Spend ten days this month in Agra, if you’ve got that sort of time on your hands. Sure, it’s not the best time of year for peace and quite, but you can soak up sights, sounds and a heavy dose of tourists if you’re in and around the Taj Mahal at the end of the month.
When you think Taj Mahal, you think extravagance, luxury and the Mughal era, which also means a lot of rich art, music and – how could you think otherwise – the food! Heading for the Taj Mahotsav festival will literally take you back to the extravagance of the nawabs. Visiting is a good idea and don’t brush it off saying that you don’t like crowds or hate the flock of tourists who visit in throngs. You can actually be part of some really great performances and events for quite an amazingly low cost (it’s usually a mere `20).
So, what’s so great about the festival? Well for starters, there are the arts and crafts. There’s pottery, wood carvings, marble, brass, metal, carpets and all sorts of popular Indian made handicrafts. We suggest walking past to see rather than buy (let all those ‘tourists’ you dislike do the heavy shopping). Pick up some shawls and Banaras silk if you must. There is a lot to shop for, so if that’s your idea for a festival, there are knick-knacks, stationery, jewellery and even clothes.
The best part about the festival, yes, even better than the exquisite arts and crafts, are the performances by artists across the country. The performances include ones by renowned artists and musicians, a number of dancers and even folk talent (which is a must-see in our books).
And then there’s the food. Delectable fare that includes a spread of delicacies by chefs from across the country. Apart from Agra specialties, you also get a lot of special dishes from Uttar Pradesh tour, which are all quite exciting. I mean sure, you’ll have had chole bhature, kebabs (the Lucknowi kind), Amritsari naan and Hyderabadi biryani – but have you had it all at the same place with a good mix of music and cultural shows thrown in? We didn’t think so.
And the best part for most family oriented travelers is that the festival is uber family oriented. Sure, there’ll be crowded areas and performances you don’t want your children in the midst of, but the merry-go-rounds, rides and the fair that’s especially for children (not to mention they get into the festival free if they’re under ten) will mean your children will be well entertained while you enjoy the cultural festivities.
Oh and did we mention the processions? After all, what’s an Indian festival without decorated animals, processions, the beat of a drum and dancing in the middle of the road?