The Taj Mahal – One of the Seven Wonders of the World
While I have invoked comments about the “Taj Mahul” when looking at anything which seemed a little excessive, I never thought I would actually go and visit this oft-referenced standard for largesse. However, when visiting India, I would certainly recommend that you stop your travels or work for one day to visit, after-all, it is a UNESCO recognized heritage site and one of the so-called seven wonders of the world.
Some of you may know that I typically don’t like to do “touristy” things, instead looking for the local adventures which are usually much more fun and a lot less crowded. Making the journey to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal is definitely a “touristy” thing, but I was surprised to find that it’s also a local adventure – with many people paying the nominal fee to enter the surreal world within the ancient gates. While any tourist is an attractive target for anybody hawking their wares, especially outside an attraction like this, it’s best to firmly say “No” when running the short gauntlet from the ticketing building to the secured entrance. I was free to move around unhindered once inside the gates, other than to wait for people to move outside the frame of a desired photo.
I never realized that this fabulous structure was “simply” a mausoleum built by Shah Jahan as a token of love for his third wife nicknamed ‘Mumtaz Mahal’ (meaning ‘Jewel of the Palace’), whom died during birth of their 14th child. The story goes that on her deathbed, her last two wishes were for a monument of their love and asked her husband not to marry anyone else, the emperor promised immediately. After she died, Shah Jahan went into mourning for a year, and when he appeared again his hair had turned white and he had aged considerably. Thereafter he constructed the Taj Mahal in her honour, a 20 year project for which no expense was spared, nor any detail too small. Centered beneath the monument lies his beloved Mumtaz, and later he was laid to rest beside her.
Made in marble, the building is well known for its overall beauty. However, the intricate carvings and inlaid designs are breathtaking in complexity and detail, on orders of magnitude that cannot be captured in a single photo nor limited to two dimensions.
If you are in India, make the time to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal. If you want to visit the Agra fort, best do that before you see the Taj Muhul since you will be completely jaded afterwards. For the uninitiated, it’s best to line up a guide ahead of time. Also, take some time to sit in the shade and soak up the beauty of the place. Consider buying some inlaid marble in town afterwards – as something to remind you of the day.