Of all the amazing sites we have seen, the Taj Mahal is one of the most famous and easily recognized. It is considered one of the new seven wonders of the world and is an UNESCO World Heritage site. We went at sunrise (even though we are not fans of getting up early) because it is a beautiful time of day to view the Taj and because it is much less crowded then later in the day. The city of Agra hosts 7-8 million visitors each year to see the Taj Mahal.
It is a perfectly serene place with its pathways beside the reflecting pool leading up to the mausoleum built of soft, pure marble and decorated with semi precious stones. The marble of the Taj takes on different shades during different times of day. We saw it turn pinkish as the sun rose. It is milky white as the sun sets and golden when the moon shines.
The name Taj Mahal means Crown of Palaces. Construction began in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who dies giving birth to their 14th child. Construction of the mausoleum was essentially completed in 1643 but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans. The decoration looks like paint but is actually tiny, cut, semi-precious stones like jade and sapphire.
Not long after it was finished Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb and imprisoned in Agra Fort where, for the rest of his days, he could only gaze out at his creation through a window. Following his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried here next to Mumtaz.
With only two more weeks in India we are on our way to the northeast border of the country to hopefully see Mount Everest.