Our driver arrived to pick us up around 4.30am at the Jaypee Palace hotel in Agra. We were about to make the highly anticipated journey for sunrise at one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
As we made the short drive through the deserted streets, the dark chill of the early morning mist hung drowsily over the city. Once the car was parked we were led down a dusty street, lined with early morning hawkers, to the main tourist gate of our destination.
The Taj Mahal was described by the famous Indian artist Rabindranath Tagore as “a teardrop on the cheek of time”, and is one of the world’s greatest legacies, created by one lover as a memorial and eternal gift to another.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan constructed the magnificent white marble mausoleum to express his undying love to his second and favourite wife Mumtaz. The Taj Mahal is nothing less than the crown of India, lavishly created, extraordinarily unique, awe-striking, an irresistible beauty, luring millions of visitors every year, thousands daily.
Surprisingly, there were two short lines, one for men and another for women. Our guide put us in the right place for our tour and hurried away to get his cup of hot chai. The line herded haltingly forward until we were some of the first to enter the Taj compound.
The early morning start had paid off. The pink entrance to the Taj was magnificent in itself, a beautifully tiled grand archway which leads to one of the world’s greatest jewels.
We were soon standing in front of what we had dreamed of seeing all our lives, the incomparable Taj, but unfortunately it was shrouded in heavy mist. It was a moment of deep disappointment.
However, we were kindly reassured by our guide that there would be a majestic unveiling of epic proportions as the sun ascended into the morning sky. He was right and the ghostly silhouette languidly sharpened to brilliant white marble, illuminated by glorious blazing sunlight.
We made our way slowly around the outside of the Taj in the compulsory white shoe coverings provided at the entrance. We drank in the scale and beauty of the architecture as well as the intricate detail of the building. The tomb, framed by four tall minarets, has a number of Persian elements.
The gorgeous exterior decorations of the Taj Mahal are among the finest in Mughal architecture and a huge, vaulted, marble dome, 35metres high, decorated with a lotus design, accentuates its height. Was it the magic of the building, the power of the love story, or a combination of both which made our visit to the Taj so memorable?
After spending several hours marvelling at the exquisite detail of the Taj it was time to do what everyone wants to do here. It is obligatory to have a photograph taken on the seat in front of the reflection pond, in the same spot where Diana, the Princess Of Wales had her visit recorded.
We wandered back past the manicured gardens towards the exit gate to take one last, long look at the perfection of the proportions, the poise and grandeur of this monumental masterpiece.
Be sure to time your visit carefully and definitely not on a Friday as the Taj is always closed. Our guide also assured us that to see the Taj by moonlight is another breathtaking experience. Tickets can be bought online or at the main gate.
Know Before You Go
There are also some other fantastic things to see and do in Agra, such as
The Red Fort of Agra is a powerful fortress of red sandstone that previously encompassed within its 2.5-km-long enclosed walls an imperial city of the Mughal rulers.
Around 50 kilometres out of Agra is Fatehpur Sikri, the former royal city of Agra.
For shopping there is Sadar Bazaar, a market located close to the Agra Central Railway Station.
The market is well known for handicraft items as well as the famous Agra shoes and other leather products.
The best way to get to Agra from Delhi is by train which takes about two hours.