Surrounded by the cacophony, squalor and chaos of New Delhi station, Roger turned to Hilary and said “I can’t believe later today we are going to be seeing one of the most beautiful buildings in the world”.
We reached Agra in time to stand at sunset on the riverbank across from the Taj Mahal. It seemed the perfect place to celebrate Hilary’s birthday.
With a hotel just yards from the ‘wonder of the modern world’, we were then through the segregated gates (by race and gender) at dawn. Even though we’ve seen it in so many pictures, it was amazing to be here. It simply is sublime, and much bigger than expected. Also, to be here is to appreciate for the first time, the Taj Mahal’s place within a wider complex of other Mughal temples, the gardens and the Yamuna River.
And you have to remind yourself, it’s essentially an Islamic mausoleum for a favourite wife who died shortly after giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Constructed by a workforce of some 22,000 labourers over 21 years, the marble came from Rajasthan, and the inlaid semi-precious stones were brought to Agra from Persia, Russia, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, and the Indian Ocean.