Agra

Since I moved to Delhi, I’d been aching to go places. Delhi is a traveler’s delight – it offers myriads of beautiful locales within 5-6 hours of driving distance. After endless failed plans, I put my foot down and decided to make a trip to the hills the following weekend. The nearest hills. Any hills.

All was set. And then the honorable Prime Minister went ahead and banned 86% of cash in circulation in the economy. How is one to travel without some cash stash for contingencies? Grudgingly, I made my way to the nearest ATM and lined up for treasure. After waiting in line for over an hour, the ATM ran out of cash just as my turn was up. And thus I landed on Agra – a city with ATMs, a safer choice in troubled times.

Early Saturday morning, my friend and I set out on our not-so-long journey. Agra is a mere 3-hour drive from Delhi. Apart from the Taj Mahal, Agra houses enchanting tombs and forts. Cruising through the Yamuna Expressway at lightning speed, we reached the busy streets of Agra in no time. Our first stop, of course, was the Taj Mahal.

Being a weekend, we were expecting a sea of people at the mausoleum but the crowd was surprisingly sparse. In all likelihood, the common man’s weekend leisure plans were rudely interrupted by the cash crunch. As we passed through the main gates, we were greeted by a large archway – the Great Gate or Darwaza-i-rauza.

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A few steps through the gate, we caught a glimpse of the Taj Mahal. The tomb revealed itself slowly – first the finial, then the dome, followed by the arch-shaped doorway, until we could see the entire structure in all its glory.

The only thing more marvelous than the beauty of the mausoleum is its history. Often viewed as a symbol of love, it was commissioned by Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. After his death, Shah Jahan, too, was buried within this mausoleum.

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A long pathway, surrounded by lush green gardens and exquisite waterworks, leads to the main tomb. We removed our shoes to enter the tomb, a feeling of sublime reverence overcoming us. The false sarcophagi of both Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are kept here, while their actual tombs are at a level below. The dark dank interiors hid the beautiful calligraphy and paintings engraved all around.

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The exteriors of the Taj Mahal are just as beautiful – with motifs and calligraphy inscribed in every nook and corner. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal is rightly upheld as a jewel of Mughal art in India.

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