The Taj Mahal – A Stunning Marble Mausoleum and Building Complex
The Taj Mahal is a stunning complex of buildings including a beautiful marble mausoleum, built as a gift for Shah Jahan’s favourite wife Mumtaz in 1632 (after she died).
At the Taj Mahal, you will see other Masjids (Mosques) and buildings as well as the mausoleum itself. Many people forget that the Taj Mahal is a complex of buildings, not just one. Some of these other buildings are as stunning as the actual Marble Taj you see in the photographs. The gardens of the Taj Mahal are also very beautiful.
Controversial – Is the Taj Mahal all it’s Hyped up to be?
I hate to break this to you, but the Taj Mahal is not all it’s hyped up to be! Don’t get me wrong, I fully recommend that you pay a visit to the Taj. It is one of the world’s finest architectural examples. Just don’t hype it up to be the most amazing thing that you will see in your life, because then you may be disappointed.
Go there as early as possible, take a good camera and spend time taking it all in. Remember the eras in which it was constructed and has lived through. Also, visit the Taj Mahal without any preconceptions and you will enjoy its beauty.
To help you to enjoy your visit, I have outlined below some of the things that overshadowed my journey. Don’t let them put you off, just be aware.
1. Travelling to the Agra from Delhi is a less than Pleasant Trip.
We took a bus, which hardly stopped to let us of to go to the loo! The roads were bumpy and the bus was very crowded. During my bus ride, a large Indian woman sat on my lap! She looked at me, and I said ‘Koi bat nahin’ meaning ‘It doesn’t matter’ in Hindi, whilst thinking to myself ‘when is she going to get off?!’ Us British never have been ones for saying what we really think, have we?!
I spoke to a few travellers who travelled by train, most said that it was a pleasant journey, but getting the tickets from Delhi train station was a nightmare – you are better paying someone to get them for you! One person I spoke to had a bag stolen on the train from Delhi to Agra. If you take the train, go early, lock your bags and don’t let them out of your sight.
2. Poverty is immense in India and you will see Slums near the Taj Mahal
If you have ever seen the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, this is a pretty accurate representation of the way things are in Agra. Hundreds of rich, bustling tourists flocking to see the Taj while people living in Agra face poverty. That is the reality of India, sadly.
Do not give money to beggars – you will be flocked by more of them. Also, the one may not go to feed the children, it may be ciphened off by ‘managers’ or used for alcohol or drugs. If you want to help, donate to a sustainable charity that has projects in India, such as Oxfam.
3. The Taj will be Smaller than you Think
Photographs of the Taj Mahal are usually taken from ground level, which elaborates the height of the building. When I first saw the Taj, dare I admit, I looked at it and thought ‘It’s a bit small, is that it?!’ Sadly, I had hyped it up in my mind too much, which damped my appreciation of it’s beauty.
4. Jewels and Items have been Stolen from the beautiful Taj Mahal
The Taj was originally constructed and encrusted with semi-precious stones including Lapis-Lazuli, Coral and Onyx. Sadly, many of these have been removed, embarrassingly during the Colonial era, when India was governed by British rule. In addition, other items stolen include…
- An entrance door of carved Jasper
- Gold leaf covering the cast iron joints of the jali screen around the cenotaphs
- Enamelled lamps from the tomb’s interior
5. People will try to Con you left Right and Centre
Everyone in India is trying to make money, and as soon as they see a foreigner, they see a target! Indeed, not all Indians are like this. Most are honest and hospitable.
However, when you are at a tourist destination, prepare to be ripped off! Everything will be 10 X the price it should be for you. Need a hotel? Your Rickshaw driver will have a cousin who owns one, for three times the price! You may be sitting in a cafe and a wonderful perfume shop appears out of a briefcase!
Remember that you are allowed to say no – India taught me how to be a lot more assertive.
Enjoy the Taj Mahal and don’t Miss it!
Despite all these things that may overshadow your Taj Mahal experience, don’t let it put you off. If you are concerned, it may be a good idea to pay a local guide to watch your back and take you places.
For me, it wasn’t the most beautiful thing I ever saw, but it was certainly up there in the top 10! One day, I would like to return and take more in.
If you love travelling in India, you will enjoy reading about Mathura – A pilgrimage to the birthplace of Krishna.
You might also like to read about how to help Developing Countries as you travel.