Agra: A Love Story

How not to travel #4 –  Go to the city of love during a break up.

“Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice [Taj Mahal] has been made;
To display thereby the creator’s glory.”

-Emperor Shah Jahan in: [Mahajan, Vidya Dhar (1970). Muslim Rule In India. p. 200] and David Carroll, Newsweek, inc. Book Division The Taj Mahal, Newsweek, 1973

People come from all over the world to witness the largest standing testament to love. On first sight it appears on the horizon, on the banks of the river Yamuna in the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh, through the mist it sits majestic, like a dream.

Surrounded by a myriad of dirt and madness; enormous goats, crumbling houses, circling birds of prey, paper flag bunting and the flock of tourists on official buggies; the moths to the flame. The Taj stands amidst this undefeated.

It was hot, and I felt like I was going to get burnt, I already had. Don’t go to the city of love during a break up. A break up is like being in a strange place anyway, a place where you’re removed from your usual comfort zones. The last thing you want is to be surrounded by the epitome of love itself and hoards of couples off their tits on the idea. Although love sits at the centre of the Taj’s existence, it was the loss of love that caused its creation. Through the grief of loosing his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal in 1632, the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, commissioned the Taj to be built. He also had to sit in sorrow for another 16 years while it was being completed.

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Later on in his reign the emperor was captured by his son, Aurangzeb. Shah Jahan was then forced to spend the last 8 years of his life there, only viewing the Taj from his bared window within the fort. After which he finally rejoined his wife, being buried in the Taj alongside her. The Fort is hailed as one of the best Mughal forts in India by Lonely Planet, and it is definitely worth a visit. It is one of the most important and robustly built stronghold of the Mughals, embellished with a number of richly decorated buildings encompassing the imposing Mughal style of art and architecture. It was constructed by the third Mughal emperor Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh.

With all this drama maybe Agra is the perfect place during a breakup. My problems are peanuts. I’m going to go and feed the chipmunks.

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