Bharatpur - Agra. Happy Diwali! En route to Agra we visit the ghostly former Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri, which has been deserted for over four centuries after it was allegedly abandoned due to a lack of water. Upon arrival in Agra we visit the impressive Agra Fort before touring the legendary Taj Mahal. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in fond memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz, the Taj Mahal has been described as the most extravagant monument to love ever built and remains one of India’s most enduring symbols.
India is celebrating Diwali today and this evening we too join the festivities. Our first stop is at the Mahadev Temple, a modern complex where we have the chance to witness the prayers and aarti - Hindu rituals of worship, being performed by the local devotes. After learning a little more about the customs and rituals of Diwali we spend a moment in the temple grounds, which are colourfully decorated by strings of lights.
Of all the festivals celebrated in India, Diwali is by far the most glamorous and important. The five day celebration commemorates the return of Lord Rama, along with Sita and Lakshmana, from his fourteen years of exile and vanquishing the demon king Ravana. The people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, overwhelmed with joy illuminated the kingdom with earthen oil lamps and set firecrackers ablaze to welcome the return of their king.
While the myths and legends that surround Diwali differ around the country, the basic principle remains the same – the celebration of light over darkness and triumph of good over evil. The festival ignites an overwhelming sense of goodwill and bonhomie across the nation, as families and friends come together to light oil lamps, exchange sweets, presents and to set off fireworks. Believing in good luck and good fortune associated with the event most Indian business communities also choose to start their financial year on the first day of Diwali.
Leaving the temple grounds we make our way to a lovely heritage property whose restaurant specialises in classic Indian cuisine for a special Diwali Dinner. As firecrackers light the balmy, autumn night sky we too continue to celebrate Diwali alongside the people of India. Overnight - Agra