A scorching hot day in Agra, India….and we board our bus and head to the magnificent Taj Mahal. Walking through the entrance, there is tight security and you’re only allowed to bring in water, cameras and a small purse. As we approach the main gate, the excitement builds. And at first glance, it takes my breath away. I’m thinking…Wow…I’m standing in front of the freakin’ Taj Mahal!
It is late afternoon, so there are a large number of visitors already wandering the grounds. Which makes it a challenge to get a good pic. Chandra has hired a photographer to follow us around, and there are prints available for purchase. It was handy at times, but also kind of odd. Your very own paparazzi!
The next few hours are spent taking pictures from every angle possible. The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, which was built by Shah Jahan, the famous Mughal emperor. It was to honor his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
It is made of white marble, in classic Mughal style architecture. There are 4 minarets on the four corners of the base, and on either side are 2 red sandstone buildings that mirror each other and provide balance.
One is a mosque, the other a guest house. It took 10-15 years to complete entirely and the cost was equal to around 1 billion dollars!!! Geez, I hope one day my husband sees me worthy of a billion dollar tomb. Another fun statistic….the Taj Mahal has 7-8 million visitors a year. I knew somehow I was one in a million!
The garden complex has many trees, fountains and paths leading up to the Taj Mahal (or as the locals would say, the Taj Ma-hel). There is a reflecting pond that extends outwards from the tomb, and in it is a perfect reflection of the Taj. Halfway to the tomb, there is a raised marble water tank which is also a great place to take pics. Here is the Diana bench, which became famous when Princess Diana posed for pics here in 1992. As I approach the spectacular tomb, I can see the details in the decoration on the ivory marble.
Flowers, vines, plants, and calligraphy adorn the walls. Now it’s time to explore inside and around the tomb. Plastic booties over the shoes, and we’re ready to go. At this point I am with Cassie and Liv’ya and we are swarmed by a large group of Indian woman, probably 20-30 of them, of all ages. They want to take so many pictures…like we have to pose with each woman. Hahah. I feel like a celebrity! After about 15 minutes of this, we thank them and nicely sneak away. Into the mausoleum, where the tombs of Shah and Mumtaz lie.
But as I find out later, these are just fakes! The actual tombs are in a lower level. As the sun begins to set, we make our way back to the main gate. And there are more photo ops– the Taj seems to change color in the sunset, and the reflection in the pond becomes clearer.
The Taj Mahal is in danger of destruction; mostly due to pollution. It has turned a yellow-ish color, and there are plans to clean it starting in 2017. There is speculation that the wooden foundation of the tomb is rotting, they’ve found cracks in the tomb and that it could collapse. I even heard a rumor that they would close the grounds to tourists and you will only be able to see it afar from the gates. I’m glad I had the chance to see it now! Overall, it is a very powerful experience to see something so beautiful and so revered.
Arriving back at the hotel, we decide to relax before figuring out where to go for dinner. A few people from the group go to the pool for a swim, so I go with them to check it out. I’m instantly bombarded by mosquitoes and to top it off, there are a bunch of bats flying around and swooping down waaayyyyyy to close for my liking! Apparently they’re just catching bugs and not attacking me. That is enough for me to get the hell outta there. The group is then deciding where to go for dinner…there is a Pizza Hut next to the hotel, and I am quite excited to have a non-Indian meal. My upset stomach and lack of appetite says YES to pizza. The rest of the group is hesitant, and I’m thinking it’s because sometimes you feel like an ass for wanting a pizza when there is so much delicious Indian cuisine. I make no excuses. Haha. So in the end, everyone breaks down and we hit Pizza Hut. As we’re eating, all of a sudden loud music booms through the speakers and the waiters proceed to to do a choreographed dance number. It was bizarre but awesome!