While going through my mixed up and messily catalogued, that is a very generous term, slides, I came across these two images of the Taj Mahal. I am pretty sure that I have some more, but the state of my slide storage means that I am unlikely to come across them in a hurry, chance discoveries aside. So I scanned in what I had found with my rudimentary equipment and am sharing them here.

The year was 1990, the month February. I was on the road, exploring. I set off from home with a strong urge to see the the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains, and Central Asia as well. Something else was pulling me to the subcontinent. I was not sure what, but the pull was strong and I knew that I had to make this trip.

I had destinations and I also had time. Not unlimited time, but enough to allow myself the flexibility to explore as my nose took me. About six months into the trip I found myself in India. I had no plans for India. I can’t even remember if India was on my itinerary when I left home? As I traveled through this year away my interest in Tibetan Buddhism deepened. Such did not exist at all before I left. My travels introduced me to something sitting deep inside, uncovered it for me, revealing why I had left home. Perhaps I shall say more in a later post?

So I had wandered down to India in no small part because India is the birth place of Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha. During my time there I visited pilgrimage places connected with the Buddhist traditions, and at the same time I had other interests, curiosities….so those curiosities took me to the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum for the wife of fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (r. 1628–1658), a symbol of the love he held for his wife, alongside his own immense wealth.

When I found my photos of this famous building, I went back to my journal to see how my time in Agra, where the Taj Mahal is situated, was. I was surprised by what I read. I do remember having some problems there. Being continually hassled to visit marble factories, the Taj Mahal is made out of marble, by people in my hotel, by rickshaw drivers. Those taking me would get a commission whether I buy something or not. I turned down all offers, though finally relented just because I got fed up with the struggle…and actually found the visit quite interesting.

Then there was the Taj Mahal itself. I don’t know what I would think of the building now, but this is what my twenty six year old self had to say,

The Taj Mahal was crowded and I had to queue for tickets. I walked through the entrance to the gardens and there it was. Initial reaction? Smaller and slightly overrated. It was swarming with mostly Indian tourists. I just sat and looked. Basically it’s a white Mausoleum made out of marble and inlaid with semiprecious stones. I walked around it and waited until the sunset. The Taj turned ghostly, appearing from a distance to hang there.

“Smaller and slightly overrated” Hmm? I don’t sound as though I was too impressed? That’s a shame. And smaller than what, I don’t know? Than what I was expecting? I do remember the inlays of semiprecious stones, though. I think that some of the undiscovered slides that I have from my visit includes photos of some of those inlays.

The Taj Mahal, an ivory-white marble mausoleum built in the tradition of traditions of Indo-Islamic and Mughal architecture seen on a misty morning across its reflecting pool.
The Taj Mahal early in the morning.

A close up of the marble side of the Taj Mahal with the sun shining on it creating a gold glow, with people walking around in front.
The sun catches the side of the Taj Mahal.

Although I was staying in Agra, the next day I headed out to Fatehpur Sikri, an abandoned yet well preserved Mughal town. Founded as the capital of the Mughal Empire in 1571, by 1610 it was completely deserted.

The following morning, before leaving Agra, I went for an early morning visit to the Taj Mahal to watch the sunrise over the mausoleum. I was joined by an Australian couple. This is what I wrote,

We walked to the Taj, no hassle, and boy was it quiet; the right time to visit it. Again ghostly white in the early morning mist. I went inside. The cooing of the pigeons inside echoed beautifully as did the occasional “la, la” of an Indian obviously there to demonstrate the echo. Dimly lit candles and the early morning sun. I walked around. Yes beautiful, but not worth a trip all the way to India. I still think rather overrated.

Hmm? I still don’t seem to be impressed…that or it was growing on me and I didn’t want to admit it to myself. My perspective might have been affected by the hassle that I received by so many people trying to sell me something? I certainly experienced more of that than I had done anywhere else in the six months I had been away. It was tiring and spoiled the experience of my visit to Agra.

The final photo, more grainy than the others, is the Taj Mahal from a distance with the Yamuna River behind it.

A calm river bends around a hazy landscape with buildings in the distance and a rocky shoreline in the foreground.
The Taj Mahal peeking above surrounding buildings with the Yammu River behind it.