My Yellow Suitcase

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TAJ MAHAL – Symbol of Eternal Love

My travel to India wasn’t without its challenges but it gave me the chance to experience things I’ve never imagined before.  It was a love-hate experience, the best of which was my visit to Taj Mahal – the world-renown symbol of eternal love.

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Some mistakenly think of the Taj Mahal as a palace, but in fact, it is a mausoleum, constructed from 1648-1653 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal.  In 18 years of being married, they had 14 children.  Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to their 14th child.  Her last wish was that her husband builds a tomb, lavish and more beautiful than anything the world has ever seen.  She wanted that tomb to be built in her memory.  And that’s what Shah Jahan did. Taj Mahal was built to be the greatest monument to love in the world, and after four centuries it still is.

Myths and controversy surround the Taj Mahal. On its completion it is said that the emperor ordered the chief mason’s right hand to be cut off to prevent him from repeating his masterpiece.

How to Get There

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The Taj Mahal is located in the city of Agra, about 200 km South of New Delhi.  It can be accessed by taxi, bus, train, and (limited) air services.  We hired a car and took the new Yamuna Expressway from Delhi to Agra. The state-of-the-art express way, reduces the travel time between Delhi and Agra to just over two hours, depending on the traffic around Delhi area.
The highway abruptly became a narrow road with cars screeching and chaotic traffic; and suddenly we found ourselves driving through areas littered with mountains of garbage. From what we could see, the slum dwellers lived in dire conditions, I instantly felt scared with the surrounding and even thought of going back, but our driver (from the department of Tourism in  New Delhi) assured as that he is going to bring us safely back to Delhi after visiting Taj Mahal.  A good way to convince us to just go on with the tour.

Entrance to the Taj

IMG_5017As soon as we reach the place, we were introduced to the assigned tourist guide and bought the ticket –  750 INR per person quite expensive but worth it.   TIP #1 : The Taj is closed every Friday to anyone not attending prayers at the mosque.

PhotoGrid_1435572438291Entry to the grounds is easy, and within a few minutes we’re walking through the red sandstone outer walls of the compound, with the Taj still out of site. There are four gates to the main grounds, with the North Gate being the largest.  The Great Gate (Darwaza-i rauza) that leads to the gardens surrounding the Taj Mahal is impressive in itself, made of red sandstone with intricate marble work, imposing archways, and domed Chhatris on the top corners. Not a bad entry-way! As the saying goes  “A grand site needs a grand entry”.

PhotoGrid_1435573039247This is the North gate where we went through. You will have to run through a security check point before you are able to enter this sacred place. Cameras and videos are permitted but you cannot take photographs inside the mausoleum itself, and the areas in which you can take videos are quite limited.   TIP #2: Only water, camera, film, batteries, medicines, and other similar essentials are allowed.   No food, sharp objects, tripods, or electronics, if you have any of these items, you can leave them at the reception.

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This picture was taken from within the gate. The way the monument was built, creates an illusion of the Taj Mahal structure being even bigger than it is.  You can experience that as you walk through the inner gate.

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Once you’ve gone through the North Gate, There is a garden in front of the building divided into four parts by paths; this is supposed to represent the gardens of Paradise.  Named after its lotus-shaped fountain spouts, the Lotus Pool located in the middle of the garden reflects the tomb.  TIP #3:   Best area for photograph is by  sitting on the marble bench here.

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Visitors have to remove their shoes and socks before entering the mausoleum. Foreigners get a shoe covering (booties) along with their ticket so they don’t have to remove their shoes,  they did make us pay Rs. 750 while Indian citizens had to pay Rs. 20.   TIP #4 : Wear slip-on shoes for easy removal.

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The minarets are built tilting outwards so that they won’t fall on the main building in case of an earthquake, whose only purpose is for the aesthetic value.

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A closer view of the Taj Mahal’s intricate inlaid calligraphy, a series of verses from the Qur’an written in a delicate calligraphy and inlaid in Jasper. As another fun fact, the text column actually gets wider as it nears the top of the building, tricking the eye into making it look uniform all the way up.

 

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The Taj Mahal up close. The flowers are carved into the marble.

PhotoGrid_1435579058078And closer… semi-precious stones – yellow marble, jasper and jade – set in a vine pattern. A single flower might have 64 stones in it.

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A personal guide explaining the Taj’s inlay detail and methods used.  A knowledgeable guide is a definite asset when visiting the Taj.    TIP #5: Bring a small torch into the mausoleum to fully appreciate the translucency of the white marble and semiprecious stone.

