Traveling through India gave me the chance to experience things I had never imagined before. I rode a rickshaw through the frenzied streets of Delhi’s marketplace, learned the proper way to wrap a turban in Jodhpur, and rode the back of one of the beautiful painted elephants in Jaipur’s pink city.
Yet none of those experiences came close to preparing me for the magic of the Taj Mahal.
With over 16 countries under my belt, there are many times when I catch myself acting a bit jaded over typical touristy spots. The Eiffel Tower in Paris: check. The leaning tower of Pisa: been there. Rome’s colleseum: done. So when I arrived in Agra, the city that houses India’s most iconic structure, I wasn’t as excited as the thousands of camera toting tourists around me seemed to be.
As my guide led me towards the Southern gate of the Taj’s complex, she suddenly stopped, turned, and and walked underneath the shade of a nearby tree. I followed suit, enjoying the respite from the hot Indian sun. As I settled into a comfortable position, she began to tell me the love story behind the building.
Maharajah Shah Jahan spotted Mumtaz Mahal at the marketplace in his royal complex. It was love at first sight for the two, and he quickly made her his third wife. Mumtaz traveled with Shah Jahan throughout India, as his chief companion and beloved advisor. After bearing him 14 children, Mumtaz died, leaving the Maharajah devastated. He then decided to build her an everlasting memorial and resting place, looking to the Koran for inspiration. Taking inspiration from its detailed description of Heaven, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal.
To ensure that no other living structure would ever rival the beauty of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan made an agreement with the building’s artists. In exchange for life security, they would not create anymore art or design in their lifetime.
To this day we hear the saying, that Shah Jahan “cut off the hands of the artists” so that nothing as beautiful would ever be built.
Hearing the effort that Shah Jahan used to ensure his beloved wife would never be forgotten by himself or the world, I was filled with a new excitement to visit this everlasting homage to love. I stepped through the gate, and gasped. Rising up towards the clouds rose the Taj Mahal, flanked by four white marble pillars. The stark white of the building against the piercing blue sky did conjure up heavenly images, but it was the actual masonry that really astounded me.
The walls of the building were so delicately carved, that they almost resembled an impressionist painting.
From far away you could only see the entire structure, but walk up close and all you could focus on were the tiny swirling details, cut into the stone.
Despite the huge crowds that filled the complex, I felt a strange calm fall over me. The Taj Mahal may recieve millions of visitors per year, but its peaceful setting somehow manages to remain strong. Birds flew overhead, the soft flowing water in the front pools glinted in the sunlight, and a light breeze rustled ever so gently through the greenery.
With it’s inspiring history and romantic origins, the Taj Mahal is truly the perfect spot to sit and reflect on your own love story.
- Photo of the Day: Heaven on Earth at the Taj Mahal (anamericangirlintransit.com)