Indian Jewel, The Taj Mahal. Why you should visit.
There is something about the moment before dawn; for some, it can be the fear of another day, for others it is a moment of waking excitedly wondering what the day will bring; for me on this particular morning it was excited anticipation.
I had wearily risen at 4am and taken a specially prepared early breakfast at the hotel, I must say I’m not at my best at that time of the morning, but there was no time for the extra coffee; we had to be on the coach and set off.
I’m not going to bore you with facts and figures here you can find any amount of them on Wikipedia or any travel page, this is just my experience.
The city was just waking too and the noise was already deafening, like some sort of bedlam competition. It was already quite warm and the clear sky was not yet out of its nightdress. In India it is normal to beep your horn at every opportunity, there are the bellowing horns of Tata trucks and peep peep of cars and last but not least is the strangled sound of the mopeds, tut tuts and scooters that buzz like hornets through the streets.
Progress through Agra day or night is always slow, but the streets are so fascinating that the journey is an education in itself. We stopped at some traffic lights, where a Brahma bull stood patiently waiting to cross the road, when the lights changed it meandered across the road to lay on a traffic island , totally at home in the surrounding mayhem.
At the next set of lights, sat a cross legged vendor with a pile of hides beside him. in the time it took to change the lights, a chap walked up to the vendor and stood onto a piece of hide. The vendor then cut around the man’s feet, added some straps and made him a pair of flip flop type sandals; as we moved on so did the customer with his new shoes.
At last we reached our destination and the anticipation was thumping in my chest, it was like going on your date. The coach pulled in with countless other vehicles and we fought our way through the crowd to try and get the best place as soon as the mausoleum grounds within the red fort were opened.
We waited patiently amongst the throng, tourists from every nation on earth and perhaps some from other planets too, because what we were about to witness would be worth crossing the universe to see.
The sun slowly inched its way over the outer walls of the mausoleum and we were treated to a sight that could make you cry, and I felt the emotion in my chest and throat as the dome of the Taj Mahal suddenly seemed to come alight. There was a spontaneous burst of oohs, ahhs and applause as now the sun bathed the buildings. It was a special moment. I have said that the great thing about the Taj is it looks like its photos, so many places I’ve been and been disappointed because the pictures of it are far better the place.
Unfortunately many of the pictures I took were hazy, it was very hot and dusty and this was before digital so I had to wait until I was back in England to see the results. I don’t mind, my memories are as sharp as the day I went.
Shah Jahan wrote these words.
Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory.
My recipe for a White Korma as eaten at the Taj
- Recipe for Indian white curry, chicken korma for the white banquets of India
An unusual curry which was a favourite of Moghul Emporers, usually served for banquets at the Taj Mahal.
Of course the story of the Taj is not a very happy one in many ways; it was built as an act of love by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal who sadly died giving birth to his fourteenth child.
It was not a happy day for the 22 thousand workers and scores of architects who worked on it, because to make sure that another building could not be made the same, the workers had their hands cut off and the architects were blinded.
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You may not realise that there are other mausoleums near and next to the Taj.
The whole site is on the banks of the river Yamuna, which runs through the city of Agra.
It is a place I would say needs to be on everyone’s must visit list, because there are few manmade objects that can rival the beauty and wonders of the natural world, but this does. Its perfect symmetry and form is like a snowflake; breathtaking to say the least.
If you don’t agree, you have never been; because once you have seen it, you will never forget it.
The Romantic Bit
It did end romantically for us, a young Swedish chap got down on his knee and proposed to his girlfriend; I do hope they are still happily together.