Visiting the Taj Mahal, and leaving my mark on a world heritage site

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ December 17th, 2007. Updated on December 12th, 2010. Published in: Travel blog » India.

Travel Journal Overview: A day tour to the Taj Mahal in Agra, a mistake if ever there was going to be one. I was out of time. India was not doing it for me still, it seemed to be the best option to speed things up.

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India (click to enlarge)

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India (click to enlarge)

A 5am Cold Pizza for breakfast on a prepaid auto rickshaw to the tourist office for an early start to Agra. There were 11 of us in total. An old Canadian and his daughter, an American couple, an Australian girl and some Indians made up our group for the five hour trip to Agra. I could have taken the train, but the tour was 900 for all the transport to and fro and I was going to see two other places as well.

Akbar's Tomb, Agra, India

Akbar's Tomb, Agra, India

First stop was Akbars Tomb or rather Sikandra, a none too impressive place.

The Walls of Akbar's Tomb, Agra, Delhi, India

The Walls of Akbar's Tomb, Agra, Delhi, India

Aside from a nice red-ochre sandstone palace like tomb and a garden with deer, and langoor monkeys it offered little in the way of interest. I think we were waiting for the next one.

The Taj Mahal, in all its world wonder glory. And it cost a bloody great 790 Rupees to get a ticket, 30 if your an Indian. I was pissed off already. Even with my complementary bottle of water and slip on slippers. I headed in with Sandra the Australian girl. An inner courtyard opened up into four entrance way, we took the right and were confronted with that sight that has been on magazines and postcards the world over. There covered in tiny black specks or tourists was the white marble of the Taj.

We walked up to the fountain area and took the obligatory photos. It was definitely strange to see such a popular two dimensional image in full on 3D. The the weather was not great, cloudy and humid, it did not take away from the beauty of the Taj. Having said that, I was not so overly impressed. In fact I could easily have put the Golden Temple over it on a list of World Wonders.

Buildings beside the Taj Mahal

Buildings beside the Taj Mahal

We headed inside where it was quite dark and the tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahanlay lay. Though it’s said they are fake, and the real tombs are deep below the Taj. I headed out and gazed over a river that meandered behind the Taj. I couldn’t help but think that I was expecting a little more. The guide pointed out a site across the river where the Black Taj Mahal was meant to have been built as the tomb for Mumtaz Mahal, but he died or rather was imprison before it was completed.

Again this was legend, a good one though as just viable further along the river is where Mumtaz Mahal son imprisoned his father. Giving him a cell with view of his wife’s tomb. The idea of a Black Taj Mahal opposite the white one seemed a good one considering all the equal aesthetics that were put into place in its construction. I asked why the government did not finish it now, and considering the entrance fee they should be able to afford it. The guide shrugged and said that the artists today were not good enough to recreate something like the Taj Mahal.

I headed over to one of the mosque on the other side of the Taj. Not too interesting bar a

Site of the Black Taj Mahal, Agra, Delhi, India

Site of the Black Taj Mahal, Agra, Delhi, India

little conversation with one of the renovators currently at work restoring the outer wall. On the other side was the Jawab, an identical looking building. It seemed to be under heavier renovation. I wandered into the empty building undisturbed by any tourists. Inside were just two men, both chiselling away at a large red sandstone tile on the ground.

Renovators at the Taj Mahal - these were not the men that let me chisel my mark

Renovators at the Taj Mahal - these were not the men that let me chisel my mark

I walked over for a closer look and was invited to sit down. The two men were carving out a relief with extreme precision, they were a father and son team. The son looked up at me and handed out a chisel to me. I laughed off what I thought was a joke. Me carving out a relief for the Taj Mahal. The father laughed to before putting his own chisel down and opening up a betel nut leaf snack.

The son nodded again in my direction while staring at the chisel. Ho Hum, what the heck. I took the chisel and rather delicately chipped away at the sandstone under the watchful guise of the son. Not a bad job either. I handed back the chisel with an appreciative nod. I had just left my mark on a World Wonder.

The Taj Mahal's side entrance wall

The Taj Mahal's side entrance wall

We stopped off for an expensive and long lunch break. The two young Americans went on in religious overtones about how the world needed to find God. Was all of India on a religious crusade?

The Agra Fort was next on our list, but we had missed the closing time by five minutes. I was not too disappointed. It looked nice from the outside, and it was enough for the day that it was. Funnily enough the local marble centre was still open for tourists to spend their money. More interestingly was watching the mason’s themselves. With intricate precision they lifted slivers of precious gems and embedded them into marble plates, sculptures and all

Jewellers in Agra, India - Delicate slivers of gems being paced into marble in Agra

Jewelers in Agra, India - Delicate slivers of gems being paced into marble in Agra

manner of replicas.

We arrived back in Delhi after about another 5 hours. It was 11.20pm and I was lucky the hotel chef agreed to cook me a Chicken chop suey for dinner, and a chicken sandwich for breakfast.My plan to speed through New Delhi was working …

Some related links on this website that  you might like: (including a lot more photographs from India)

Stories: The Dealing with the Delhi Post Office

Stories: Accomplishing Something on the Ganges

Video: On the Ganges Ceremony

India Travel Guide

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1 Great responses to Visiting the Taj Mahal, and leaving my mark on a world heritage site

  1. Eva says:

    Hi There !

    India is a good place to visit but there are few things that one need to be aware. There are lots of crooks there who love to exploit travelers but there are people too who love to help tourists.

    It would be great if you can post a video about Indian tourism here.