A symbol of love between two human hearts constructed on Indian soil centuries ago transformed into the soul of Indian tourism for the entire world, A memorial for which a view on a moonlight day costs 25 times more than on an ordinary day, a unanimous choice for one of the world’s wonders in the new list among the old ones.
An iconic structure with unenviable symmetry being its beauty, An architectural wonder that defies many people’s notion of having content with only one visit to any tourist place, and finally a disclaimer from me that this travelogue may well be like a drop in an ocean among the countless articles, travel stories and blogs that had written so far about Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal which seems to be an odd one out among the most prominent tourist locations within India is situated in Agra in the state of UP. The proximity of this place to Delhi also makes it more convenient and famous, especially among foreign tourists. A world-class National Highway from Delhi to Agra via Noida has been also available now to reduce the struggle through the old road that made the level of comfort those who chooses road travel many times than earlier trips.
Even after many trips and except the traveling and driving to and fro from Delhi, I never lost the excitement of visiting this place even in the extremely horrible climate associated with North India. Each trip throws up either some interesting facts, some never seen perspective look from a new location within the structure or the fresh appearance of the entire Taj Mahal depending on the brightness of the sun, especially in the evenings.
A local guide is of great help here and how much one would be able to explore with historical facts and hidden secrets depends on the guide we accompany. All the way from the main entrance to the exit there are many interesting symmetries, stunning designs and patterns on the wall, predefined peepholes, and locations that reveal an unexpected view of other parts of the complex which only an expert guide can explain in detail. Without a guide, it is not possible to understand what is Taj Mahal and where were its real beauty lies as they are enough numbers from the parking place to the main entrance with proper accreditation cards as well as duplicates too.
All my trips were on holidays and weekends which means standing in a long queue was part of the visit every time before crossing the main entrance and security screening after that is free until we reach the main entrance to the Taj. The compound wall in red sandstone is so huge that everyone is excused from getting a glimpse of the Taj Mahal from outside. The openings made in arch shapes are equally matching for such a grand memorial. Taj Mahal is also one of UNESCO’S world heritage sites and the security screening is slightly stricter than normal in other tourists attraction in India.
Comparison is not fair but it was funny to think that a huge compound wall separates two Indias with contrasting identities. Outside, a 21st-century Indian city consists of unorganized irritating streets with cows wandering on the roads and inside of the compound wall, a reflection of works by the Mughal empire left behind almost four centuries ago with huge trees and gardens providing refreshing cool air everywhere in the vicinity.
A short walk from the security check took us to the gateway to the Taj Mahal. The entrance gate itself is a piece of construction made of red sandstone with white marble and other stones to enjoy for a while. The Arabic verses which mean “inviting visitors into paradise” inscribed in the white marble on both sides of the opening are in such a way that the letters on the bottom and at the top at a height of almost 90 feet look exactly the same size instead of narrowing as the distance from our eyes goes further, the guide tried to make his point by telling us to think about how a railway track could be seen few meters away.
The first look at Taj as I crossed this gate brought mixed feelings, one that of finally I got to see this ultimate beauty, second an emotional excitement, third a statement of Nothing is Impossible for love, and love is the same and blind for emperors too. I also realized later whether it is the first, second, or fifth visit, this may be the only structure in India that makes the same exclamation from everyone’s conscience by the time the visitors will realize how this memorial for love has been transformed into an architecturally wonderful building.
The impressive garden between the gate and the Taj Mahal far behind is another proof that there was no shortage of landscape architects too during those times and was spread over a large area where the huge crowd seems to be dispersed and they looked immersed in blooming flowers, spectacularly arranged fountain and in the normal custom of photo-shoots. Each and every visitor has seen going crazy for photos and selfies. No wonder why this world’s wonder from both ancient and modern lists is always in the list of most photographed locations worldwide. Most of the guides here are so experts in handling every type of professional camera like a pro as visitors are not worried much to hand over to them to capture a photo with everyone in the frame with the Taj as the background.
After a 15-20 minute walk enjoying the beauty of the Taj Mahal on each step and looking at the people indulging in many ways to make their visit so memorable by capturing as many photos from different locations and a variety of poses we reached in front of the white structure where an average of 10000 people will come in a day.
Shoe-keeping locations were available on both sides of the entrance to the plinth level as shoes and chappals are not allowed to avoid scratches and damages. Alternatively, those who are lucky to collect a white funny cover can use it as protection over the shoes and enter. But how much time it will take to enter the inside of the Taj Mahal depends on the crowd. On one of my trips, we stood in the queue encircling the whole building because of the heavy rush on a holiday.
