So as most of the readers know, we are all home safe now! We arrived yesterday morning and were all exhausted after a long journey. Our last couple days in India were packed full of travel and sightseeing including one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal.
When I found out that my blog was assigned for the day we were going to see the Taj, I was finally thankful that I had a W last name and was at the end of the alphabet. However, upon seeing the Taj and sitting here writing this blog, I decided that the Taj was actually the most difficult part of the trip to blog about. How do you put something so beautiful into words? It’s like seeing a sunset and trying to take a picture, the colors never turn out as bright or as beautiful as the actual sunset itself. So here is my attempt to describe the wonder that is the Taj and the beautiful love story behind it.
Prince Khurram was the fifth son of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who ruled India is the 16th century. Though Khurram was not the eldest son, he became the favorite, as he grew older. Jahangir even described Khurram as having no comparison with his other children. As he became older, he led many military campaigns and was soon given the title by Jahangir, “Shah Jahan”, meaning King of the World. While Jahangir aged, his health failed and the sons began rivaling for succession to the thrown. After years of battles and deaths of all other brothers, Shah Jahan finally became the King of the Mughal dynasty. As a young boy, Shah had met a girl born to high wealth, at a bazaar within the palace walls, and it was love at first sight. When he ascended the thrown, this woman, was beside him, as his queen, comrade, and confidant. He called her “Mumtaz Mahal”, the chosen one of the palace.
During the 4th year of his reign, Shah set out on a journey to Burhanpur to subdue a rebellious army, and although Mumtaz Mahal was 9 months pregnant with their 14th child, she insisted accompanying him. While they were gone, she gave birth to the child and later died from birth complications. During her last moments, she made Shah promise that he would build a mausoleum for her; more beautiful than anything in the world, and that the memory of their love would be his strength to survive. And this is exactly what he did. 6 months after her death, the memorials foundation was started right across the river from his palace. The mausoleum took 22 years to complete and was made of the best marble money could buy. It was intricately designed and pieces of gems were placed into settings to add color to the white beauty. Inside, in the center of the masterpiece, Shah finally laid the remains of his beloved wife. The mausoleum was named the Taj Mahal and is still the most beautiful in all the land, never to be compared with anything in existence.
Waking up knowing that we were going to get to see something this beautiful was like a 5 year old waking up on Christmas morning. After getting through the security line, none of us were interested in anything the tour guide said and could not wait to get through the main gate into the courtyard that held the Taj. As we got closer, the Taj started to come into view and when we finally walked into the gate, we were in awe of the beauty we saw. Seeing the Taj in pictures is nothing like seeing it in real life. It literally takes your breath away. We all took moments to appreciate the beautiful work of this monument and were amazed at how wonderful it was. There is no question why this is one of the 7 wonders of the world. After an hour or so of pictures and looking around, we finally got to see inside the Taj and touch the flawless marble that has weathered so well in the Indian sun. After seeing the tombs of Shah and his beloved wife, we sat outside on the marble terrace and enjoyed a gorgeous day while taking in the site. It was so peaceful to sit and appreciate the Taj in all of its glory.
After wrapping up our morning at the Taj, we traveled to the Agra fort, the imperial gates to the Mughal Empire. It was founded in 1565 by Emperor Akbar and is said to house hundreds of palaces, some fairy tale and some real. It is believed that Aurangzeb, son of Shah Jahan, imprisoned Shah here in a marble tower after he was overthrown, and it is where he spent his last days looking across the river to the symbol of love he spent so long building. Now, 25% of the fort is accessible to the public, including the tower Shah died in, overlooking the Taj, while the other 75% is property of the Indian Army.
All in all, we spent an Amazing day at the Taj and in Agra and had a great dinner celebration to wrap up our unforgettable trip to India. Thanks Dr. Sullivan for all your hard work and dedication to this trip, and us! I know I can speak for the class when I say there couldn’t have been a better teacher to take on this trip! Thanks to parents and friends also for supporting us and following our journey! It’s good to be home!