Saturday, October 22, 2011

5 days ago…

Wanting to be the first people at the gates of Taj Mahal when it opens to hear the sounds of eternity, we had an ambitious plan to leave the guest house at 5:30am. The plan was executed perfectly, except we arrived at the Gates of Taj Mahal to a queue of about 150 people with the exact same plan. Upon sorting ourselves into “high value ladies” and “high value men”, we waited in queue for an hour before finally stepping inside the gates.

The first thoughts inside the gates were “ahh…peace and quiet”. For the first time, we were inside a tourist hotspot with no constant stream of people trying to be our guide, boys selling souvenirs and kids trying to pose for a photo for a tip. As we walked along the red sandstone gateway in the forecourt, we felt the serenity, at least as much serenity as one can experience when sharing an enclosed space with 150 other closest strangers.

At the end of the forecourt, we turned the corner, and through the dark arch hallway, we saw it - Taj Mahal, the magnificent white marble mausoleum glistering in the morning sun. From afar, the Taj Mahal has an understatedly grand presence, further reinforced by the symmetry for the structure, perfect reflection in the water ways and the garden filled with beautiful birds.

Up-close, the Taj is made up of walls upon walls of marble carvings. The simplicity of the white marble structure from afar is replaced by intricate lapidary of precious and semiprecious gemstones. The octagonal marble screen which borders the cenotaphs is made from eight marble panels which have been carved through with intricate pierce work.

The structure was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. From the looks of it, he must’ve really loved his wife. Surrounded by the magnificence of this structure, we can’t help but wonder about the people, the money, and the time gone into its construction, and what the emperor could have achieved if the resources were used for humanitarian purposes.

After our tour guide reluctantly left us at our request, thus skipping the shopping section of the tour, we took a wonder around ourselves. Left to our own devices, we discovered why the Taj is considered one of the wonders of the world - it is mesmerising from all angles and distance. I felt like I could’ve stayed there for an eternity without getting tired of the view.

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