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Inside are replicas of Shah Jahan’s and Mumtaz Mahal’s tombs. The real ones are in a locked basement room, below the replicas and cannot be viewed by the public. Ironically, Shah Jahan’s tomb is the only thing in the complex that is out of symmetry, since his son who imprisoned him added it after Shah Jahan’s death.  Unfortunately, taking photos inside is prohibited, so this was all I got.

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The Yamuna River as seen from the Taj Mahal.

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The dome  where Shah Jahan’s son imprisoned him for eight years.

PhotoGrid_1435581503030 On the east and west sides of the tomb are identical red sandstone buildings. On the west (left-hand side) is a mosque. It is common in Islam to build one next to a tomb. It sanctifies the area and provides a place for worship. The replica on the other side is known as the Jawab (answer). This can’t be used for prayer as it faces away from Mecca. It was made only so there would be symmetry with the mosque.

After 3 hours of admiration of this massive structure, it was time for us to leave.  Our tourist guide persuaded us to go to the marble factory where the actual art of putting precious stones on the marble is being exhibited and will let you experience it. Yey!  However after the presentation the owner  would tried every trick in the book to make us buy something – to the point of not telling us the right way to the exit.  Following their direction would only lead you to another chamber with different products

Although it was rather irritating experience of the local-high – pressure sale tactics (can’t blame them for trying), it actually added to the overall unique taste of the Taj Mahal experience.

PhotoGrid_1435572606345This man is making marble inlay of the kind that is all over the Taj Mahal.

TIP #6: As the  case is pretty much everywhere in India, your driver will take you to a carpet shop, a jewellery shop, a curio shop, or a combination of the two at some point during your trip.  Sometimes you can get good stuff, but remember that your driver is receiving a kickback from everything you buy, so shop accordingly.  It goes without saying, NEVER pay list price; start off at least 50-60% less than what the tag says. Always haggle!

Looking back – The Taj Mahal’s romantic appeal never grows old; it never ceases to amaze me, not only because of the striking white marble mausoleum that majestically rises at the end of its grounds, but also for its representation of an undying love.

TIP #7: Keep your ticket to get a free entrance at Agra port!

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18 comments on “TAJ MAHAL – Symbol of Eternal Love

  1. Michelle | Diagnosis:Wanderlust
    September 16, 2015

    What an excellent and informative piece with all your tips and tricks! Bookmarking for future reference, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ynah CA
      September 16, 2015

      Thank you Michelle, I am glad you like it 🙂

      Like

  2. Mary
    September 16, 2015

    Aww Taj Mahal! I will see that soon! (hopefully) Haha! Love you post dear!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ynah CA
      September 16, 2015

      Thank you Mary! Hope you’ll make it to Taj Mahal someday, its a lovely place 🙂 Positive vibes!

      Like

  3. Girl, Unspotted
    September 17, 2015

    I’m such a sucker for details! And all the details here are so gorgeous. I can’t wait to go!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ynah CA
      September 17, 2015

      Hope you make it someday! Its a lot better in person:)

      Like

  4. Alexis
    September 18, 2015

    Can’t wait to get there someday!!! Thanks for the backstory:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ynah CA
      September 18, 2015

      Thr pleasure is mine Alexis! Hope you make it to Taj Mahal someday, that would be great!

      Like

  5. Hannah (@AdventureHan)
    September 19, 2015

    I visited back in 2008 and was so pleased that it lived up to my expectations! It’s truly magical!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ynah CA
      September 19, 2015

      Hi Hannah, glad to know that you have been to Taj Mahal. It is indeed so magical – one of the best place ever!

      Like

  6. NYC JetSetter
    September 20, 2015

    Stunning! I would love to go here and see it for myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ynah CA
      September 20, 2015

      Seeing Taj Mahal upclose and personnal is totally different than looking at it in photos. Theres a mgical feel to it! I hope you’ll be able to see it someday 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Like

  7. 1fungrl
    September 21, 2015

    I had no idea it as built out of love!! How cool! Great tips you have here as well. It will come in handy one of these days for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ynah CA
      September 21, 2015

      I know! Awesome right? 🙂 Love can really make us do alot of things!

      Like

  8. Roaming Renegades
    September 21, 2015

    The Taj Mahal is one of the places I most want to visit in my life, it is simply stunning. Looks like you at least had a great time visiting here, nice tips, they will come in handy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ynah CA
      September 22, 2015

      Thank you! Hope you’ll make it to Taj Mahal someday 🙂

      Like

  9. thecontinentaldrifters
    September 21, 2015

    Wow it is so pristine! I didn’t realise it was like that close up! Beautiful. And that highway is deserted…is there a need for such a massive road?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ynah CA
      September 22, 2015

      It is indeed beautiful! The purpose of that road is to ease travel time and connect cities for economic reasons 🙂 It’s not been fully utilized till now though.

      Like

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