CE’s Alyssa at the Taj Mahal!

Hello Everyone,

I hope all is well with all and that the spring has finally arrived.  Things on my side of the world are going rather nicely.  The weather has quickly warmed up and it is now around 85 to 90 degrees during the day.  Last night was actually the first night that I felt it was a little to hot to sleep, which as you all know, is never a good thing.  I am hoping that keeping the door open at night will help to cool the room off. My friend Sarah was in town for the weekend and that was very nice.  She is currently working in New Delhi with a TB NGO and it was great to see her.  The only bad repercussion of a busy weekend is that I somehow contracted a cold.  I feel that the colds that I get here last so much longer because of all of the pollution that is in the air.  On a normal day, there are always little specks of soot that often show up on your tissue when you blow your nose.  Thus, you can imagine a day when you are sick.  However, I am slowly healing myself and am very happy that I will not be travelling anywhere this weekend.

Now, I am sure that all of you are wondering why I gave this post the name that I did.  Well, there is really only one possible answer…the Taj Mahal.  That’s right, this blog is about the majestic building that is considered one of the seven wonders of the worls.  Let me tell you, when you see the Taj in person, it is even more magnificent then you can imagine it to be.  There is something about looking at the building from the main courtyard, that makes you want to never take your eyes off of it.

The actual excursion to the Taj Mahal was done in one day.  It is in the city of Agra, in the state of UP, which is about a 5 hour train trip from Jaipur.  From previous volunteers having gone to Agra before, we knew that other then the actual visit to the Taj, there is nothing much to do in the city, thus the reason we planned it as only a day trip.  We started out the day at 6AM and took the 5 hour trip to Agra.  We arrived in the city around 11:00AM and got a Tuk Tuk to the center of the city.  After a short breakfast, we set out on our way.  Since India has such a high pollution rate, there is 200 meter area surrounding the Taj Mahal that is blocked off from any cars or Tuk Tuks.  The only things that can get in are battery operated buses and cycle rickshaws.  This is so that the beauty and whiteness of the Taj Mahal can be preserved.

Getting into the actual Taj was an adventure all it’s own.  For a foreigner, the ticket to get within the compound is 750 rupees, which is equivalent to about $18.00.  This includes foot covers for your shoes, to be used once inside the actual building, and a bottle of water. After collecting your ticket, one follows a long line of people to the lockers where you must lock up your personal items as you can only  take in a camera, cell phone, and wallet.  We are then herded towards the long line of guests waiting to get into the compound that holds the gardens, secondary buildings and the Taj Mahal.  This is perhaps one of the only places in India where it helps to be a women, has there is a ladies only line that moves significantly quicker then the gents one.  After going through numerous metal detectors, we finally entered the main compound.  Now this is not the the compound where one can see the Taj Mahal, this is the pre-area that houses two secondary mausoleums.  However, one can clearly see where the entrance to the garden that houses the Taj Mahal is, as there is a giant crowd around one doorway.  As you slowly make your way towards the entrance of the garden, one can see that there is a lot of commotion going on; thousands of people trying to get to and from the entrance and take pictures while moving at a rather slow pace.  It surly was pure madness.  However, as you enter the garden, things get significantly calmer and there are numerous photo-ops.  Basically the entire walk up to the Taj Mahal is a slow stop and start of trying to get the best picture. Upon arriving at the front of the building, one puts their shoe covers on and ascents the giant stairs to wait in the 1 hour line so that you can enter the Taj.  I have to say, the actual inside of the Taj Mahal was rather unimpressive, particularly for the hour line.  But of course we had to say we actually went into the Magnificent Taj Mahal.

Here are some interesting facts about the Taj Mahal:

1) It is actually an Islamic structure despite the belief that it is a temple built for the Hindu God Shiva.
2)The Taj was built by Shah Jahn, the Mughal Emperor at the time, in honor of the death of his second wife who died giving birth to their 14th child.
3) The construction for the Taj Mahal began in 1631, the year of the wife’s death, and was not finished until 1653.
4) Not long after it was finished, Shah Jahn was overthrown by his son who imprisoned him in Agra Fort.  From the fort you can see the Taj Mahal, thus reminding the Shah what he would never be able to visit again

The Entrance Gate to get into the Inner Courtyard that houses the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal from the Main Entrance way.

View of entire courtyard and Taj.

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