The Taj sits 204 Kilometers from Delhi, or 126 miles. Yet, due to the very crowded, poor quality roads, the trip took us somewhere between 4 and 5 hours, which included a stop for lunch. We journeyed through small towns and saw lots of brick factories, which consist of a single tall smokestack in the middle of a field. We saw some trained monkeys, and we nodded off more than once on the way.
Due to the effects of diesel fumes on the coloration of the Taj, you must park your vehicle and take a “green” bus or horse drawn vehicle up to the gates. On the way, you are accosted by every sort of vendor imaginable, most of them imploring you to “come to my shop when you are done!”. “No” doesn’t seem to work for these guys, and as we left the building Scott had to issue an extremely angry and loud “MOVE!” when they crowded around him, stepping on the kids and refusing to get out of the way. They scattered like mice from a burning building, and left him alone for the rest of the walk back to the car.
Security is crazy there. You are allowed to take NOTHING in with you. Our friends had their son’s goldfish crackers confiscated! Oh, the dangers of little crunchy smiling fish! They tried to take Addie’s Children’s Guide to India away, but I put up such a fit that they let my friend shove it in her diaper bag and we were able to take it inside. I can understand the dangers of food and drink and pens and such, but the banning of all guidebooks except the ones they sell is just greed, pure and simple. Still, if any other expats are reading this and planning to go, make sure, if you have one of those books, that you just make a photocopy of the Taj pages and slip it in your back pocket in case you are unwilling to make a scene like I was and don’t have a friend with a diaper bag along.
The Taj sits among a large complex of buildings, surrounded by lush, well-kept gardens and fountains. The fountains, however, weren’t running at the time. We were told by our guide that they only turn them on when someone famous is coming to visit.
The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as a memorial to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Construction began in 1631 and was completed 22 years later. The architecture is stunning, and the craftsmanship unequaled. Much of the marble structure is inlaid with gems in beautiful floral patterns, and intricate carved patterns adorn the walls both inside and out. It is a sight to behold, to be sure, an incredible display of a king’s love for his queen.
For me, the gem inlays were the most impressive part. Each tiny area had to be hollowed out by hand and set with gems pre-cut into the proper shape. Each and every panel must have taken weeks to prepare, and the whole place is chock-full of them. I try to imagine the craftsmen who made them, toiling day after day to contribute a very small section of marble to an overwhelmingly huge work of art. It took 20,000 people to build it.
Our pictures are of the outside of the buildings. I don’t really have anything of the inside because flash photography is prohibited and it was so darn crowded that you couldn’t get a good picture anyway. However, THIS SITE has a photo gallery and a great deal of information on the Taj, so you can see more there.
I must say, the kids didn’t really enjoy the Taj all that much. With the long drive, the crowds, and the lack of exploring that was allowed, it really was not a favorite of our family. It is beautiful, to be sure, and should definitely be witnessed once in a lifetime, but I don’t see us making a second journey there.