Monday, November 8, 2010


Yes, I made it to the Taj Mahal.

We left Delhi by the early morning train on AC Second class, which is a very comfortable (if perhaps a bit chilly) way to travel the 3.5 hours. We didn't have our return journey booked, which lead to a bit of hassle as I'll explain later.

Agra is one of the most touristy cities in India, and especially after the Commonwealth Games, has institutionalized the tourism. That being said, you can only expect one thing from being so obviously a tourist- you're gonna be ripped off.

Our Breakfast Nook.

We took breakfast in a cozy rooftop cafe (where I had my first peanut butter toast) before heading off to the Taj Mahal around noon. The Archaeological Survey of India controls most of the cultural heritage sites around the country and they institute a differentiated price for all attractions based on nationality. For example, at the bottom of the heirarchy of culturally considered sites, to get into the Buddist caves at Lonavala, nationals pay 5 rupies. Non-national (aka international tourists) pay 50. As one of the biggest international attractions, the Taj Mahal is almost 7 times what all the other attractions are at an entry price of 750 rupies for non-nationals. Which, granted, is $17 dollars and totally worth it, but it's a bit frustrating being so obviously labeled as a "rich foreign tourist".
ताज महल

That being said, I don't really know how to describe actually visiting the Taj Mahal. It was beautiful. यह बहुत सुंदर था। (Sorry, I just have learned to type in Devanagri and may occasionally repeat myself in Hindi just to prove that I can.) It was unbelievable- the symmetry is REALLY that perfect. The cool, white marble screams of a luxury that I can not even process and the eloquent grief remains forever poignant. Although the mausoleum was finished in 1652, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was shortly thereafter confined to Agra Fort across the river after his son Aurangzeb took power. I don't have many pictures from Agra Fort because my camera battery pooped out on me, but I was awed by the majesty of this grandiose palace and fortification. The intricate detailing and excessive white marble evoked a heartbreaking romanticism that was only emphasized by the view of the Taj Mahal across the river.
View from Agra Fort

I couldn't help but imagine Shah Jahan trapped in this marble palace as his love lay across the river, never to be forged until after his own death.

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