I waited at the West gate of the Taj Mahal for 45 minutes before it opened. Should’ve realised that just because Lonely Planet says dawn’s the time to visit, doesn’t mean the gate staff are following the script. But it was worth the wait, and being first in meant the acres of garden, red sandstone and white marble were largely unadorned with tourists.
Unlike many architectural wonders, this isn’t a monument to religion but a tomb built by Shah Jahan for his favourite wife: Mumtaz Mahal who died in childbirth.
I found it not so much a monument to love, as a monumental lamentation to love lost: the path through the gates, across the gardens, and around the mausoleum, ends in the grave – c’est l’amour.
On a smaller scale, the semi-precious gems inlaid into the marble walls and the fretwork of the marble screen around the sarcophagi were marvellous.
Flowers and vines entwine in the marble, with each bloom having its own livery of coloured gemstones. In Islamic art flowers symbolise paradise.
I’m tired, especially after hearing other tourists describe their whistle-stop itineraries. It’s been a ‘full-on’ week and I look forward to rejoining the road tomorrow for some mobile relaxation.