Early in the morning, the palaces and gardens of Agra Fort were buried in fog. We were the first visitors, and the large spaces enhanced the grandeur of the thick walls. Our only companions were two white monkeys which, strangely enough, lead us to the tower where Shah Jahan spent his last days. The white marble balcony was decorated in the same luxurious latticed design, semi precious stones, and golden ceilings. The monkeys then sat on a window frame and looked out into the horizons. We followed them. The fog was still thick, but way in the distance, across the river Yamuna, we caught a glimpse of the brilliant white of the Taj Mahal. I felt my cheeks flushing again. We sat down on the emperor’s terrace, recalling the legend and his powerful love and grief.
In the afternoon, we boarded on a train to Khajuraho. The ten hour train ride to the south, opened more of India. The picturesque of the hills and rivers was enhanced by the colors of the saris, but degraded by the chaos of the shacks and the grotesque of the perpetual garbage. We arrived late in Khajuraho, on a tropical heavy rain and dark skies. The air was fresh and the vegetation fleshy and plenty.
We woke up at sunrise and strolled randomly on the streets of the village. The silence of the morning, the palm trees agglomerating the passages, and the few people in their morning prayer, gave us the relief we needed from the overwhelming past days. In Khajuraho, the time is still and the seconds become eternity. The ambrosial white smoke of the active prayer sites, flower garlands and incense, brought us closer to the historical temples. Thousands of stone sculptures, ancient symbols, kama sutra and war scenes, fully occupied the outside walls of the immense constructions. Tens of temples with repetitive scenes were scattered between the full grown trees and ficuses. The uniqueness of the site, the bluest of the sky and the silence, made us wish we had more time to stay, to try and begin to comprehend an almost inaccessible ancient culture.
Reenergized, we started on our next journey. Half an hour plane ride away, we arrived in Varanasi, the holiest of the cities, a vigorous place humming with human energy, belief, and determination.