The Mughal empress Mumtaz Mahal, got herself a splendid mausoleum as a death-bed promise from her husband Shah Jahan. And true to his word, the besotted emperor left no stone unturned (literally!) to keep his promise and christened this poetry in marble – Taj Mahal, after his favourite wife.
The Taj- rightly called ‘poetry in marble’.
After 22 years of seething hard work by collecting the raw materials from remotest parts of India and also abroad and almost bankrupting the royal treasury, here stands this majestic piece of architecture that now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and continues to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
It is said, a few years ago before it attained its exalted status of one of the seven wonders of the world, people came to have a picnic and play cricket on the plinth of the legendary Taj Mahal!
When we entered Agra from the Yamuna Expressway that connects Delhi to Agra in under 4 hours, I was thrilled. I was finally going to behold India’s postcard image in person! On our way to the hotel, I glanced upon a dusty white dome and asked our pilot what it was. “The white structure on your left is the Taj”, he smiled. I was crestfallen. Is this what I came for so far, I thought sadly. The numerous images of pristine Taj Mahal being the symbol of love flashed before my eyes. And none of it matched the one I was beholding. “The magic of Taj is in its history”, he added.
The Taj shuts at sundown. It was evening when we reached Agra. With nothing better than waiting for our moment with Taj, we decided to visit the chaat-gali of Agra. It is a bright lane full of delicious smelling snacks and sweets. The Agra Chaat House (a recommend on Highway On My Plate) is the most popular one here. A stroll down here, just tasting the variety will fill your tummy! Just next to this lane is a sidewalk full of goodies- the street market. You can grab some good bargains from here.
To soak up the history and beauty, we decided to visit Taj early the next morning. It is just a stone’s throw away from the main gate from which vehicles are prohibited, to check pollution. You can either walk or take one of the electric vehicles. We decided to walk. And with every step, I was hoping against hope to have a better reaction than the day before.
Undoubtedly, the first glimpse of Taj Mahal was breath-taking. You first see the entire monument through the huge red sandstone arched entrance and it guarantees a ‘Wow!’ effect.
Taj Mahal is an architectural wonder, in this, it is absolutely symmetric along a line which runs through its centre. Right from the outer courtyard, this line cuts through the centre of the tomb, and on this line lies the coffin of Mumtaz Mahal. But there is only one exception to this rule in this grandiose structure. Up to you to go and discover!
A must have click of the Taj.
The Taj appears to be a different shade, during different times of the day. The best I have witnessed is when the early morning sun filters through the marble screen and illuminates the inmost room wherein rest the tombs of the namesake of this mausoleum and her beloved. The stones engraved in the walls sparkle and come to life. And it is indeed a sight to behold with awe!
Designed intricately down to the smallest detail, with a plethora of semi-precious stones and spectacular calligraphy, it is undoubtedly a monument to behold!
Agra is the city of Taj Mahal. But, just across the Yamuna river, is the Red Fort of Agra popularly known as Agra Fort, which is way larger than its counterpart in Delhi. Shah Jahan used to mourn his beloved wife from here. Below is the Taj as seen from The Agra Fort.
The Taj Mahal can be seen in the centre of the picture with the dome on the right being the viewing spot of Shah Jahan from the Agra Fort.
The Agra Fort wasn’t built by one king. And that is evident from the variety of its embellishments. More than three generations of Mughals kept on extending this fortress. It is colossal. A walking tour through the entire fort would take not just one whole day, but even more. But, about 70% of it is under Indian military, hence closed for viewing. It is like a whole city inside the fort. From mosques to palaces, from shopping complexes to durbars and what not!
Agra Fort in full glory.
Numerous legends and interesting anecdotes surround the Taj. One of them is Shah Jahan proposing to build a black mausoleum, an exact replica of the Taj across the Yamuna which would be his burial tomb. But taking into view the expenses incurred for the Taj Mahal already built, Aurangzeb, his son confined him to the Agra Fort to avert more loss to the royal treasury and ease the tax pressure on his subjects.
- The famous Panchi petha of Agra. It comes in various flavours. Try the very sweet syrup oozing kesari petha.
- Do find the Agra Chaat House and tingle those taste buds. Then take a walk along the adjoining sidewalk and grab some good bargains from the street market.
- Do take a guide! The history of the place makes the inanimate stones speak volumes.
I’m not done with this one visit. I’m coming back for more.
Have you any favourite stories/ views of the Taj? Let me know!