The Taj Mahal is the icon of India, the magical monument that draws millions of people, every year, into the northern city of Agra. And while the colossal building’s characteristic minarets are so familiar, nothing can really prepare you for the moment the entrance gate archways recede to reveal the grand Taj. With the geometric gardens and waterways rolling out like a carpet leading to the pristine Taj in the distance, it is a view you won’t soon forget. However, like the rest of India, there is so much more to see as you lean a little closer.
The seemingly monochromatic mausoleum is actually made up of twenty-eight different precious and semi-precious stone varieties. With a hint of poetic justice, India itself is comprised of twenty-nine different states. The Asian sub-continent we often see as one monochromatic nation, is actually a melting pot of many diverse cultures, languages, and religions.
When you look a little closer at the Taj’s smooth marble surfaces, you’ll see beautiful calligraphy transcribing Persian poems accompanied by colorful inlay designs of tessellations and vegetative motifs. These are a reflection of the Taj’s Moghul commissioner, Shah Jahan. The engraved passages from the Qur’an represent the faith of a small minority in India, who is home to Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jain alike. Even more diverse are the languages; India has twenty-two official languages and at least 150 with a sizeable speaking population. And if you think you know your way around an Indian take-out menu, don’t be surprised to find a distinct lack of butter chicken while on your journey through India. Each region boasts their own culinary specialties, a result of the vast country’s many diverse climates. You’re just as (un)likely to find naan bread as you are cheesy garlic bread in the south of India.
Let the Taj Mahal and other Indian treasures take your breath away on Zoom’s luxurious, culturally rich tour through northern India. Experience the surprising diversity that only India can offer as soon as you decide to look a little closer.