Taj Mahal


By Adam Tait

Tina and I made a quick exit after Sonu & Tashu’s wedding ceremony in Delhi, as we were hoping to make it to Agra to witness the Taj Mahal over night.

Avlok’s father had helped us secure a car and driver for the long drive, which we had been told would take about three hours. The agreed price was 2200 rupees ($55 USD) for the car, driver and gas, and remaining in Agra overnight. When it was time to pay, we were charged 3300 rupees ($83 USD), because the driver had switched on the air-conditioning, despite us having never asked. We had packed all our things and loaded them into the car that morning, and were now prepared to leave directly from the wedding.

With a quick goodbye, we were off and finally able to relax. The heavy food from the wedding reception put both Tina and I to sleep before long, and when I awoke I assumed that we must be there. “No Sir. We stop. Bad traffic.” Sure enough, there’s motorcycle out one window and a red saree covered butt in the other. We were in the middle of the biggest traffic jam I had ever seen, stretching up the highway (2 lane road) as far as I could see.

Three hours later, we finally arrived in Agra, more than 3 hours late. Our driver didn’t know where our hotel was, so he stopped to ask another hotel owner. The owner jumped right on us. “You cannot take car to where hotel is. You must stay here.” Our taxi driver agreed with him. It took closing my window on some fingers, and loud commands to our driver, but we turned around and found the right direction. We were able to call the hotel owner, who offered directions to the driver. While still on our mobile, the driver stopped in the middle of a crowd. He reached back to my door and unlocked it. “What the….?” A man tries to open my door. I quickly grab the handle and held it, while slamming the lock back down. “What are you doing?!?”, I yell at the driver. The driver’s window is down and the man identifies himself as the hotel owner. It takes me a moment before I can trust him, and let him into the car. The hotel room was the smallest we stayed in during our entire trip, but also the cheapest. At 400 rupees ($10 USD), we decided it was a steal. We go for dinner a restaurant across the road, run entirely by 12 year old boys. Tina gets so frustrated by the lack of service that she throws our cutlery over the balcony at them. Luckily, they take no notice.

Tina wakes up easily irritated the next morning, insisting that we make to the gate before 5 am. To her great frustration, I awake slowly and we waddle down the dirt streets to the south gate. Upon arriving, we are informed that the south gate doesn’t open until 8:30, and the only gate that we can enter through is the east gate. We curse India with the conviction of a southern pastor, and find a rickshaw to take us over to the east gate (a 20 min walk). We pay the foreigner price (which is 100 times the domestic price) and proceed to be harassed by the officers at the entrance over carrying a backpack. When we finally reached the Taj, we were instantly impressed. No picture fully does it justice. We took several moments to sit and just breath it in. Definitely the most impressive monument we witnessed in India.

While admiring the Taj, I noted yet another inconsistency in Indian culture. Many of the major distinct monuments of India were built by Muslims or Buddhists. The Taj Mahal is quite obviously built by a Muslim, as it is covered in writings from the Quran. Throughout India’s glorious history, the country was ruled by the Mughols who invaded from the east. The Mughols, such as the famous Akbar and Shah Jahan, built many of the great palaces and forts throughout India. The World Heritage sites in central and southern India are mostly Buddhist temples or dwellings. That doesn’t leave much for the Hindus, whom are the large majority in the modern day. India’s Hindu sanctuary seems to be Udaipur in Rajasthan, the only city that didn’t give in to Emperor Akbar’s armies.

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  1. 1

    Just wanted to comment about the last part where you mention that there aren’t a lot of Hindu monuments. Two reasons

    1. A lot of Muslim buildings were built after razing down Hindu religious places.
    2. A lot of other heritage buildings are temples still frequented by Hindus and aren’t exactly tourist attractions.

    BTW started reading your post on Ladakh. It was really nice and loved the pictures. I have stayed in Leh for three months over 18 years ago because my dad was an Officer of the Indian Army. Still have great memories of Leh.


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  1. An Indian Wedding | Simply Tina » An Indian Wedding - Dec 14 08
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