Going from a village to a 5 star hotel was a welcomed change. We arrived in Agra after a four hour long van ride. We were served a florescent green drink in chilled glasses, and our rooms were upgraded to suites for no reason at all. The Jaypee Palace lives up to its reputation. It has perfectly manicured gardens, a gym to die for, and a breakfast buffet that has everything from cereal and omelet’s, to traditional Indian dishes. We left the next morning at 5:15 am so we could get to the Taj Mahal before the crowds did. Nitan, our guide, was like an Indian Wikipedia, explaining everything and more. As you walk towards the Taj Mahal it appears to get bigger. A white giant that, although it is made of stone, feels alive and warm. Seeing the Taj has made the top ten things I’ve done in my life list. It is a mausoleum built to fulfill the dying wish of a Mughal emperor’s favorite wife. It was interesting to find out that the emperor that built it, Shah Jahan, was put in prison by his son because of his poor use of money in a tower that looked out at the Taj Mahal. All of the decorations are inlaid stones, not paintings. There are passages from the Koran around the entrances. The towers around the Taj were built so they lean slightly away from the Taj Mahal, so that if there is an earthquake they will fall away from it and not on the tombs of the Emperor and his beloved wife. It is a building that screams perfection and symmetry. The only thing that is not in perfect balance is in the center of the Taj, where the imitation tombs are laid. There is space on one side without a tomb, it was left empty. The real Tombs are below the Taj Mahal where they are kept safe. Shah Jahans wife’s tomb is inscribed with 99 names of God. This is what the emperor said about this magnificent building,
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 has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory.
It is hard to walk away when you are in the presence of something so magnificent. But the breakfast buffet ended at 11:00 and we still wanted to see the Agra Fort.