Its 4.38am and I’m sat dressed on my bed in my hotel room in Agra. It’s possibly the first time in a long while I’ve woken up and leapt out of bed in excitement this early in the morning, and not crawled out from under the warm sheets wondering what on earth I’ve got myself into!
At 5am we’re going to visit the Taj Mahal. We’re going this early not only to attempt to beat the madding crowds, but also to experience the Taj Mahal at sunrise, where the light reflecting off it’s marbled walls is supposed to make the Taj Mahal even more spectacular!
Sat with a cup of tea I can hear the ‘call to prayer’ coming from a nearby speaker. It’s been a while since I’ve heard it, I’d become accustomed to it’s strangely soothing sounds during my 3 weeks in Kerala. There’s a knock on my door and it’s time to go. It’s still dark outside as we all whisper good morning to each other excitedly as we get onto the bus and travel the 15 minute journey to the outer gates.
The bus drops us off 500 metres away as there is no traffic allowed within 500m of the building due to pollution. We get out and walk excitedly down the surprisingly quiet tree-lined avenue, with only the occasional swinging monkey for company. It’s starting to get light and I speed up, panicking we’re going to miss sunrise! We reach the gates, collect our tickets, free water and shoe covers and then join the small queue.
We wait for what seems like an age (but is probably more like ten minutes) before we start to move and eventually we are through the metal detectors and free to roam! Walking through I glimpse the top of the marble dome, it’s surrounded by outer red stone walls, and as we reach the archway you can see through to the white coloured marble and it looks magnificent in contrast with the red stone. The guide keeps us outside the arch while he passionately relates the history of the Taj, but I’m struggling to listen in my excitement to walk through and see the Taj Mahal in its full glory!
And then it was there, in front of my eyes. And it looked magnificent. The first thing I noticed was that it stood out so much because there is nothing behind it but blue sky. The second thing I noticed was the peace and tranquility I felt in such a vast space. I had become so used to the bustling madness of India and now suddenly I had been transported to a place of tranquility. Everybody was busy taking pictures but I just stopped and listened. Beautiful.
We walked around the grounds whilst our knowledgeable guide gave us some information, and then we went into the mausoleum itself. The back of the Taj Mahal overlooks the Yamuna River, and we all sat and relaxed, some taking pictures. It was our last day in India, I’d had the most fantastic month and would be sad to leave such an exciting country.
I’d had no expectations of the Taj Mahal, in fact, it was never on my list of places to visit. I’d always imagined it to be a place so busy with people you wouldn’t be able to breathe in it’s real beauty. But it took me by surprise, and I’d recommend it to anybody. Part of it’s beauty was simply the silence you experience in a country so alive and transient, for a moment, everything stops.
Walking back through the grounds, I take my time to breathe in the freedom one last time, before leaving India behind…until I return!