Saturday, January 21, 2017
Tourism
Taj Mahal In Summer
 

In Summer 2016, we planned a 1- week trip to Manali, my dream destination!! It was a 4 member family trip. As usual, things don’t always go with the plans, rather than planned, we cut short our days in Manali and accomodated Agra because my husband wanted to see the Taj Mahal.

I knew, that visiting Agra in summer, can be very very intense and tough for me and my daughter because we are not used to the heat, but how can I avoid Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in the 17th century as a symbol of his enduring love for his wife Mumtaz, the white marbled monument attracts some 3 million visitors a year.

We started our trip at 7 am in the morning from Delhi, because our driver had suggested that, to avoid the heavy city traffic, it is better to start journey as early as possible. Agra is a 3 hour journey from Delhi. It took around 30 minutes to reach Yamuna Expressway which connects Delhi with Agra. Also known as the Taj Expressway it is a 165-km long 6-lane elevated highway. Our driver told us that the speed limit here is 100 kmph which is monitored using CCTV cameras. He also said that if the speed limit goes beyond 100 kmph, the tyre may burst so he keeps the speed below 100 kmph.

On the way, after an hour's journey, we made our first stop in front of a roadside restaurant for breakfast where parking system is really good. Sorry, i can`t remember the restaurant's name. At the entrance of the restaurant, we saw a child performing with her father or uncle,some traditional Indian folk dance. We had our breakfast - Idli, Vadai and Bread Toast. After half an hour break, we resumed the journey.

Travelling along the classy Yamuna Expressway and seeing the beautiful view of the UP countryside with lush green fields was truly an awesome experience for us.

We reached Agra at around 11 am. As we drove along, we realised that Agra is a loud, crowded and polluted town filled with mountains of garbage. We wondered, being one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world, why the government and the people of Agra have not given a thought about keeping the city clean. Despite generating enormous amount of income from the tourist industry, no money has been spent in improving the infrastructure of the city. What a shame !

At around 11.15 am we reached Taj Mahal Vehicle Parking Area which is about 1 km from the Taj Mahal. After parking our car, we entered through the main gateway. The area was very very crowded, full of tourists and swarming with battery operated vehicles, cycle-rickshaws, horse-driven tongas and Camel Carts. Since walking in the heat was out of question, we choose a battery-operated vehicle to reach the Taj complex. On the way, the rider dropped us in the government handloom and handicrafts shops, situated near the western gate of the Taj. We saw sarees made of bamboo and banana and other hand-crafted items. Since, the unbearable heat in the shop made me uncomfortable, we didn`t waste anymore time there.

We bought entry tickets from the Taj Mahal ticket counter. Entry fee is 40 Rs for Indian visitors. The foreigner ticket price is 1000 rupees which includes: entry fee, shoe covers and a 500ml bottle of water. There is security check at the entrance, men through the right & women through the left side. We went through security, metal detectors and X-Ray Scanner for bags.

After security check, we had to wait in a queue at the entrance gate of the Taj Mahal. While standing in the queue, one of the security asked a woman who was standing in front of us, to show her identity card. Getting irritated by his questions, she murmered why these people were harrassing Indians themselves. I was also annoyed and confused why he was asking her, an Indian tourist like us, for the identity card. I guess her face did'nt look Indian, may be that's why. We saw many photographers and guides trying to sell their services. A photographer and a guide approached us and started irritating us. The guide offered us, if we hire him he can take us through the back gates (VIP entry) and organize tickets in that way we can avoid standing in long queue but for me the thought of walking in the scorching sun was out of question so i asked my husband to avoid the guide but the pleasant smile of the cameraman induced us to take our snaps.

After standing in line for half an hour, we were able to enter the huge main enterance.The entrance gate is scribed with some Quranic inscriptions in Mughal Architectural Style.

Finally we stepped into the Taj Complex. My excitement was too high, I can`t imagine that I am standing in front of the Taj, one of the great wonders of the world!. Needless to say, it was majestic view of the Taj Mahal.

As I was trying to capture the beauty of Taj with my eyes and mobile camera, our smiling Cameraman came into action and asked us to pose for his camera in different angles. As an obedient tourister we tried our best with different poses but the sun was giving us a hard time. It was so hot that I was unable to even look into camera. We saw people were lined up to get their photos taken on the 'Diana bench', where Princess Diana sat during her trip to India. We also joined them and took a family photo at the 'Diana bench'. Tired and thirsty, we gave up to the heat and said goodbye to our smiling photographer who charged Rs 500 for 10 photos. We then quickly made our way towards the Taj Mahal. A waterways with fountains leading up to the mausoleum adds to its beauty and grandeur, but we are really unlucky that the water was drained from the pools for cleaning. The Taj Mahal stands on a raised marble platform topped by a bulbous dome and surrounded by four s of equal height balance the postcard-perfect image on the banks of the River Yamuna.

While moving ahead, we found ourselves at the end yet another queue to enter the mausoleum which contains marble cenotaphs of Shah Jehan and Mumtaz Mahal. The mausoleum is flanked by a mosque and an assembly hall.

Before standing in queue, we took a seat in the shade of a tree nearby garden.

Since, the heat was exhausting, we drank all the remaining water from the bottle. My husband went to collect some water and 15 minutes later, he came with one bottle of water. He said, it was very difficult get water because only one water station was there and thousands of people standing in that queue. After taking some rest there, we finally got to the mausoleum itself.

Before entering, one have to put shoe covers on (or remove your shoes altogether) to protect the marble. We wore the shoe cover and climbed the monument plinth and stood again in a long queue.
It was ridiculously hot at that time, as if we are in a desert. We heard many people murmering about the lack of water facility.

We saw designs set in marble and each marble tile was carved out in the most gorgeous way possible.

We saw the Yamuna River complete with waste runs along the backside of the Taj.

Finally, we stepped into the mausoleum. As we entered the mausoleum, we felt as if we had entered an air conditioned area. It was so crowded and dark inside and photos were not allowed inside the mausoleum. Even in darkness, we saw the inlay work which are done on the marbles. But, we can’t see much, since the aggressive, whistle-blowing security guards in the mausoleum didn't give much time for the tourists. After battling the crowds, we came out of it from the rear door. We quickly viewed the side by side buildings and the impressive exterior design and took rest in the Taj Garden.

 

We saw shoe covers and water bottles disregarded all over the gardens and tired people washing face and drinking water from the hose. Spent 15 minutes there, we headed to the exit.

We had ice cream, kulfi and bought 3 bottle mineral water from a shop outside. At the exit point, we chose a horse carriage for the experience which dropped us off at the main entrance. The ride was memorable and funny for us, because the horse refused to move forward and just behind our carriage, a camel cart was coming us showing his pale teeth. Since, our horse is refuse to go, the camel gets angry, making some sound and stretches his head towards the place where me and mother was sitting. We both are really scared, seems that he is going to kiss us with his ugly teeth. Suddenly, our horse started to run, that time, I took a deep breath of relaxation. It was about 2:30 pm when we left the Taj Mahal complex where our driver is waiting for us. Before entering into the car, we called our professional photographer who took our photos and within 10 minutes he came with photos. We bid adieu to the historical city and proceeded towards Delhi from Agra.

Although, it was beautiful and incredible to be there, our biggest mistake was that we chose the wrong season to visit Taj Mahal. Finally, my suggestion to the travelers, visit the monument of love when the climate is more cooler and pleasant and also chose any simple Weekdays to avoid crowds.

 
By : Meera Vinod