I've got an upcoming trip to Cambodia in late February for a conference, after which I would like to do a little travelling to India. I'll probably spend most of it in Rajasthan (with Delhi and Agra of course), although I'm not averse to hopping on a plane to spend some time further down south. I can get very cheap flights in and out of New Delhi ($200 return to Bangkok), so in all likelihood I would do some loop that might include some or most of the following places (in no particular order, and definitely not a travel order!): Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, and possibly Varanasi and Amritsar.
Of course I'll bringing as much film as I can carry (both slide and black and white), I'll definitely travel by train and probably plane while in-country. I'll also be there during the festival of Holi, which I've always wanted to photograph, but now am not sure due to the unsafe nature of it in some places. In any event, I'm well aware that all these places are well-established on the tourist route, but this will be my first time to India and I will be travelling as a solo female. I've done a lot of research on this and I think I'm pretty well versed on the travel aspects of India, but it's the photography that I'm most interested in.
For example, my impression from the internet is that it's best to get in and out of Agra as fast as possible. And in fact, many tours/tourists do just that, arriving sometime in the morning or afternoon and leaving later that day or early the next morning. However, that's not what I want to do. I'm really interested in photographing the Taj in the best possible light from various locations in and around it. I'm well aware that it's expensive to get in (around $25?) but I'd be more than willing to do that more than once as I plan to be there over several days. I've also read that you can go to the Taj on the nights surrounding the full moon, which I would like to do, but cannot seem to find any current information about it, even if they still allow it. Because the full moon coincides with the Holi dates in March, and I want to avoid travelling on Holi, I'll likely be in Agra at that time -- although I am open to other suggestions.
Anyway, my main question is, for a photographer, based on your experiences in any of the cities I've mentioned above, what do you recommend in photographing these places? How much time to spend there, best light, hiring guides, etc. I've got about 3 weeks that I can spend there, which is just a drop in the bucket for such a large country, and I want to make the most of it (but leaving time to explore and photograph places properly, the reality of "Indian time" in getting things done/trains, etc.). Any suggestions would be appreciated.