I couldn’t go to northern India for 2 weeks and not include a visit to the Taj Mahal. It’s one of those unmissable sites that top many bucket lists. With that in mind, I also knew that I didn’t really need to spend too much time in Agra. Therefore, I planned only one full day and night in Agra and I took the southbound train from New Delhi on December 7. The Taj Mahal was my only priority in Agra, and I hardly felt compelled to venture much further outside the confines of my hostel.
What can be said about the Taj Mahal that hasn’t already been said? It’s beautiful and grandiose. It’s larger than I had anticipated and I was much more impressed than I thought possible.
I declined offers to take a guided tour of the mausoleum and instead preferred to wander its grounds by myself and soak in the beauty of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Often I have found that Wikipedia contains just as much information as a tour guide might be able to provide, and I had long familiarized myself with the history of the Taj Mahal and the story behind its construction. Shah Jahan, the great Mughal emperor, had commissioned its creation after suffering the loss of his favorite wife. I hardly found it surprising that his wife had died in childbirth after delivering her 14th child. That seems like a lot for any one person to bear.
The beauty of the Taj Mahal is made all the more astounding when you learn of the vast territory that supplied its wonders. Arabia, Afghanistan, Rajasthan, and southern India all provided the gems and marble it would take to build the iconic structure. Supposedly a thousand elephants were used to haul the marble to Agra. I found that to be simply extraordinary.
I was also fortunate to have visited the Taj Mahal on the day that I did. The day after my visit was characterized by a steady fog that prevented Katie, Zahra, and Dora (who I had previously met in Delhi) from collecting clear photos. Indeed, many of the people at my hostel had ventured to the site with the hopes of photographing the sunrise. They instead got a cloudy photo with the faint outline of the Taj Mahal in the distance. I can only imagine the disappointment I would’ve felt had I encountered a similar fate.