Saturday 29th October 2016
Accommodation-Duration: Bedweiser Hostel-2 days
Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, gave me a strange overwhelming feeling. Every single day, thousands, if not ten’s of thousands of people are drawn to it’s streets from all over the world to see the most romantic and majestic act of love. However, other than what is considered the most beautiful building in the whole world, Agra which resides in the state of Uttar Pradesh is a small humble town that feels out of touch with the fact it houses one of the most famous monuments. The area is not anything but a local sleepy Indian town so I felt a little restless spending two whole days there.
After my horrendous 17 hour journey from Udaipur (it was only supposed to be 12), I arrived in the surprisingly quiet streets of Agra to my wonderful hostel Bedweiser owned by the lovely, yet incredibly young Aman. As the Taj Mahal is shut on Friday’s, we decided to visit the monument for sunset that evening. With only a 10 minute walk around the corner from where we were staying, we entered at the east gate, and to my incredible surprise there was not a single queue. We made it into the vicinity for around 5pm, as they stop ticket sales at 5:45pm. From many travellers I had met along the way, they had suggested getting up for sunrise, which I would have liked to do. However, the queues are tremendous and they don’t actually let you enter until the sun has risen anyway.
The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan, for his third wife Mumtaz who died in 1631 giving birth to their 14th child. Construction of the Taj Mahal began the following year and took eight years to complete. The construction has been described as ‘a teardrop on the cheek of eternity’, eternalising his grief and love for her. That thought in itself makes the Taj Mahal so spectacular and spine chilling. After being imprisoned by his own son for the last few years of his life, Shah Jahan was buried in peace here alongside his wife. You will find the tombs lie next to each other within the marble structure. So romantic but sad. The Taj Mahal and surrounding area is so highly maintained, the marble still sparkles white. You must wear shoe covers/take off your shoes, and only nonpolluting vehicles are allowed within a couple of hundred metres of the building. The Taj Mahal itself stands majestically on a marble platform with the Yamuna river flowing behind it, leaving a hazy blue indian sky as the perfect backdrop. Surrounding the marble building are the ornamental gardens with long pools that dramatically reflect the Taj, like you see in the postcard perfect shots. The whole vicinity is spectacular in it’s symmetry and opulence. We were told that during the war, the Taj Mahal was completely covered in a camouflaging cover to prevent it from being bombed. Also the 4 minarets that stand at each corner of the marble platform, lean outwards slightly so in the event of an earthquake they do not damage the precious monument.
As I entered the gateway, there is no doubt the sight of the Taj Mahal standing in a haze of Indian heat through a huge doorway, took my breath away. Seeing such a world famous building right before my eyes gave me goosebumps, it really is as beautiful as stories say. Granted you are surrounded by tourists who have also come to gaze upon such a wonder for the first, and probably only time in their life. However this did not take away from the grandeur of a building that was built out of pure love. As you approach the Taj itself you can feel the heat of the marble radiating. The interior is surprisingly small, however displays to most stunning semi-precious stone mosaic work that illuminates when you shine a torch on it. The centre piece of the interior is the beautiful marble tomb where lies Mumtaz Jahan, and next to here Shah Jahan, the wonderful creator. He must be looking down upon the millions of people who adore his work. The Taj Mahal did not disappoint.
On our second day we decided to visit the Agra fort. Having visited a fort in every single Rajasthani city, seeing yet another fort felt a little repetitive. I have to say Rajasthan do fort’s like no other, however it was nice to pass the time seeing the Mughal empire and their territorial blockades. Interestingly there were 2 layers of moats around the fort walls; the lower level housed crocodiles and the second housed wild animals. Having exhausted my time in Agra I was pleased to be moving on to holy Varanasi, the river ganges where people go to die…