finished marking this tree and moved away from us into the forest.
Nonetheless, this image was made with a short 85mm lens, meaning we were
remarkably close. Nikon D70, 85mm f/1.4 AF Nikkor.

 

Visitor reflected in a pool of water, Taj Mahal, Agra, India. (The image is
inverted from normal perspective). Nikon D70, 18-70mm DX Nikkor.

 

Wall painting, Davi Garh Fort Palace, Delwara, India. Nikon D70, 18-70mm DX Nikkor.

 

Shadows and light, Ranthambhor Fort, Rajasthan, India. Nikon D70, 85mm f/1.4 AF Nikkor.

 

A classic view of the Taj Mahal at twilight. Nikon D70, 18-70mm DX Nikkor.