Viewing TajMahal for the first time!17/12/2013

How come a globe trotter  like you haven’t seen  Taj Mahal  so far?  Queried my friends and relatives when I  said  we were going to Delhi and Agra, with an express purpose  of  viewing the monument built to express  Emperor Shah Jahan’s   eternal SKMBT_C45041090805240love for his favorite queen, Mumtaz Mahal. I vaguely remember  my visit to Delhi with my parents as a child  when the industrial fair was on somewhere in early fifties. All that is  etched in my memory was a dip in the ganges after visiting Roorkhee   while my uncle was working in the Roorkhee university. I might have been washed away  in the flowing waters  when my father accidentally let go my hand .Thanks to my mother who had the presence of mind to  pull   me back  with the force of  a zombie!

A drive through the narrow roads of  Agra  leading to the Taj with its chaotic traffic is enough to put off  even an  intrepid traveler like me and dampen the enthusiasm  of  someone much younger. For a moment I regretted my  decision to make it to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. I asked the driver of our cab if there was any alternate route  we could have taken but he said this was the only approach and  we were lucky to have been spared the peak hour ‘mayhem.’ ‘It’s better  you people have your lunch before going to see Taj Mahal’, he suggested and  stopped at an Udupi restaurant and  rang up the guide attached to the tour operator to accompany us. We had the option of  reaching the entrance which was a  considerable distance  either on foot /on camel /motorized rickshaw / a four wheeler resembling a coach. Since the third one was readily available we took it by paying rs.10/ per head. Although the sight of  long queues for men and women  appeared formidable and the scorching sun added to our discomfort, we were determined not to draw back . An elderly photographer appeared from nowhere and wished to know if were  interested in being photographed  in front of the TajMahal. I said  he could take a picture or two and he let out a guffaw saying, ‘Madam, if you people were young I would have suggested you  take a minimum of   20  pictures but  I shall take  atleast 10 or 12 and give you an album along with the photos. My charges are rs.50/ for each.’

SKMBT_C45041090805241At first sight from a distance, I felt  Taj Mahal looked like a picture post card, a beautiful monument in marble intricately carved. You climb on to the basement  and follow the rest of the tourists, you find it has three other sides. Visitors are not allowed to enter the precincts  where  the tombs of  Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal are situated, the former one is higher than that of the latter but we could have a glimpse of them from close quarters. My heart missed a beat whenever I noticed some visitors switched on their pencil torch lights or cigarette lighters and were placing them against the intricate carvings/gaps, perhaps out of curiosity or plain inquisitiveness! I felt  the milling crowds could have been more disciplined and not treated this monument replete with history as they did any building of brick and mortar.

I returned  with a feeling that one visit to the Taj is certainly not enough!

N Meera Raghavendra Rao

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