As I stand in line with hundreds of other travelers and locals, waiting to see the gem that brought me all the way to India, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the symbol of India most recognized around the world, I cannot believe that I’ve made it here. The pushy, crowded chaos that fills the streets in India’s cities is put on hold here, outside the walls of this revered monument. We are waiting in a long line, but we all know enough to show respect for this sacred ground. I stand in the honored visitors line, an expedited line that moves quickly past the mile-long line of Indian citizens that must prove their patience before being granted entry. The system hardly seems fair. I haven’t grown comfortable with the population control measures so necessary in this country that holds 1/6 of the world’s people.
The line begins to move forward, and I make my way up to the entry gates and through the elementary security check that I hardly think would prevent any trouble-makers. Walking across the bazaar and towards the formal entry gateway, my heart begins to flutter. I am about to see with my own eyes the Taj Mahal.
Through the crowds of eager on-lookers, I make my way through the gateway, hardly bothered by these obstacles. And as I step out of the gateway, I see it, a white palatial marble beauty, glowing against the clear blue sky. The majestic aura emanating from the Taj Mahal draws my eyes and steals my breath. It’s exactly as I’ve seen it in pictures, and yet to be standing here in front of it, gazing upon it with my own two eyes, is an honor I can hardly believe to be reality.
Everyone is smiling and taking pictures, the crowd is buzzing with excitement. Some have traveled halfway around the world to see this, and others have waited their whole lives to visit this nearby site, this mecca for people of all races, religions, and beliefs. I walk through the gardens, alongside the reflecting pool, and as I get closer to it I notice more of the details. I see the minarets and the domes, I appreciate the symmetry and geometry inherent to the design, and I notice how each of these elements come together to make this place special.
As I approach the platform upon which the building rests, I feel the cool, hard marble with my hand. It’s hard to believe the magnanimity of building this, the amount of labor, the cost of all this marble, this incredible planning and detail that made this possible. Around the entire building, inlaid in the marble are semi-precious stones, crafted to decorate and complement the marble. I later have the privilege to see marble in-lay work by the descendants of, the same family as, the men who decorated the Taj Mahal.
I queue up to enter the building and again feel like I’m unfairly cutting in front of the hundreds of Indians that stand in a line wrapping around the base of the mausoleum. This is the reason I’ve come to India, to walk inside the Taj Mahal. The Indian government is in the process of closing it off from the public, due to concern about the degradation of the building from tourism and pollution. Even now, the process has begun. Long gone are the days when you could go to the lower level and see the tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, as you’re now only permitted to see the replicas of those tombs on the main level. The guards hurry me in the replica room and then out the back door. The time permitted inside is short, but I know the restrictions will only grow, and I’m grateful that I’ve had the privilege of visiting and seeing this historic site while I still can.
The Taj Mahal basks in its architectural, religious, historic, and handicraft glory as it sits upon the Yamuna River. From the marble-carved floral designs, to the calligraphy and in-laid stone designs, to the pishtaq vaulted archways and giant marble domes, and to the four towering minarets that frame the corners of the Taj Mahal platform, this site is stunning and takes hours to enjoy and appreciate in its entirety. I stare wide-eyed at this marvelous World Wonder, in disbelief that this massive structure is a tomb, that it was a project thought up by the 5th Mughal Emporer to honor his 3rd and favorite wife. Since that odd beginning almost four hundred years ago, this site has been admired and revered by people near and far. I enjoyed completely my time at the Taj Mahal, and even more so my time in India. The Taj may have been my catalyst for visiting India, but the trip opened my eyes and my mind, and i cannot wait to make another trip to the incredible India.