Taj Mahal, Agra, India
|Taj Mahal, Agra, India|
Crown of PalacesThe Taj Mahal, Persian for "Crown of Palaces", is considered one of the world's 7 New Wonders. The Taj Mahal was dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage".
My parents and I were told to get up early, around 5am, in order to get to the Taj Mahal gates by opening time; sunrise at 6:30am. Even though we were exhausted from four weeks of traveling, we set our alarms and got up the next morning, thinking we would avoid the crowds. That would not be the case. By the time we arrived, the lush gardens of the centuries old mausoleum were packed with visitors from China, Europe, and even locals from India.
We walked along the long fountain that runs down the middle of acres of land. After climbing the white marble steps to the platform of the mausoleum, we stopped to look up at the pristine domes and intricate carvings made into the exterior walls. Never before had I seen such white brilliance, even in this overcast day.
But what was inside the dome was even more stunning. Indoors was a large room with walls checkered in rotating colors of white marble. More carvings adorned the columns and an alter-like figure in the middle of the rotunda. The "altar" is actually the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the precious wife of Mughal emperor, Shah Jhan in the 1600's.
Shah Jhan ordered the construction of this mausoleum after his wife died in childbirth. He was utterly broken by her death and never fully recovered. What an extravagant irony; a building so beautiful, built to commemorate a death.