It is the second consecutive month for this feature. Last month’s entry focused on Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle, which contains two centuries of history and boasts impressive city views.
For February, let’s travel halfway around the world to Agra, India, home of the world’s most famous monument built “for love,” the Taj Mahal.
I gave myself a full day to visit the Taj Mahal. On my previous day in town, I hired a guide to show me around some local sites, including the Mehtab Bagh Gardens, which provide a lovely view across the Yamuna River towards the Taj.
The Yamuna River is one of Hinduism’s holiest rivers, and it is not uncommon to see bodies being cremated along its banks. The river is almost completely dry in the picture below, and the air is rife with smog. Still, India’s monsoon season is notoriously muddy, and I opted to visit over the drier months of October and November.
Speaking of death, you probably know by now that the construction of Taj Mahal was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz, who perished during childbirth in 1631. The polished marble of the main building (containing his-and-hers tombs) gleams in the morning light.
I arrived at the Taj itself just after sunrise. The queue was daunting, but the grounds are huge and absorb the crowds well.
Most visitors made a beeline for a vantage point in which the Taj is aligned with a reflective pool whose fountains are usually turned off. I bided my time and returned a few hours later. The crowds had moved on to other parts of the grounds – or likely been rushed off on their tour bus to the next destination – and I had this view to myself.
I walked down towards the mausoleum building and took a pic looking the opposite direction, towards one of three gateway towers. This should give you a sense of scale.
I was drawn to India to sample its exotic cuisine and visit its man-made wonders, but it was the people that made the best overall impression. Everywhere I went, Indian people were asking me to a) pose in pictures with them, or b) take pictures of them. The Taj Mahal was no exception.
The clothing of choice for most Indian men seemed to be polo shirts, stonewashed jeans, and sneakers or loafers. Many Indian women struck a more vibrant fashion chord with their colorful saris.
In the photo above, they are walking towards my lens from the Taj’s mosque, the reddish-pink building behind them.
The Taj Mahal is perhaps the best example of symmetrical architecture in the world. The mausoleum building is a perfect geometric square at its base, and its four minarets are of identical height and angle (each tilting slightly outward from the Taj, so that they fall *away* from it in the event of an earthquake). The mosque on one side of the complex is matched by an identical-looking building on the opposite side for no other reason than symmetry.
India is a place of contrasts. The bustle and everyday insanity of its cities and trains are instantly silenced when you step inside a place as peaceful and tranquil as the Taj Mahal – the most beautiful architectural wonder on the planet. Even its chipmunks are happy!
All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.