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The Taj Mahal in Agra - by Shah Jahan
The world famous Taj Mahal came into the spotlight again when the new seven wonders of the world were voted for by people on the Internet. It has been through its ups and downs but to visit it once is a must.
A bit of its history won't hurt for those who know little about it. Essentially this world famous building houses the tombs of Shah Jahan and his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal.
She died young and some say it was in child birth. So the heartbroken Mughal Emperor decided to build her a tomb that the world would sit up and notice.
The funny part is that she did not die in Agra, but on a trip to one of his principalities. She was buried there and then when he could not bear to be far from her remains, they dug her up and buried her in an area not far from the Taj.
This is where her body rested till the Taj Mahal was completed. Then the bones were again shifted to the tomb in the Taj.The guide will be happy to show you the exact spot the body lay in for the years before the Taj was built, when you visit.
Then Shah Jahan set about his grandiose plan of building a white marble Taj on one side of the River Yamuna and a mirror image in black marble on the other side for himself. The construction of the white Taj took many years, and the king grew old and feeble. He was imprisoned by his own son who declared himself Emperor. That ended the tale of the black marble Taj on the other side of the river.
The chief architect of the Taj Mahal was rewarded with weath and had his hands cut off and eyes blinded. The Emperor Shah Jahan, did not want him to replicate the design for any one else. This was his way of ensuring that it would never happen.
Shah Jahan spent the last few years of his life imprisoned in Agra Fort watching the Taj from his window. When he finally passed away he was buried next to his wife in the white Taj. It is believed that the two eternal lovers have returned to the Taj as pigeons, and you see them sitting in the dome area when you enter the Taj.
Getting here is relatively easy. You fly into India to Delhi. Then take a cab or train to Agra. Three hours by train and about four by cab. If you start out early morning, you will be there by mid day. Take a look around. It will not take more than a couple of hours and drive back to Delhi in the evening.
If you want to take in the fort and other local sites you can spend the night and do sightseeing and leather goods shopping at Sadar Bazaar as well. If you are looking for a local guide, call me and I'll take you around. If I'm still here when you visit. Considering that I have already been here two years, its almost time to move.
Anyway. It would make no difference if I am here or not, as the Taj is surely going to be here. In fact the ASI has recently come up with a plan to give the Taj a face lift by putting a multani mitti pack on it. I believe it will help clean the marble from the toxins that have settled on it. The main source of which is the Mathura Refinery. The threat of Acid Rain is a very real danger to the Taj.
The white marble has begun to yellow with age and that's what every one is upset about. Some measures like banning petrol run vehicles in a km long radius have been taken. So you need to park at the parking and walk the rest of the way. If you are willing to spend some dough you can take a horse tonga or a battery operated vehicle to the outer gate.
A lot has been said for the different price tickets for Indians and Foreigners as well. It costs the out of country visitor more than three times what it costs an Indian to see the Taj. The theory is that the funds will be used to maintain the monument. Personally I feel its monstrously unfair. No one charged me more than the Italians when I went to see the ruins of Ceasar's Palace. And no one charged me more than the French when I went up the elevator on the Eiffel Tower. Just another stupid idea from some one in the bureaucracy.
Besides that the video cameras have to be left in lockers before you walk to the Taj. So if you are staying overnight it would be best to leave it behind in the hotel. It is fun to get some of those trick photographs that the photographers present there can click for you. Bargain nice and hard with them. The more snaps you have taken the lower the price should be.
And use the shoe covers rather than removing the shoes at the main building. Far easier and handier to do. Specially if you have no religious compulsions. No point getting blisters on the feet as you see the Taj. Which is why it's a good idea to go visit it in the early morning or evening. By moonlight is even better. Only its far more expensive and happens only four days a month. So you need to be lucky to get that experience.
Any way no matter what time you see it, it will always be the Taj. SO enjoy your visit and don't forget to say Wah Taj