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Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal travel guide

The world's most romantic lump of marble, India's Taj Mahal is one the sites you have to see before you die – and yes, you CAN avoid the crowds

Man’s greatest monument to love. ‘A teardrop on the face of eternity’ (wrote Rabindranath Tagore). The place that launched a million postcard-sellers (wrote us).

The Taj Mahal – that pearl-white, extravagantly beautiful mausoleum shimmering alongside Agra’s Yamuna River – has certainly garnered more than its fair share of gushing epithets, not to mention tourists; it must be the most-visited spot in India by a country mile.

Not without reason: seeing the Taj materialise in the dawn glow, ghostly and more fragile-looking than something so big has any right to be, is truly a spiritual experience.

The Taj Mahal was built in 1653 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, to commemorate his beloved Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth. The finest artisans from Asia and Europe worked to design and create the elaborate patterns of marble and semi-precious stones inlaid in the main mausoleum, and the entire site – with four minarets standing guard at the mausoleum’s corner – is a triumph of symmetry and grace.

Enjoying that quintessential Taj Mahal encounter is not without its pitfalls. Alongside those hordes of postcard-sellers, sometimes-pushy guides and rickshaw drivers, the Taj itself has suffered in recent years – pollution has tainted its smooth marble exterior, though a recent ban on traffic nearby should help protect it.

But that’s quibbling. Get here early morning, before the day-trippers arrive, or wangle a moonlight visit, and spend time just looking and absorbing; there’s serenity here, among the crowds, and something new to entrance at every glance.

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