Agra, Uttar Pradesh
We got off the train in the early morning and sped right through the security gates, and then there it was, in the pink dawn, the marbled grace of the Taj Mahal. Shrouded in morning mist, fountains and perfect strips of verdant garden, it looks surreal, like a movie set. Seeing the Taj reminded me of the time I climbed the stairs out of the Rome subway to find the Colosseum smack dab in front of me. You cannot help but fall sublimely silent.
The palace was finished in 1653 out of mournful love for the Shah Jahan’s favorite wife Mumtaz, who died while bearing her fourteenth child. The mausoleum sits on a hill overlooking the valley and the boaters in the glistening Yamuna river below. Across the water you can see the abandoned construction site for another mausoleum, which was to be made out of black marble for the king’s resting place.
We also explored Agra Fort, which sits an easy 2 km from the Taj. It is massively splendid, with room upon courtyard of marble archways, mosaics, and fountains. And in that moment I was a Mughal princess, because I could not bear not to be. But my fantasies were interrupted when Arielle and I discussed how we are princesses, whose lives are prodded and pampered and protected…except we are allowed to leave the castle. With a venerable glance over our shoulder, us princesses and the boys whisked away to Delhi on the evening train.