When watching travel shows or reading tour guide books, it seems that the trip to India now omits a very important landmark: visiting the Taj Mahal. Though I agree that India is a large country with a vast variety of terrain, people and cuisine, I’m surprised that the eighth wonder of the world has been ignored. Perhaps it’s because it is “overdone” or a predictable destination when traveling to Southeast Asia, but I think we need to put the Taj Mahal back on the map. In my most recent trip to India, I went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal again. My companion had never been to India and specifically requested a day trip to the mausoleum. I have traveled to India several times; mostly, I visited relatives in Delhi and suburbs of Punjab. It had been over 15 years since I had last seen the Taj and I found myself gaping in awe at the edifice like I did the first time.
The Taj Mahal is rich in Mogul history with detailed architectural facets. Most of us know the basic background of the story: the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj in the mid 1600s as a burial site for his beloved wife, Mumtaz, who died while giving birth to their 14th child. Taj Mahal, which means “crown palace” was made to have the shape of a crown with only the sky as a background. Four minarets cluster around the giant dome and they are built slightly outwards so that if an earthquake hit the area, the minarets would not fall and damage the building. If you visit the site with a tour guide, you will have the opportunity to hear more about the symbolism of the decoration, the lovely calligraphy bordering the walls and the optical illusions nestled in the columns.
It’s true–traveling to the Taj Mahal is now more of an ordeal than ever before. More and more visitors come every year. It’s important to schedule your visit during the middle of the week. We decided to go the weekend after New Year’s, which meant waiting in line for at least an hour before entering the Taj. It’s a smarter idea to contact the concierge at your hotel or search online for English-speaking tour groups that travel to Agra and provide meals. A car ride from Delhi to Agra takes around 4 to 5 hours. Select a travel group where there are a good amount of positive reviews. You can try Easy Tours of India, Heritage India, or Independent India Travel. There are a lot of travel sites available, so take the time to do your research so you’ll enjoy your trip to the Taj!