Today was the day that I would finally get to see the Taj Mahal. My hosts in Agra took me first to Mehtab Bagh, which is a park on the Yamuna River, right across the Taj Mahal. Since we came at sunrise, the yellow glow of the early morning rays cast a warm feeling over the Taj, reflecting my own emotions of seeing this grand monument for the first time. It's much bigger than I expected and my first impression was that, "Wow, it is really is as magnificent as its reputation beholds!"
Then we entered the actual site and security was tight, particularly relating to food items with the guard asking me to throw away my mints that help me in this dry heat. From the main sandstone gate, the first sight of the Taj Mahal, framed by the arch, sets you up for a mesmerizing view. Once inside, I felt privileged to be an Indian and have this monument be our symbol to the world.
Up close, it was even more impressive as the whiteness of the marble came through with the sunlight hitting its eastern face. Looking at all the intricate relief work and inlay of semi-precious stones, I thought back to how many man-hours it must have taken to build such a structure, that too, almost four centuries ago. I wondered how many more centuries the Taj would still be standing here and appreciated by everyone that gazed upon it.
The marble is slowly yellowing due to air pollution in Agra and the Archaeological Survey of India has taken some measures to counter it, namely by enforcing a 500 m radius ban of conventional automobiles. From the car park, only battery operated autos or camel carts are allowed to get close to the Taj. I can't say how much effect that has on the marble but it sure does give the area a hushed, quiet feel, which makes the appreciation of the Taj Mahal all that much more special.
Enjoy this video postcard:
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Also in Agra district is Fatehpur Sikri, founded in 1569 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, grandfather of Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal. Fatehpur Sikri was established after Akbar's military victories over the Rajputs at the edge of the Sikri ridge, 37 km from Agra. It was named in honour of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
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