Like most people, I grew up seeing picture after picture of the Taj Mahal. Much like the Pyramids or the Mona Lisa, it was one of the fundamental monuments of civilization and represented Indian mystique to generations of Westerners. When I went to India, I wasn’t sure if I was going to love the country (my complicated thoughts on India will be the subject of later posts) but I knew I wanted to see the Taj Mahal. My excitement, however, was dampened by the fact that sometimes, sights like that can be a bit, well, overrated. Case in point: the first time I saw the Mona Lisa. It was tiny, and although I appreciated the historical significance and the relevance it had in our shared cultural history (buzzwords I pulled from a college art history class, go me!), by the time I pushed my way past the hoards in the Louvre to the front, the first thought that crossed my mind was…”that’s it?”.
I was a bit nervous I’d have a similar experience visiting the Taj Mahal. India itself was chaotic, overwhelming, and surreal. When a driver dropped me off outside of the Taj Mahal, I could see the hawkers that were such a part of Indian cities surrounding the gates. But once we pushed passed the holi poli, the dramatic building rose before us.
The Taj Mahal is special because it is so beautiful, yes, but also because of the craftsmanship that went into making it. Using stone inlays and colorful stucco in the white marble, the artisans of the mid-1600s built this dramatic structure without the help of modern technology. The floral patterns and calligraphy add to the effect.
So, in sum, the Taj is awesome, and not to be missed on a trip to India. In fact, I’d say it’s reason enough to go!