There are plenty of blogs about the Taj Mahal, and many of them are rather negative. I visited the Taj in November 2016 and thought it was a beautiful monument.
But, like many visitors, I was less than thrilled with my experience of it. Here are some of the things I loved and hated about the Taj Mahal.
It started with the long lines to buy a ticket. Painful, but couldn’t be avoided. It was one of the times I felt privileged to be Indian, because I had to shell out so much less for my ticket than the foreigners.
Unfortunately, the man at the gate insisted I show him my Indian ID (he thought I was a foreigner trying to sneak in). That was rather unpleasant and brought to my mind some choice Hindi gaalis (expletives). But that wouldn’t have helped me get in.
Then there were the crowds and the scaffolding, which made the experience less magical.
Being November, there was quite a bit of smog and pollution, but the weather was cool and pleasant and the mist around the Taj gave it an ethereal look that I loved.
Stupidly, I fell for a tout’s spiel and agreed to let him take photos of us. It was the only way I could get photos of my kid and me together. I’m not a fan of selfies.
I paid him a considerable amount, only to realise that the photos I took with my phone camera were way better. But how else could I have taken embarrassingly touristy poses like this one on the Diana seat?
So we went into the inner sanctum, where Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan’s tombs lie, and found some obnoxious tourist clicking photos despite a sign forbidding it. Really? Can you not read the “Photos Forbidden” sign?
I must admit, at this point, that I hate crowds and having to work my way through them tires me out very quickly. The only thing I can think of doing after that is running off to find a quiet spot, which we did.
By this time I was touristed out, so we didn’t bother visiting the Mosque and the Mehman Khana, the two sandstone buildings that flank the Tāj on either side.
We spent about half a day at the Taj Mahal and I came away both loving and hating it. Loving the architecture and the exquisite relief carvings (munabbat kari), and hating the crowds and obnoxious tourists.
I was not as lucky as Liz here, who had a marvellous time and wrote a hilarious blog about it (thanks for the laugh, Liz). I was a bit underwhelmed and all I could think of was getting out of there pronto.
Then again, my primary reason to visit Agra was to visit Wildlife SOS, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisation that does some amazing work in Mathura, an hour from Agra.
Visiting the Taj Mahal was more of a bucket list trip that I just wanted to tuck away in my “been there, done that” list. Being Indian, it was embarrassing having to admit to foreigners that I’d never seen the thing.
What I did love about the Taj Mahal was its stunning art and architecture, which never fails to move me. That someone can create a monument of such beauty makes me marvel at the depth of human ingenuity and creativity that went into its making.
As the story goes, it was built to fulfil Shah Jahan’s promise to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, that he would “erect a monument to match her beauty,” as she lay on her deathbed. Having seen the Taj, I can only imagine she must have been a very beautiful woman.