I learnt a phenomenal statistic this morning - over 2.5 million tourists visit the Taj Mahal every year!
2.2 million of these are domestic tourists. This perhaps accounts for the rather higher dosage of pushing and shoving that goes on, but it also accounts for kaleidoscope of colour that you are treated to when wandering around this magnificent Mughal monument.
Another fun fact about the Taj is that Emperor Shah Jahan intended to build a mirror image of his vast tomb on the opposite bank of the river, in black marble, but his sons declared war on him so his plans fell short. It is rife with stories and speculations - 22,000 artisans are said to have been involved with its construction, 1000 elephants with the transportation of materials and it took almost two decades to complete.
I sometimes meet travellers who claim that they don’t feel the need to see the Taj and that they would rather see the ‘real India’. Quite frankly, I would say that this iconic edifice IS the ‘real India’. It represents so much of history and the Royalty of days gone by and of culture; if native Indians are flocking to see it from all the corners of this vast nation, then surely it is the epitome of Indian realism!
In future, I will respond to them with a saying used in India: 'The world is divided into two types of people, those who have seen the Taj and those who have not!'