Friday, 28 October 2011

The Taj Mahal and Some Fireworks

I would, at the outset of this blog post, like to inform you that I am writing it after having got very little sleep the night before. This is largely due to the fact that I was on a train and the person next to me snored at a decibel level that would shame a Boeing. I will add that (minus the snoring) the train was a fantastic experience and I'm looking forward to my next train trip - which is a long one!

Wednesday was Diwali, by the way, but I'll get to that a little later on. First on the agenda is this:

The Taj Mahal is, simply put, the most beautiful building I have ever seen. It is seemingly perfect in every way. It stands on a raised platform so that it's only backdrop is the sky. The four minarets lean ever so slightly outwards so that one's gaze is drawn to the Taj. The white marble reflects the sun to give the whole building a slight glow. And it is big. It is very, very big yet somehow, I had expected it to be smaller. All the pictures of the Taj make it appear smaller than it is, but as you approach it you can't help but be blown away by the enormity of it. It's as if the Taj is trying to sneak up on you and then jump out at you while shouting, "Surprise!"

There is an interesting optical illusion as you enter the Taj complex. As you walk into the gateway the Taj appears to be magnified, but upon exiting the gate the Taj seems to recede. The effect is that you get overawed by the building twice on you approach to it. See for yourself:

Entering the Taj grounds through the main gate

Inside the Taj grounds, at the reflection pool
I thought this optical illusion was a fantastic piece of architecture and design and I had to share it with you.

Did I mention something about fireworks? Oh, yes - Diwali!

Diwali is something special. It is the craziest, loudest and brightest (and possibly the most dangerous) festival I have ever attended. And by attended I mean observed from a safe distance. Diwali in India is both easy and difficult to describe. It is easy to say that firecrackers and fireworks were set off the whole night, but it is not easy to convey that that means by everyone and everywhere. I sat for hours on a rooftop watching the festivities. There was a constant stream of fireworks being shot into the sky from all around. And firecrackers exploded everywhere, creating a rhythm for the night.

This was only a few metres way from my perch
The thought of venturing on to the streets didn't cross my mind once, though. This is because the streets didn't look like a safe place to be at all. I watched fireworks being placed and lit and then people on motorbikes casually driving past as they shot into the air. I watched as fireworks were shot into the air nearby and exploded merely 10 metres above the rooftop I was sitting on.

Diwali is not safe, but it is a blast! I'm so glad I got to experience the festival of light in the country that loves it the most. It was a whirl of light, noise and sound and a fantastic shock to the senses. It was the perfect way to end a day that included a trip to the Taj Mahal.

I'll write more about my train journey and Varanasi in my next blog. Spoiler alert: I wasn't in Varanasi for more than 10 minutes before I saw a body being carried to the Ganges for burning on a funeral pyre.


  1. How much do you spent for this trip?? I am planning to go with my friends but we don't know the budget. Is 4-5 days enough?

  2. 4-5 days in Agra? Yes, 4 or 5 days in Agra will be enough, but you'll battle to see much of India in just 4 days. Entrance to the Taj is 750 rupees for a foreigner. A safe budget would be 1000 - 1500 rupees per day (excluding the Taj entrance and entrance to other sites), but you can easily do it for less. I think I spent about 900 rupees a day in Agra (on average, excluding the Taj) That budgets for accommodation, meals and getting around quite comfortably. Hope this helps.