As a traveller, visiting the Taj Mahal is something I felt I had to do. Another tick on the travel bucket list. Another “been there, done that.” With this mentality, I always wondered if visiting the Taj Mahal is overrated. Turns out, with a better understanding of the history of not only the building but the man who commissioned it, visiting the Taj Mahal was not only a bucket list tick but a highlight of my time in India. Here’s why:
Getting to the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is located on the bank of the Yamuna river in Agra. Although Agra is on the Golden Triangle tourist trail, visiting the Taj Mahal can take some patients. Agra is only 230 kilometres from Delhi however that 230 kilometres can take anywhere from four hours to the better part of a day to travel. Even getting across Agra can take an hour depending on traffic.
To make this experience as smooth and memorable as possible I strongly suggest hiring a guide and driver ahead of time. This will not only take the hassle and stress out of getting from your hotel to the Taj Mahal but also gets you a personal guide that can help you through the busy gates and explain the incredible backstory along the way.
And what a backstory it is…
Behind Visiting the Taj Mahal
To me, the Taj Mahal was just some white building a grieving guy built for his dead wife. In reality, it is an engineering marvel, and one hell of a tomb.
Still, is it worth fighting off selfie sticks and cell phones in your face? How about the heat, line ups, and jockeying for that perfect picture? Without context on what you are looking at I would certainly say no.
Shah Jahan, the ruling Mughal emperor of the day, commissioned the Taj Mahal construction in 1632. His favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal (one of nine!) had passed during childbirth. It was the couples 14th child so I can understand wanting to honour her however as I spied the Taj Mahal for first time though that crowded gate, I realize that the love is real and the guy wanted the world to know it.
How Are you a Thing?
As I wandered the grounds with jaw dropped I constantly asked “how?” How can something this grand, this beautiful, and this mathematically perfect be built so long ago? Turns out the answer is some 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants. Built over a 20 year period, the Taj Mahal is also an engineering head scratcher. Situated in the middle of a vast garden, the lines and symmetry required incredible thought and calculation.
In the middle, long refreshing pools lead the way to the mausoleum. With its white marble spires and dome 108 feet above, the Taj Mahal shines like a beacon. Interestingly, this hasn’t always been the case.
Agra’s pollution has taken its toll on the monument leading the government to shut down nearby factories and ban cars around the complex. With millions of visitors a year (although it seems that number could be per day!), it’s understandable the country wants to preserve and protect it.
Every Great Love Story has a Sad Ending
Upon first sight I knew visiting the Taj Mahal is not just something to tick off your bucket list. What I didn’t know is that its backstory is a bonus, and a tragic one at that. You see the emperor didn’t get to enjoy his creation long. In 1658, just five years after completion, Shah Jahan’s third son overthrew him and locked him up. Even more tragic, Shah Jahan lived out his days in a tower cell at the Red Fort in Agra, looking over the very monument he worked so hard to build.
So, is Visiting the Taj Mahal Overrated?
As I found, the Taj Mahal is unquestionably beautiful. Its towering white marble is only amplified by the walkway leading up to it. With that, the thousands of people clamouring to get a selfie in front of it starts to make sense. Well, not so much the selfies but the fact that they are there. I realized the Taj Mahal is so much more than ticking something off your bucket list. Its romantic and tragic story adds to its allure as does the fact that, although pretty in pictures, in person it certainly holds up.
So for someone like myself who came in with low expectations, I can certainly say visiting the Taj Mahal is not overrated. Now, had I tried to navigate the grounds on my own, making up its history and story for myself and fighting the crowds, this would be a different blog post altogether.
Again, hire a guide. It will make visiting the Taj Mahal that much more special.
What say you? Have you visited the Taj Mahal?
What’s your take? Is visiting The Taj Mahal overrated?
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Answering if the Taj Mahal is overrated was made possible by Deccan Odyssey Indian Sojourn. As always the experience, opinions, and selfie-less visit is my own.