Taj at Agra vs. Taj at Trafalgar – Wonders never cease to happen

Recently, our Taj Mahal got into the new seven wonders of the world, and I am sure it was the single most voted entry (ok, maybe after the Great Wall)

The last I visited Taj was in January, but the last look I had at it was a couple of weeks ago, at Trafalgar Square! Let me recount both instances for you, and since I have now learnt to upload pictures on ghumakkar, I have uploaded some, here as well as my last post!

This jan we had decided to make a really frugal trip over the weekend, so we decided to take the Haryana roadways bus to Agra. Now these start at a place called Sarai kale khan in Delhi, a place that by western sensibilities of today can be termed exotic, but I would stick to calling it, more appropriately, filthy. As we got into the rickety bus, the adventure began, which soon reached a climax when my friend picked a fight with the vendor on the midway tea stall over him overcharging on everything, and made a video on his mobile to report the cheating, as a mob gathered around. Even as it got settled and we were on our way in no time, we still pulled into Agra only late afternoon, almost a 5.5 hour journey.

The journey to see the replica of the Taj in London was much less dramatic…

The replica was launched at the start of “India Now” celebrations in London which is an ongoing 90 day affair throughout the city, to promote Indian tourism. A replica of Taj was made to float on the Thames on the first day, with celebrities like Rahul Dravid and Shilpa Shetty (err..umm..) present to make the occasion memorable, for people who care to remember such things, that is. The Taj replica was made to stand in Trafalgar square thereafter.

The real Taj in Agra has to be seen to be believed. We took a small hotel very near to the west entrance of the Taj, being on a budget and all. I can’t remember the name of the hotel correctly but it was Taj Palace or something and it was a satellite hotel of the Grand Amar Vilas of the Oberois, but it was particularly nice as it provided a good view of Taj from its terrace. If one can convince these hotels that you are from traveling business and have clients staying next door in the big five star, they may actually give you a discount, to attract repeat business! We went to have a dekko at the wonder when it is at its best, in the evening. Avoiding the zillions of guides outside the gate is a herculean task when one tried to enter Taj. An easy way out is to hire one, so the others are kept away, and then ditch the one you hired and run away from him as soon as possible. Some may want to stick with him too, as he may point out some details one would not notice otherwise, as to various angles to look at the monument to see its 4 minarets reduce to 3 to 2, and so on. The Taj is majestic at any time of the day, but it is only after dark that it gets ethereal. It sits there, a pale white, and if you look at it from a distance, you wonder if it is there at all, or is it just a divine halo of a structure. The full moon can elevate the view to an unscalable grandeur. I have yet to see another sight to match it, and I say this with full conviction.

The Taj at Trafalgar square of course seemed a bit out of place. It was a mini miniature version standing in the shadow of the Nelson’s column and the famous lion statues. This served as a backdrop to many a celebratory events on Trafalgar square celebrating the India festival, as some london-bred dancers performed a fusion performance in front of a large gathering of people. I couldn’t help but feel how completely out of place the performances felt, being presented by western dance troupes fusing everything from ballet to salsa to the over-exploited bhangra in garish bollywood cum opera themed performances, it was as out of place as the Taj miniature itself.

We saw only the Taj in Agra, that was what we had gone there for. We took a walk around it, and saw it once again in morning just for the heck of it, before boarding the rickety ride back to delhi. It is saddening that a true wonder in our country which is celebrated and miniature-erected in a far-away land, with thousands of people of all origins queuing to get their pictures clicked against, is actually in the midst of what can be best termed as shambles, the extremely dirty city that Agra has become.


  • Jaishree says:

    I specially liked your line about Sarai Kale Khan being termed exotic when actually it is filthy. This I had noticed at many places and have thought just like you but could never put it so beautifully.

    I have read all of your posts and liked all of them.:))

  • Manish khamesra says:

    Many times I have also listened from my friends (Many of whom are foreigners)who have visited Taj, that how utterly disgusting surroundings of Taj are. How disgusting the hoards of vendors and guides are.

    We should really learn to respect the tourist and their wishes. I am sure with the respect, cleanliness, more and more tourist will be able to appreciate Agra as a whole.

  • nandanjha says:

    Very good post. Probably this kind of log will distinguish ghumakkar from other places, we are not on data but on experiences.

    As for Agra, I dont know whats stopping us here since we generate tons of revenue and why some part of it can’t be spent on cleaning the city. I was there a year and a half back and we drove through Agra, it was so difficult to believe that this is the place where Taj sits.

    On a side note, a satellite hotel of Amar Vilas probably wont qualify to be a budget-hotel :) and I think I have been to this hotel, is this the one which has this revolving restaurant on top ?

  • Rahul says:

    Thanks Jaishree! Even I’ve been following the Sikkim journey closely, and its sounding so inviting.

    No Jha ji, it isnt the one with a revolving restaurant. The only thing revolving was the chair on which I was seated in its lobby, as one of its legs was broken! It was a cheap hotel after all… lol

  • Shaguna says:

    Nice post!
    One truly has to SEE the Taj to believe what you wrote! You inspired me to visit it in the night. Thanks :)

  • smita says:

    that one (revolving top) was something else. it was called something else. it is now called hotel pushp villa.

    we were dead ill in there, so we had a rather horrible experience.

  • Jesskarr says:

    I love the Taj Mahal. My favorite hotel is the Amarvillas. Esp their pool

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