Touched by the Taj

25 Aug

Fort Agra Mughal arches

Fort Agra Mughal arches

A stay in India cannot be complete without seeing Agra, the ancient seat of the Mughal empire. And the masterpiece of that era’s architecture – the formidable tomb Taj Mahal. So much has been written about this one of the seven wonders of the world that it was hard to know what to expect. The Taj as Indians call the monument, is considered the symbol of eternal love as it was built in the 16th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his favourite wife Mumtaz.

While the myth of romanticism continues to shroud this magnificent specimen of Indian architecture, the most recent historical research indicates, however, that while Shah Jahan was a hopeless and spend-happy romantic, he may also have intended Taj Mahal and the site to be built for him as a “replica of Heaven”. My Rough Guide to India travelbook suggests that the various Sufi writings unearthed by anthropologists speak of the megalomania of this emperor and how he intended his last resting place to be the seat of the god he considered himself to be in his own time.

Regardless of the historical interpretations, the sighting and the feel of Taj Mahal is not lost on anyone visiting. I found myself wiping tears from my eyes at the sight of the breathtaking beauty at dawn. Walking barefeet on the white marble and resting eyes on the delicately engraved and beautifully ornamented scriptures from Quaran are enough to turn anyone speechless. Indians dream of visiting the Taj on a full moon night. The monument is kept open at night 2 days before and 2 days after the full moon.

Fort of Agra is probably a more historically significant monument of the era, also in the city. A spectacularly beautiful place to visit and marvel close up the work of the master craftsmen and builders of the day. Preservation of these treasures must be a formidable task as air pollution and acid rain in the monsoon season are taking their toll. I was told local factories have been closed to prevent the pollution from getting worse.

Breathtakingly luminous

Breathtakingly luminous

For anyone visiting Agra, it’s best to get prepared for the pesky panhandling and pushier than pushy – and this is saying a lot by Indian standards – sales pitches of the tour guides, drivers, and locals whose livelihoods are obviously way too much dependent on tourism. Best to take a tough stand or join a pre-arranged group tour as being of lighter skin here only signals one thing, money!

Sight of splendour

Sight of splendour

Shah Jahan's waiting room across Yamuna river

Shah Jahan’s waiting room at Fort Agra across Yamuna river from the Taj

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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in travel journals


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