It's Valentine's Day today and I thought it appropriate that I time this post today. It was a chilly, smoggy autumn morning in Agra that day. But it did not matter. That's because that day, we were seeing the greatest monument to love ever built by man—the Taj Mahal.
We went to the Taj Mahal complex at around 7 in the morning. Even at this time, hordes of tourists were already lined up at the entrances. It is one of the more famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites after all. We would have gotten in earlier but we stupidly missed the ticket office on the way. So we had to walk back down the road, get our tickets at 750 INR per person, and walk up again to the entrance. The anticipation was building at that point.
When I finally entered the grandiose red gates, purposely built in red stone to distinguish it from the main attraction, I was overwhelmed. There it was—the greatest, most enduring monument to love ever built by man, the Taj Mahal, impressively magnificent with its white marble façade made golden by the soft early morning sun.
I approached it and found it even more beautiful up close, from the intricate flower carvings on the walls, the Arabic inscriptions on the gates, the perfect symmetry of each dome, to the perfect placement of each of the many spires.
The Taj Mahal was built almost 400 years ago by Emperor Shah Jahan, leader of India's Mughal Empire during the time of its greatest prosperity. Sadly, however, the building was to be the final resting place of the emperor's most beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died after giving birth to their 14th child. In honor of her memory, he created perhaps the most beautiful building in the world for her. He cared for her so much that it was said that the towers standing on the four corners of the mausoleum were designed to tilt slightly outwards. That way, should an earthquake take place, the Taj Mahal would remain undamaged. Even after her death, even after his death, Shah Jahan was still protecting his beloved wife. Now that, I think, is love.
You know when you see famous buildings and landmarks on pictures and postcards and you find yourself totally impressed by their beauty and grandeur, so you tell yourself that one day, you will see it for yourself. Then, when you get there, you find yourself underwhelmed and saying, "Is this it?" Well, the Taj Mahal is nothing like that. Nothing like that. It is stunning on postcards, posters and magazines. It is a thousand times more gorgeous when you see it up close. If there was a monument to love befitting of its name, the Taj Mahal would be it.
Have you been to the Taj Mahal? Were you awed by it as well? Underwhelmed perhaps? Is it on your travel bucket list?