A few steps to be climbed to reach the floor level of the Taj and as I entered my eyes wandered in different directions and soon realized that the essence of a visit to the Taj not lies in the white marble beauty only but everywhere it was a picture perfect sceneries to be cherished. The four minarets at four corners stand tall at a slight angle inwards, the huge central dome and adjacent smaller domes made with the same white marbles, the Yamuna River flowing on the back side, an unfinished face of another Taj which never materialized on the other side of the river planned to be constructed with black marble, the red Agra fort little far away where Shajahan spent his last days as a prisoner by his son Aurangzeb staring at Taj Mahal, adjacent buildings which could well be unique and famous in their own name if it were not happened to be part of Taj but elsewhere. These were a few things that could fill any heart with pure joy before moving to know what the real Taj Mahal is.
Waiting in a queue is always a boring thing anywhere for any purpose, but in Taj standing in a slow moving line of people was another opportunity to closely watch the patterns; design and how much effort might had put in by the workers, masons, artisans etc to create such a huge construction with unenviable symmetry. As my professional life is very much related to engineering and had seen every technology, possible equipments and machineries associated with construction of tall buildings I spared my thoughts on that 20000 plus workers toiled for long 22 years when no such mechanized efforts were available for lifting, transporting etc etc and the final product shaped in an immaculately stunning piece of construction which still remains as a reminder to world over about Mughal architecture as fresh as that made 4 centuries ago except for pollution damages.
Inside Taj – where the tombs were placed – the first impression was that the interior is a mismatch for the awe inspiring look of Taj from the outside. A marble chamber small in size with centre portion occupied by the two tombs, one for Shajahan’s which is little bigger and other belongs to Mumtaz’. There must be many designs, peculiarities and much more valuable and exclusive items has been adorning this chamber but sadly the large number of people gathered inside since the queue was only up to the door and everyone was rushing to get a glimpse of the tombs with absence of any artificial lights made the time spent inside little uncomfortable. The guide was trying his level best to perform his job what he intended to but the sound and rush by the people was so hard to understand what he was trying to convey except one thing that the original remains’ of Mumataz is way below what we were seeing in the chamber.
The rest of the areas inside was not so crowded but policemen were stationed in few locations to empty the area for not to get crowded again since visitors were seen roaming around here and there spending a lot of time for photos, watching the beauty of walls, the domes above and we were not different either trying to stay as long as possible to see the engraving designs on white marble with spotless precision in the walls, in the handrails etc. The guide also showed a hole through which the full mosque on the outside can be captured with a mobile.
Exit was through the back side and none of us were in a hurry to leave and decided to spend some more time appreciating every possible locations and corners in not so hot rays of bright evening sun. The mosque on the west side is another notable attraction and to maintain the symmetry a guest house with same size and type is made with red sand stone on the other side. Time for small regret now for being skipped the lectures on Mughal construction and architecture during my engineering classes as realized it was highly exclusive with a special place in history appreciated worldwide.
A visit to the nearby museum on return was equally important especially for those who were pondered about any existing details during the construction and also to few others who were so keen to indulge with history. It was really surprising by seeing the different drawings detailed with pinpoint accuracy to the exact construction of Taj Mahal. Site plan, elevation, position of the tombs and many details prepared prior to executing the job were preserved very carefully in one of the gallery. Some royal orders insisting on regular supply of Marbles from Rajasthan were also available. Other two galleries contains some swords, arms, paintings, royal documents, specimens of handwritings of that period and other stuffs related to making of Taj Mahal.
Finally it was time to leave the place and guide was still accompanying us helping with more photo shoots, giving more knowledge about the trees on the garden, and funny stories he encountering every day with fluent English accent than some of us posess. We noticed some cell type individual rooms with half the size of normal rooms on both sides of the walkway and as per the guide it was accommodation facility arranged to workers during Taj Mahal’s construction.
Some local purchase was also part of any such trips, though we bought some stuffs from the road side vendors and small shops close to the parking area. But the secret of guide following with too much affection was realized only when he insisted us for brief visit to some Govt approved handicrafts shops as he will get a commission for each purchase we makes. Replicas of Taj ranging from rupees 200 to few thousands were available along with other stuffs. It was an automatic selection to buy each for all of us as a memorabilia to one of the most beautiful man made wonder on earth.
While travelling back to Delhi I was thinking it was a visit where people across the globe irrespective of their nationality, class, caste, religion, wealth is ready to take any pain and time to worship the Universal feeling of Love and experience may be “Royal Power of love” or “Power of Royal love!!!!” etched in white marbles.
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