After our time in Rajasthan with Me to We, Dana and I embarked on a whirlwind of a tour to the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. Surprisingly, I felt more of a culture shock in the state of Uttar Pradesh than I did in the small village of Kelwara. Not only is Uttar Pradesh India’s most populous state, at 232 million people, it is the most populous country subdivision in the entire world. There are people everywhere. The Taj Mahal definitely reflects this population density; during the busy season, up to 70,000 people visit per day – and most of the tourists are from India itself.
The Taj Mahal is considered one of the greatest acts of love in history. It was commissioned in 1631 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, as a memorial to his favourite wife, Mumat Mahal, who passed away giving birth to their fourteenth child. Her tomb is located at the centre of the entire complex under the magnificent marble dome. The Taj Mahal is an architectural masterpiece; each side of the structure is completely symmetrical, with the exterior decorations designed proportionally to suit every perspective. Surrounding the Taj Mahal is a traditional Mughal garden, the Yamuna River, and three outlying buildings all comprised of red sandstone; the main gateway, a mosque to the west, and an identical building to mirror said mosque in the east. We visited the Taj at both sunset and sunrise, which I highly recommend doing if you ever have the chance to visit – it is absolutely spectacular to see the incredible building bathed in both evening and morning light.
On our way back to Delhi we stopped at Wildlife SOS, an elephant conservation centre and sanctuary in Mathura, India. This organization rescues and rehabilitates wildlife in distress, including elephants, bears, and leopards, with the hope of releasing them back into the wild. Unfortunately, many animals in India – particularly elephants – are abused, tortured, and put to work while held in captivity. Wildlife SOS rescues these elephants and retires them in their elephant sanctuary, where these beautiful animals can spend the rest of their days eating and playing with each other. If you’re interested in learning more about Wildlife SOS, check out Raju’s story.
On our quick tour through New Delhi, we visited Humayun’s Tomb, the Jama Masjid Mosque, the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh Temple, and the Khan Market, a trendy outdoor market in the heart of the city. New Delhi is the capital city of India and the urban core of Delhi. It is a unique city with streets reminiscent of European thoroughfares and an eclectic mix of Classical British, Hindu, and Mughal architecture.
Looking back, it’s crazy to think how much we saw in only 36 hours - our trip to the Taj Mahal was an adventure, to say the least! Dana and I had an amazing time in India, and realize we may never have another opportunity like this one - it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will remember forever.