Was love in the 1600s really simpler than today? These days we can get away with jewellery, chocolates and even roses. But back in the 17th century, Shah Jahan put his love for his wife Mumtaz on display with what became to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal.
Despite several trips to Delhi in my childhood, I first visited the Taj Mahal in Agra only in 2010. I was accompanied by my cousins and friends, and the trip was touted to be a legendary one. From my trip to both Delhi and Agra, I realised one thing – North Indians are not friendly, or we had some really bad luck, as everyone we met was just not interested in giving us directions. Though road signs started late, due credit goes to the state transport department who chose to count down the distance to the Taj in as much detail as every metre, but unfortunately missed out on erecting a sign at the most crucial sharp left turn. Alas! Perhaps the idea was to make finding the monument as difficult as finding love as pure and true as what Shah Jahan himself showed.
So we were left with just the dawn to see the magnificent structure. And if 2 of the 3 people you are travelling with love to sleep till noon, waking them up before dawn is a true feat, perhaps even more difficult than finding the Taj itself. The biting January cold doesn’t make it one bit better.
So there we were being haggled by guides to let them show us the Taj. Any bright ideas to even walk the distance fizzled out when we found out it was more than 2 km away. We thought it wise to leave the walking and trotting to the experts and a horse carriage was the choice.
As we passed the rooms where the labourers lived, the main gate of the Taj Mahal was visible, with its 21 domes in 2 rows on top, one for each year it took to build the Taj. Thank God we took a guide along. Why were there so many entrances, why is the Taj open for night viewing only during a full moon, and what were the other 2 sandstone structures that guarded the beautiful monument? We would have been none the wiser.
While the precision and symmetry within the Taj is spectacular, it’s the marble carvings that really catch your attention. Each flower and each leaf were carved out of that block of marble with such grace and accuracy, it makes you wonder what would happen to that entire block of marble, had the carver taken a wrong turn.
Behind the Taj Mahal stands the foundation of what could have been a similar structure in black marble. It would have surely been a sight with both standing upright, facing each other from across the Yamuna. Could the black marble marvel have overpowered it’s virgin twin?
Though January may not be the peak time to visit Agra, because of the biting cold, it didn’t stop visitors from flocking there. Why? Perhaps they all just wanted to know for themselves that the love of the 1600s still stands strong.