Can visiting the Taj Mahal, the most beautiful building in the world, live up to the hype?My first glimpse of the famous building was actually from over the dusty rooftops of Agra shortly after sunrise, where, in the early morning mist it almost blends, unassumingly, into the sky. Ever the cynic, I thought that visiting the Taj Mahal might be somewhat disappointing and over hyped, but even so I got up while it was still dark to try and see this famous monument to love at it’s best – in the morning.
Visiting the Taj MahalWe got through the entrance easily and proceeded to the main event but were struck but the beauty of the gateway, this impressive 30m red sandstone gateway could be an attraction in its own right. It is beautifully inscribed with verses from the Quran in creamy coloured detailing, decorated with Arabic scrolls, intricate flower details and white turrets that stand proudly on top. The red colour of the gateway contrasts and enhances the white of the Taj beautifully. Then, in the early morning misty light I catch my first amazing glimpse of the most beautiful building in the world. The arched red gateway creates a perfectly positioned, stunningly symmetrical frame of the white dome of the Taj. It seems to rise ethereally and dreamily out of the mist and with that first glimpse I already know that visiting the Taj Mahal is really something special. Stepping out from under the arch way, the magnificence of the grand, lush symmetrical gardens and waterways stretches out in front, leading us all the way up to the white domed, gleaming, perfectly symmetrical Taj Mahal.
The History of the Taj MahalThe Taj has an interesting history which is worth learning before visiting the Taj Mahal. Did you know that the Taj is a Mughal Muslim monument. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 as a memorial for his 3rd and beloved Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to their 14th child. It took 8 years to build the main building but the Taj is part of a bigger complex that was not completed until 1653. Interestingly, not long after the Taj Mahal was finished, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb and he was imprisoned in Agra Fort from where he could only gaze out over the river to see the Taj Mahal glistening in the sun in the distance.
The Beauty and Symmetry of the TajThe Taj Mahal is cleverly placed on a raised platform at the end of the ornamental gardens so the backdrop is only sky. The misty early morning light makes it even more dreamy and heaven like, indeed the main central dome is supposed to represent the vault of heaven, and the four decorative minarets finish off the scene beautifully. Visiting the Taj Mahal is more than just a quick glimpse at the famous building. There is much more to see here. We wandered through the gardens gazing in wonder as the Taj is reflected perfectly in the waterways. Mesmerised at how the Taj Mahal looks fantastic from every angle, both from a distance and close up. The symmetry of the whole complex really does enhance the beauty and the intricate close up details retain your interest as you get closer to the building. As you would expect when visiting the Taj Mahal there are many photo opportunities and it's also quite handy that there are people willing to take your photos for just a couple of rupees tip. We started with more sensible poses which quickly move on to the obligatory nipple pinch pose and our photographer got us in to all sorts of different positions so we had lots of photos to remember visiting the Taj Mahal. The best picture postcard photo moment is in the center of the gardens on the raised platform by the fountains where we wait our turn to be photographed on the famous white marble Diana bench. This position offers the ultimate, iconic Taj Mahal photo with an uninterrupted view back to the Taj and the fountain and pond reflecting the Taj in the background. We climb up to the platform and walk slowly around the Taj Mahal gazing up at the white marble that by now is starting the reflect and shine in the brightening sun. The level of detailing on the Taj is the perfect balance of intricate details that don't distract from the grandeur and overall spectacle as you see it from a distance. The Taj has subtle different shades of marble and is inlaid with precious stones. Intricate flower details with swirling green stalks and delicate red flowers and small creamy marble relief flower freezes surround the building. Arabic calligraphic scroll and zigzag patterns surround the symmetrical archways. All the details are an exercise in perfect symmetry and beauty. I know they call it the most beautiful building in the world but I really didn't expect visiting the Taj Mahal to be this enthralling. A glance back through the symmetrical, ornate gardens gives a stunning view back to the red Mughal gateway. From the platform you also see the identical red sandstone Mosques at either side of the Taj Mahal and the views to the grassland behind across the Yamuna River.
Inside the Taj MahalVisiting the Taj Mahal on the inside wasn't half as interesting as outside and mainly consisted of a dark room with 2 cenotaphs or tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan as he was also buried alongside Mumtaz when he died in 1666. These tombs are actually fake as the real tombs are under the building closed off to the public. A hexagonal shaped screen surrounds the cenotaphs, it is elaborately carved out of marble with flower detailing and inlaid with precious stones. However the screen, combined with the crowds and very low light let in through finely cut marble detailing, made it near impossible to actually see the tombs or anything much really inside the building. Back outside the Taj looked different as the semi translucent marble started to glow in the mid day sun and the white of the building contrasted against the clear bright blue skies beyond. Sari clad women and photo crazy Chinese and western tourists crawled over the grounds and around the impressive and imposing building like scurrying ants. - Time to go and explore the rest of Agra.
So, did visiting the Taj Mahal live up to the hype?Totally, completely 100%, Yes! I was so glad that I made the effort to come early as my first glance through the archway as the Taj mingled, ethereally with the early morning mist literally took my breath away. This moment alone actually exceeded all my expectations and made visiting the Taj Mahal an experience I'll always Redeemer! I know it's touristy but if you're visiting India you really can't skip visiting the Taj Mahal - it lives up to the hype! But don't make the mistake of thinking that Agra is just the Taj Mahal as there is plenty more to explore in Agra.
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