Okay, I admit it! I am a curmudgeon. Everyone in our group was intent on seeing the Taj Majal and were really excited about going to Agra. I on the other hand was the Marquis de Blasé, a big white mausoleum, wooohooo. Frankly, I just didn’t get it. Its not like there was a Chanel outlet inside it. I’d seen plenty of photos and what more could you get from it live?
So, when I was told we would be getting up before the crack of dawn in order to be at the Taj Mahal for sunrise, I almost told everyone “have fun, I’ll be sleeping”. Then again, as I had traveled halfway around the world, I figured I should at least go along and see what all the fuss was about.
We arrived at the Taj Mahal while it was still dark out and waited in line outside. It was very cold that morning and I found myself shuffling back and forth to try to keep warm and asking myself what I was doing here so early in the morning. I mean I hadn’t even had a coffee yet. Finally, just before 7AM, they opened the entrance and we passed through security. We made our way through a courtyard and then through a building that served as a gate to the Taj Mahal. As the sun began to rise, the Taj became visible through fog, which was particularly heavy at the base, giving it the illusion of floating in the clouds. It was almost dream like, something you would see in a fairytale, not quite real. The magnificence of the Taj and its allure were finally clear to me. You really did have to be there in person to really appreciate it. We made our way through the complex, in and out of the Taj itself and into the buildings that flank either side of it. Up close, the craftsmanship and artistry of the Taj was quite stunning. The pure white marble is inlaid with semi-precious stones creating floral and geometric patterns at the entrances and inside the Taj.
The Taj is a monument to love, having been built by Shah Jahan, emperor of the Mughal Empire, after his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth. The grief stricken emperor began building the mausoleum for his wife in 1632 and it was complete in 1648, with the surrounding buildings and gardens completed by 1653. It is in this context and seeing it in person that you truly get the majesty of the Taj and the romanticism that it elicits. I admit that I got totally caught up in the romantic element.
After spending several hours appreciating this masterpiece, we had a quick breakfast and then went shopping for the one item that Agra is most famous for: inlaid marble. There are a few companies that produce inlaid marble pieces in Agra, but of the ones that we saw, Akbar International was the best. Using the same technique that was used to decorate the marble at the Taj Mahal, white marble is inlaid with semi-precious stones to create beautiful floral and geometric patterns. Small pieces start in the low hundreds and go up in price based on size, intricacy of design and number of stones used. For larger pieces, they include shipping to your home destination. A great souvenir of your trip to Agra, it can’t help but remind you of the Taj Mahal and the romantic experience that it conjured up for you.
So, this curmudgeon was won over. I truly get it and am thankful that I was goaded into making the visit.