The most beautiful building in the world, that which made “the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes” (Shah Jahan) and the “embodiment of all things pure” (Rudyard Kipling) was pretty effing perfect for us. Our first sight of her was from the rooftop of our hotel, and on the afternoon we arrived we spent a quiet couple of hours with her from the nearby park, with the enormous domes and minarets peeping out behind the beautiful green vegetation.
Photos by Ben Journee
The next morning we entered the complex a few minutes after 6am, and spent the next three hours admiring this “teardrop on the cheek of eternity” (Rabindranath Tagore).
We couldn’t quite believe that we were finally there, after two months in India, at a point that seemed like such a long while away when we were beginning our trip. We were blown away by the scale of the Taj, and from almost any viewpoint she seemed too perfect to be real, like a cut out against the blue sky behind (the uninterrupted background ensured by placing the cenotaph on top of an enormous plinth, was a stroke of design genius). She seemed somehow separate from the world around her, there are so few words... utter perfection in the middle of this crazy, smelly, dirty, loud Indian city. The Taj is undeniably a testament to Shah Jahan’s love for his wife Mumtaz (who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631), and that spirit is still pretty tangible when you’re in its presence today.
Agra Fort was large, old, but relatively forgettable after seeing the Taj. Shah Jahan’s son, Aurangzeb (the last important Mughal ruler), had his father incarcerated there from 1658 until his death, left to gaze across the city to his Taj and his late wife. The additions that Shah Jahan made to the fort (before imprisonment) transformed the edifice into a palace, and his private bedroom, harem and meeting spaces are stunningly beautiful, white marble and inlay masterpieces amongst the mostly red sandstone fortress.
Though it is one of the most famous buildings in the world, an image you’ve seen again and again, it is impossible not to be blown away, and rendered utterly speechless, by the Taj Mahal.