As many of you may know, a new list of the Seven Wonders of the World, as voted on by millions of the planet's inhabitants, has finally been published. An original 200 nominations in 1999 were narrowed down to 77 and eventually to 21.
I was excited by the final list, as I have had the pleasure of visiting all seven of the sites. Last month’s article on Petra, in Jordan, was the first and this month, I will concentrate on India’s famed Taj Mahal.
I enjoyed my visit to India immensely, and when in Agra spent a great deal of time at the Taj Mahal, an amazing architectural accomplishment. So important is the Taj to India's growing tourist trade, the government has forbidden any industry within the confines of Agra, the city of 1.5 million people and home to the Taj Mahal.
Taking it one step further, all gasoline powered vehicles must stay outside of the 1 km radius of the monument. Amusingly, my hotel was about 600m away, and an electric golf cart transported me to the ancient site.
The Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1633 and is the finest example of Muslim architecture in the world. Ironically it is in a country where 75% of the people are Hindu. I had always been under the impression the Taj was a Temple, and was astounded to learn it is a tomb built for the Emperor's wife.
Grief stricken upon her premature death with the birth of their 14th child, the Emperor immediately commissioned work on the elaborate tomb in her honour. 22,000 Craftsmen laboured for 17, years to complete what has been deemed the most flawless architectural creation in the world. The cost became so prohibitive, that it nearly bankrupted the royal coffers.
Prior to its completion, the Emperor decided to build a second monument as a final resting place for himself. In contrast to the white marble of the Taj Mahal his tomb would be made of black marble, imported from northern India.
Work began, but the Emperor's eldest son became weary of the constant expense. Not being able to alter his father's ambition, he decided to have the Emperor arrested and imprisoned in the nearby Red Fort. Ironically, the Emperor had a perfect view of the Taj Mahal, but never set foot within its walls, even though his wife was buried there. He died after eight years of imprisonment.
The craftsmanship of the monument is breathtaking. It becomes inconceivable to understand how artists inlaid tens of thousands of precious stones to form floral designs. The marble is as white today as it was the day it was laid.
Agra is a one hour flight from Delhi, but the train experience makes the trip a true adventure. Admission to the Taj is $6, unless you are a resident, in which case it is fifty cents. Signs forbidding spitting are common, and lawnmowers are nothing more than oxen pulling a cutting device.
Wandering the grounds, staring in awe from every angle while surrounded by people wearing colourful saris, easily lets you understand why the Taj Mahal was voted one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
I was intrigued by the four minarets, which are built on a slight angle to ensure they fall away from the main building in the event of an earthquake. The inside stairs are now sealed to the public, as it was the site of the most suicides in the world.
It is next to impossible to explain the splendour of this magnificent structure, and a personal visit is definitely worth the trek. For those not able to visit India, the Foster Memorial in Uxbridge was fashioned after India’s famous Wonder of the World.
The additional six new wonders are: Corcovado, in Rio de Janeiro, the Great Wall of China, the Coliseum in Rome, Peru's Machu Picchu, Mexico's Temple at Chichen Itza and the temples at Petra, Jordan.