Wah Taj & Reaching the Magical Gate of the Taj Mahal

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Recently, I sneaked out with my “wandering shoes” to the city which proudly boasts and promotes itself with the caption “Welcome to the city of UNESCO World Heritage Sites”. Although, there are many other places which hosts World Heritage Sites, but the homeland of the elegant Taj Mahal i.e. Agra has found a unique way to express it with boards displaying the caption all across the city to catch attention.

My earlier reminiscence of city was shabby one with garbage bins, potholes, narrow filthy lanes etc. but this time I realized that it was confined to only some old corners of city and those areas too have improvised a lot in the last few years. But the quintessential thing that literally drags tourist from all nationalities to this “not so glamorous” city is the majestic Taj Mahal which has made the city shine apart on the world map.

Entrance of Taj Mahal- Great Gate

Royal Entrance of Taj Mahal- Great Gate

Royal Entrance of Taj Mahal- Great Gate

I prepared to visit the monument early in the morning in order to avoid the crowd and the heat but when I reached the gates of Taj Mahal at 8.45 am, it was already bubbling with tourists from almost all nationalities including the native ones.  It was a relief to see the ticket tariffs with whooping difference among the tariffs for Indian and foreign nationals but soon I experienced the backdrops. The exorbitant ticket tariff for foreign nationals allowed them easier access to Taj Mahal while the Indian national were struck on long queues at the entrance. After jostling up with the few fellow tourists and security clearance, I finally reached the gigantic royal entrance (also known as “Great Gate” or “Darwaza-i-Rauza”) of this great monument.

The first look of the entrance made me whisper to myself “awesome” and it truly fits into that description. The beautifully crafted structure has profuse inlay work of white marble and precious stones into the red sandstone surface. The entrance is decked by graceful “chattris” (dome shaped pavilions) on the corners. The top of gate has eleven small domes (11 on other side, 22 in total) depicting the years took to complete the Taj Mahal. The verse from Holy Quran and floral design around the arches just adds to its beauty.

Floral design on taj mahal

Facade of Taj Mahal

I entered through the royal entrance and found some old chandelier and some more floral design on interior of the gate. Finally, upon admiring the architecture, I moved ahead to have a real encounter with the one of the most fascinated wonders of the world. Even though I had seen numerous photographs and read a lot in our school curriculum of the glory of Taj Mahal yet seeing it live made blood circulation faster through my nerves in excitement. The feeling that was transpiring throughout me can’t be explained in words. Ever since I commenced travel writing, I have been always advised to stay away from clichés, but, the beauty and elegance of Taj Mahal is much superior to all those clichés.

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I ambled inside and found it overwhelming with tourists from different cultures, religions and part of India and world who posed for their ever lasting memories with the white monument. Some of tourist tried to adjust incessantly with their cameras to hold the peak of the dome of Taj Mahal. I even clicked few for my memories and then strolled further on the walkway through the lush green gardens (also known as “Charbagh”) with fountain in the middle. It was really unfortunate to see that none of the fountains were functional and it felt that it needed some urgent maintenance.

Beautiful design on taj mahal

As I walked closer to Taj Mahal, it started to grow in size astronomically with each step making me realize its grandiosity and architectural bravura. I strolled further until the guards diverted me towards the Jamat Khanah, a place for welcoming guests. The structure is believed to be constructed to preserve the identical symmetry of the mosque on the other side.  The structure made with red stone flanked with marble works and octagonal chattris and beautiful designs on its walls are truly commendable.

I sauntered more through the rear side of the Taj Mahal to finally reach the long queue waiting to enter the main area. The ticket tariffs played a role here too as the foreigners were given precedence. Braving all the odds, I was at last standing in front façade of this architectural wonder called “Taj Mahal”. All the patience in waiting in long queues had finally paid off with abundant interest. The arched opening bordered by Quran verses, calligraphy, designs etc. makes it appear magical.

The flawless craftsmanship of the workers defeats the modern technologies. It took time to build Taj Mahal but there was not even an iota of compromise on any facets and it will not be an exaggeration to call it ‘perfect’. The latticed screen on façade from each side allows the sunlight to illuminate the interiors of the mausoleum.

Jamat Khanah

Jamat Khanah

I waited for my turn to have a peek of inside of the Taj Mahal as guards only allowed tourist in small bunches in order to prevent crammed situation. My turn came and everybody in our bunch bumped into each other to sneak inside. The guides took their clients to small corners or whatever space they could find to explain. I also took one corner to have a satisfactory look at the interiors which were decorated with similar designs, calligraphy and Quran verses as the exterior. The central portion has two marble cenotaphs of the creator (Shahjahan) and his wife (Mumtaz Mahal) encompassed by octagonal marble lattice screen with intricate designs. The original graves are preserved in the base to which entry is prohibited.

Soon my view was interrupted by guards who were continuously requesting our bunch to move out as there another standing by. I slowly ambled out of the mausoleum from the rear side. The rear side opened to the panoramic view of river Yamuna which once mirrored its elegant image in full moonlights but at present was dried and infected with the growing pollution in the vicinity areas.

DSC_0060After spending some “Wah Taj” moments with the white monument, I ambled my way out through the Taj gardens but was halted by a board displaying way to Taj Museum. Not many tourists visit the Taj Museum which was clear from the meagre number of people in the museum. The museum is set up inside the one of the “Jal Mahal” (Water Palace) situated on Eastern and Western sides of Taj Garden which were constructed as a part of Taj complex.

Water Palace- Taj  Museum

The Water Palace is as beautiful as rest of structures in the complex with ornamental arches on first floor and latticed opening on the ground floor. The slightly extended and decorated parapets add more flavour to its charm. I entered the museum and was glad to see some really well preserved relics and texts. It showcased the entire architectural plan design at that time with some ancient text books keeping records of the material and labour used. Some precious stones and tools used to construct the Taj Mahal were also on exhibit. Although many tourists skip this area but I strongly recommend to pay a visit to this museum to understand minute planning and detailing behind the Taj complex.

I rambled for some more time in lush green meadows, took rest and appreciated the flawless efforts over the span of two decades to construct this masterpiece. I also saw the uncountable expression of anxiety, excitement, astonishment, admiration, surprise, happiness and many more expressions on the faces of the tourist which truly explains the reason for it being the one of the wonders in the world.  Finally, as all good things come to end, it was time to bid goodbye but by now I had gathered ample memories of this ‘wonder’ to cherish for long. 

 

Kaushal Mathpal
Kaushal Mathpal is an Advocate practicing in Delhi Courts in India but also has a flair for travelling. When he's not in a courtroom, he enjoys exploring various parts of India and the surrounding region. He also writes on his blog http://rediscoveryourdreams.wordpress.com/ and you can follow him on Twitter @KaushalMathpal.
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