Taj Mahal

It's been called the greatest monument of love in the world, and I would agree. A symbol as synonymous with India as the Eiffel Tower is to France, the White House to America, or The Great Wall to China. For my first trip to India, I could not imagine being able to say I went to India, yet somehow didn't manage to find time to see the Taj.

Up till this point, I had imagined the Taj Mahal to be a beautiful building, but, a building. Not a sweeping, dramatic landscape like The Grand Canyon that's going to cause my jaw drop as I let out an involuntary "wow." Arriving before sunrise, so I could be one of the first in to see the Taj - and, quite importantly, get a few photos without throngs of tourists - I was excited to finally see it. It wasn't until I passed through the entrance at first light, with my eyes setting their gaze upon it, did I realize just how beautiful this mausoleum truly is.

Constructed of translucent, white Makrana marble, the structure literally sparkles and shines as it captivates you. All told, there are 28 different types of precious and semi-precious stones inlaid into the marble. Up close it can seem almost as if the marble was painted, but in fact it was meticulously carved out, with the stones glued in and finished perfectly. Sadly, during British rule some of these stones were chiseled out by soldiers and government officials. It makes me wish I could see it when it was built, glimmering in the sun.

Viewing the Taj Mahal is an experience. You can relish in its grandeur and symmetry, or get up close to see some of its fine details. Currently, it's undergoing a cleaning due to the effects of years of pollution, which is why you see scaffolding on the minaret to the right. The minaret on the left, has already been cleaned. Apparently it will take about another year for the full cleaning to be completed.

I wish I could say I got that perfect shot of the Taj Mahal, but the scaffolding does detract a bit. On the other hand, in another year it could be decades before scaffolding is seen again for another cleaning. Either way, I was quite glad my itinerary worked out such that I visited on the last day of my trip to India. It was the perfect way to end the trip.