First glimpse of the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal (c) Emma FieldI saw the Taj Mahal today! I didn’t expect it to affect me really, what with seeing so many pictures of it and because, perversely, so many people have told me that despite all the readily available images it will still take my breath away. But there was a split second when I turned the corner of the East Gate at about 8.30am, and my heart leapt, did a little jig. It really is beautiful.

The colour is what did it for me, rather than the perfect symmetry, which is what most people rave about. In the morning light it was a mystical milky colour, as if it was in a dawn soft focus.

We had planned to go for sunrise, or just after to beat the crowds and see it in a good light (not too harsh), but when we woke up at 7am it was cloudy so we went back to sleep for another 45 minutes (any excuse) and then left straight away. No shower, although I did put on my dress (my only nice travel outfit) and sparkly eyeliner – it’s not everyday you get to have your photo taken next to the world’s greatest monument to love afterall.

That lie-in was the best decision we made all day. The slightly greater number of tourists didn’t matter; the Taj in huge, surrounded by large courtyards so there’s plenty of room for everyone, and raised on a marble platform meaning no-one can spoil your photo by standing directly in front of it and no buildings despoil the background.

Even better, the clouds lifted after we’d been there for about half an hour and we were able to see the Taj Mahal in all its bright white glory, set against a true blue sky. We’d already done the usual Princess Di imitation pouty poses and dangled the dome from our fingertips like a Christmas bauble – everyone does that as soon as they enter via the East Gate, watching the tourists make fools of themselves is almost a s good a viewing as the Taj itself! – so we took some more silly ones of us jumping and trying to bite a chunk out of the dome.

Up close, you realise the Taj Mahal is set with dazzling gems, carefully inlaid into the whie marble in the shape of elaborate flowers. It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan from 1631 to 1653 (although the exact dates are disputed) as a memorial to his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. (I wonder what happened to his first wife – she must be kicking herself.) You can see Mumtaz’s tomb inside, and Shah Jahan was buried alongside her following his death in 1666, which slightly offsets the perfect symmetry inside, but no-one ever said love was perfect!

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