How can you go to India and not see the Taj Mahal? There are a few crown jewels in India and one of them is the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. The Taj Mahal is a marvel of the world, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the 7 Wonders of the World. It is easy to see why when you get there and realize the scope of the building and grounds. Pictures simply don't do it justice. You really must visit to get the beauty and grandeur of this wonderful place!
History of the Palace
The Taj Mahal means "Crown of the Palace" it is entirely made with white marble (however pollution has made it somewhat yellowish and is a problem for the Indian Government to keep clean) . There are inlays of other colors of marble as well producing art and poetry script. The Taj Mahal began construction in 1632 by the Mughal leader, Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his wife. The total size of the complex is around 40 acres, which includes a mosque and a guest house.
On The Train To Agra
Arriving in Agra, India
We left Udaipur on an overnight train to Agra, sad to leave such a wonderful place. Arriving in Agra in the morning, checked into the Gateway Hotel, 4-5 star hotel we paid 30 dollars for. We had a free night worth 50 dollars from Hotels.com and spent the difference. An 80 dollar hotel in India is pretty swank. I have to admit I was a little put off by the over-service. Some love it when they are yes sir'd and treated like royalty. I personally find it kind-of-not-me. However the hotel also had a gorgeous pool and free buffet breakfast.
Outside The East Gate
On Our Way to the Taj Mahal
We left the hotel within an hour after checking in and headed for the Taj. The we were tired and it was hot, near 100 this day. We had to see the Taj today as it was closed the next day (Fridays). Our tuk-tuk driver took us to the eastern gate. There is a non-descript building on the left that says nothing more than "State Tourism Agency" and people immediately began hounding us and trying to get us to go to the building in question to buy Taj Mahal tickets. Then a 1km walk to the gate. We weren't buying it.
I had read you can buy the tickets which recently went from 750 to 1000 rupees April 1st of 2016. We skipped the ticket "scam" and moved our way the 1km to the gate. When we got to the gate, they told us they didn't sell them at this gate and we would have to walk back to the "Building" we had thought was a scam. You have to be careful in India and if you don't know for sure if something is legit, you need to find other methods.
The Main South Side Entrance
Picturesque Beauty at it's Best
We walked to the southern gate instead where they told us we could buy tickets at the gate. We bought our tickets and entered the Taj complex. The green, clean, and beautiful courtyard that brought us to the main archway to the Taj was incredible. The closer we got to the main gate in the south, we saw the Taj perfectly fit into the archway of the gate. It was THE shot to have. The feeling coming into a place like this is unique. You just can't describe how you feel and it is different than you thought you would. The place is massive and immaculately manicured. It really is amazing!
I wondered why they try to send you to the eastern gate when this gate is the most picturesque and the main gate? Some things to remember at the Gate. Don't bring a GoPro or video cameras. They won't let you in, or make you "check it in". We had some headlamps in our bags and they made us take the batteries out, after protesting them wanting to take them completely. No cigarettes or lighters either. We had to relinquish all smoking materials as well. Be careful what you bring, or you could find yourself without it or turning back to store them in your hotel room.
Marble Inlay Work - Taj Mahal
Not a Cheap Place to Build
Construction took nearly 20 years to complete and cost the equivalent of 827 million dollars US. 20,000 artisans help create the splendor that is The Taj Mahal. And it is a splendor. The inlays of marble are so intricate, it makes you wonder how they did it. It is one thing to see the place on a whole, but when you get close and see the marble inlays and art, it's really incredible. The Taj Mahal being dubbed "The Jewel of Muslim art in India" is regarded as the best example of Mughal Architecture intact. There is something about the grandeur of this place that impresses even those who are difficult to impress.
Steps Of The Muslim Temple
Escaping the Crowds
Upon entering the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world,we realized immediately what all the hullabaloo was about. This will make two of the seven wonders we have seen, the other being Chichen Itza. This place is stunning! Absolutely gorgeous fountains, grounds and the Taj is spectacular. We walked around, took pictures, sat next to the Western Muslim Temple on the grounds then walked around some more. At the Western Muslim Temple steps, you get a side view of the Taj Mahal that is breathtaking.
We sat a while and got our picture taken with many Indian Tourists who were enthralled with us being there. This seems to be a re-occuring thing in India. At times we feel like celebrities and better understand why some celebs are not so nice to people wanting pictures with them. The Taj Mahal complex was virtually devoid of people on this day. We couldn't have picked a better day to go. There were still thousands there, but on a busy day 10s of thousands of people can visit the complex and the lines are horrendous. Not today! Got right in, felt calm, and simply took it all in. It was a great day and the pictures we took were amazing!
Happy Birthday At The Gateway Hotel
Brady's Birthday Cake
The next day was my birthday. We sat by our wonderful pool for most of the day and tanned, had the wonderful buffet breakfast the hotel offered, feeling pampered and welcomed. (Maybe I can get used to this over-customer service) We had to check out at 11am and went to speak to the front office about checking out and figured that we would have to just pay another day. The guy at the front desk looks on his computer, clicks a few keys and says alright you can check out at 3 or 4 pm if you wish. We had to leave by 3:30pm for the train to Amritsar. I went back to tell Shelly there were no extra fees involved in checking out so late, and she was in disbelief.
She brought up a good point. "Did you ask them if there was extra charge?" They hadn't, only stating it was ok. So we went back up to the front desk to ask again and Shelly's jaw dropped much as mine had when they said "no, we want you to be happy with our hotel". Shelly mentioned it was my birthday and later that day before checking out, they brought us a free birthday cake to our room with candles. AMAZING! What a great day! Agra was surprisingly good for such a big, busy city. We got lucky, we really dislike the big cities in India.
Laying At The Pool at The Gateway
Change In Perspective
I find it hard to believe the love of one person could build such a place for the one they love. This is partly the allure of the Taj Mahal. It's a place built for love. Love is what makes us human. Do monkeys love each other? Do dolphins? I don't know. But what I do know is that the human spirit to love is stronger than any other animal in the kingdom. Love is sung about, written about and built about. Loving each other and our fellow men/women is really the point of life.
Being in a place like the Taj Mahal and seeing the significance of it's beauty and intricacies make me realize how similar the building is to the feeling of being in love. It's expensive, heart-breaking, and takes years to build it right. It's also beautiful, detailed, awe inspiring and the crown jewel of our existence here on earth.