We all learned the story in history class–that the Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to honor his wife Mumtaz, who died in childbirth. What I didn’t know was how little of the interior you actually get to see as a tourist.
There are over 20 rooms that have been permanently locked. Recently, a petition was filed to open those doors to the public, but it was quickly dismissed. We may never get to hidden inside of the marble mammoth.
You enter the Taj Mahal complex through the Darwaza-i-Rauza, aka “gate of the mausoleum.”
It took 22 years to build the Taj Mahal.
After you pass through the gateway, you walk through a dark corridor approaching the structure we all know. The marble, stark against the dark tunnel of tourists, glimmers in the dense air.
It’s estimated that 6 million people visit each year.
Aside from being home the most famous building in the world, Agra was once the most powerful city in all of India. From 1556 to 1648 it was the capital of the Mughal kingdom.
It’s now only the 23rd most populous city in the entire country–hard to believe with well over a million residents. Agra is also 2nd largest shoe manufacturer of shoes in the world. (Seriously, shoes are a big deal there.)
Our guide, Deepak, was wonderful. Armed with every fact there is to know about Agra, he also loved taking pics.
Here are a few very out-of-the-ordinary-for-us photos he took:
This comparison only feels fitting in India’s shoe capital:
About a mile down the road from the Taj Mahal is Agra Fort, also built during the Mughal Dynasty.
the rampart of Agra Fort
Agra Fort took 8 years to construct.
Diwan-i-Aam, The Hall of Public Audience
view of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort
from the walls that stand 75 high over the Yamuna River
There are a lot of monkeys in India. The relationship they have with locals is complicated. It’s considered holy to feed primates around holy sites, but in places where population is denser, they can stir up a bit of trouble.
Some of the world’s highest traffic areas are in India, and it’s considered one of the most dangerous places to drive.
As a foreigner, the road system seems complicated. There are rules, but I don’t think people follow them. Tons of vehicles flood intersections–from cars to tuk tuks and motorcycles–sometimes going completely against traffic. It’s fascinating and terrifying.
You’ll often spot cows in the streets in India. They are a sacred symbol of life in the Hindu religion. These photos were snapped from our car window.
Check back next week to see where we’re headed next!