Taj Mahal: A Symbol of Love.

Agra and a Glimpse of Delhi.

They say love is crazy, and Shah Jahan shows the world how much.

What's the first place that comes to a visitor's mind when asked about India? For many, it's the beautiful Taj Mahal. And the Taj Mahal is the testimony of love I am talking about.

Taj Mahal, Agra, ReachingDelphi
Picture perfect Taj Mahal in winter

Known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum, was built in 1693 on the southern bank of the Yamuna river in Agra to house the tomb of the grief-stricken Emperor Shah Jahan's, wife – Mumtaz Mahal. It took 22 years to construct the monument and involved 20,000 fine workers.


Taj Mahal, Agra, ReachingDelphi
Taj Mahal and Yamuna

Through many documentaries about the greatness of the Moghul Empire, I learnt the construction of this ivory-white marble tomb depended on the finest craftsmen in the country, the highest quality materials, geometrical and mathematical precision to produce each carving and tile.

Look carefully at the pictures below. Here are examples of this perfection. Notice that the patterns in each tile and Quranic inscriptions on the four walls are carved and increase in size, and yet the words and images appear to be the same size from bottom to top.

This is the marvellous engineering by master craftsmen of the 17th century, who worked long before the use of modern technology. Sadly, I also learnt that the master craftsmen involved in this construction were killed or blinded so that they would not replicate this art elsewhere.


Taj Mahal, Agra, ReachingDelphi
Mughal architecture

Doc visited the Mahal in his younger days, and it was he who suggested that we, as fine arts appreciators, should see it together. And boy, I am grateful we took this trip to Uttar Pradesh, where the old city of Agra is located, because looking at the marvellous craftwork in person is beyond words. Simply put, the Taj Mahal is the most exquisite mausoleum I have seen. It's so perfect that it looks the same from all four sides. Can you guess which side the picture below is taken from, because I really can't remember now!


Taj Mahal, Agra, ReachingDelphi
Perfectly symmetrical

There were no direct flights from where we lived to the city of Agra, so we flew into New Delhi, where Doc attended most of high school. Do expect flight delays due to heavy fog if you are traveling during winter.


Agra, Coffee, Masala Chai, Tea, Delhi
Delhi - Chai, Kulfi and Paneer Butter Masala...where is the Paneer?

Agra is about 200 kilometres from Delhi. While there are several ways to get to Agra, we opted for the train, of course! If you have been following my previous posts, you know by now how much we love trains. Trains are a common mode of long-distance travel in this country, and some people travel for days to get to their destination. It is not uncommon to see families travelling together with packed meals and making themselves at home once at their seats. I mention this because the family we shared a booth with didn't seem pleased when we first came in, as we deprived them of this space. 


There are many types of accommodation to suit any budget. I wanted one with a view overlooking the Mahal. But since all the hotels (in my budget range) with a view were fully occupied, I settled for one without that view but nearer to the heritage site (and a wholesome breakfast).


Agra, Coffee,  hotel
I warned you, breakfast was wholesome! And look, coffee!!

The best way to look around the town is to hire a horse or cycle rickshaw. Tip and travel advice: Don't bargain too much with the operators. These guys need to make a living too. Instead, try to see how you can save on hotel rates instead.


Agra, Rickshaw, Reaching Delphi
My ride

Once we arrived at the heritage site, we took a slow and quiet walk to let the beauty of the courtyard and tranquillity set in. Every building along the way I noticed was beautifully and tastefully built.  


Taj Mahal, Agra
Serene and tranquil

To see what's behind the four walls of the Taj Mahal, you need to purchase a ticket. Trust me, it's worth the fee. I have no photos from the inside, as photography was not permitted.


Taj Mahal, Reachingdelphi
Purchase your entrance tickets over here

Shah Jahan ordered his craftsmen to use various techniques for the construction work, one of them being pietra dura, or cutting and fitting polished coloured stones (such as emerald, malachite, agate, coral, or jasper) in patterns to create remarkable images. When this is completed, the stonework is then glued piece by piece and reassembled together so perfectly that the contact between each section is invisible. Earlier I mention that the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum. The actual tombs of both Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal are at a lower level. Visitors, however, are not permitted to visit the tombs.  


Taj Mahal
At Taj Mahal

Then it was time to say goodbye to the Taj Mahal (and snap more photos on the way out).


Taj Mahal, Agra, ReachingDelphi
Around Taj Mahal

Next stop, Agra Fort.


Agra, Rickshaw, Reaching Delphi
Zip-up, its still cold

Agra was once the capital of the Moghul empire. Agra Fort served as the primary residence of the emperors until 1638. The fort is just about 2.5 kilometres northwest of the Taj Mahal. It is described as a wall city.


wall city, Agra Fort
Agra Fort : a wall city

You can see that I was awestruck, and so were these school kids!


Agra Fort

Agra Fort was built in 1573. This red stone monument is also another world heritage site. Other successive monarchies added their personalised palaces and mosques within this complex.


Moghul, Agra Fort
The residence of the Moghul Emperor(s)

Below are more pictures taken around the fort.


Taj Mahal, Agra, Agra Fort
Around Agra Fort

And these are the main extensions you just saw.


Taj Mahal, Agra, Agra Fort
Several extensions in Agra Fort

The Musamman Burz overlooks the grand Taj Mahal. It was here where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son for eight years until his death in 1666. Shah Jahan was a great emperor and is best remembered for his architectural achievement.



Musamman Burz, Agra Fort
Musamman Burz: Shah Jahan spent his last years in this room

Lastly, another love. There is no better way to end an excursion than with a piping-hot cup of masala (spiced) tea. When you are in North India, make sure you have several cups of hot masala or ginger chai. Tea is served in small cups, leaving you yearning for more.


Agra, Coffee, Masala Chai, Tea
In a deep thought

If the Taj Mahal were a woman, I would say she is the most elegant of them all. If the Taj Mahal is a symbol of love, then I'd say it's eternal, for she stands there grandly even after 300 years – not only for Mumtaj Mahal but for the world to see and feel. 

For me, beauty is not what I see on the surface but rather the aura that radiates from within.  Standing in Musamman Burz and gazing at Taj Mahal, that morning, the way Shah Jahan would have had done three hundred years ago, I felt the charm of the Mahal blanket around me. Looking at these same pictures today,  I see Doc smiling back at me from across Yamuna. The magic of the Mahal  reflects back.

Till we meet again in the next article. Remember to wear your masks, sanitise your hands frequently, and keep a safe physical distance. Together we can beat the coronavirus and start moving around freely again.

Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi – 🙏  for a safer tomorrow. Sending you all positive vibes as always. 💓

Taj Mahal, Agra, Agra Fort
Till we meet again Taj Mahal 💓💗