What I Thought About After Seeing The Taj Mahal

Friday, March 29, 2013


I never knew the Taj Mahal was a tomb. I honestly feel a little ashamed admitting this fact, but the thought that such a beautiful, grand, white, marble structure that is known throughout the world is somehow associated with death seems foreign to me.

Yet, maybe that is the point. My fascination with the Taj Mahal began when I realized that it was a symbol of love while representing death. It has evolved because the Taj Mahal, as an Islamic structure, has come to represent a predominantly Hindu country, even with the tension between these two religions in India.

A Mughul emperor built the mausoleum to show his love to his deceased wife (his third wife to be precise). The extent of symmetry of the Taj is oddly eerie and heavenly at the same time. The careful balancing of architecture and greenery around the body of the Mughal’s wife would make even the most analytic person stand in awe; there was even a building built to match and balance the mosque on the grounds.

In a twist of fate, the only point of imbalance in the Taj Mahal is the body of the Mughal emperor next to his wife. It’s been said that the emperor did not want to be buried with his wife and ruin the balance of the mausoleum. The emperor wanted another mausoleum for himself, a mirror image of the Taj Mahal across the river in black marble so he would always be facing his wife. Of course, as shown throughout human history, time, money and willpower inhibited the dream of a second Taj.


Feet on the cool marble, it feels odd to be shoeless in this masterpiece that crosses the thresholds of love and death. I walk the perimeter and see tourists of every nationality and citizens of India just hanging out. If there is one thing for sure known while visiting the Taj Mahal, it’s that you’re well protected, but like all security measures, there are some interesting experiences.

Maybe not known in other parts of the world, but some of the post-9/11 security measures is apparently a big joke to the locals and a sore spot for officials in India. India borders Pakistan, and their relationship has always been unfriendly at best. After the 9/11 attacks, India became worried about their own national treasures. Yet, their idea of protection is to cover the building with a dark cloth at night. The question for most Indians was not about a Pakistani attack, but why worry about the Taj Mahal and how would a piece of cloth would help protect it at night.?

The Taj is an Islamic historical site with a mosque, so why would Pakistan, an Islamic country, try to destroy another Islamic building? Also, the argument for most people wanting to cover the Taj was because the Taj is so big it can be seen well from the air, especially in a full moon. So of course putting a dark cloth on the most famous building will help protect it from an air attack on a full moon. Taj terrorists please ignore the dark shape building, and also don’t use GPS either to locate or destroy the target.

Now, even though this security measure was a complete failure, the security to visit this historic site sort of scared me. Before arriving at the Taj Mahal, I was told that I could not bring food, and to bring only the essentials like a camera on to the site. When I arrived at security, I realized I had forgotten to take some things out of my bag. The security lady angrily asked, “Why do you have so many pens? Why do you have a stuffed animal? And why do you have a deck of cards?” I had a few things confiscated from me, but I was fortunately able to retrieve them four hours later when I left the Taj.

Even with all of the rather funny accounts about security and somewhat rather horrid history (it is allaged that the builder’s hands was cut off after completion so he couldn’t make anything more beautiful?), the Taj Mahal has an interesting peace about it. As a visitor today, I admire the elegant calligraphy on the sides of its walls. I brought my own perception about India when I visited here, and the Taj Mahal reminds me things are much more complicated than they ever seem.

By Janice Byth

[Taj Mahal by Christopher John via/Flickr]



janicbythbiopicJanice Byth is a student at Goucher College. She enjoys going on adventures, dancing and photography. She is constantly balancing her time with reading, writing, researching her next trip, and studying. She sells her photography from her latest travels at society6.com/JaniceKByth.

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