A Tale of Beauty and Neglect

If you’ve ever visited the Taj Mahal, you would know exactly what to expect. The gorgeous white mausoleum has been oft documented, the structure itself being a timeless ode to love. With the intricate carvings and the polished marble, the more extravagant visitors are more than willing to pay a bomb to wake up to the sight of the Taj Mahal at sunrise (yes, it’s a six-figure amount).

At the Kohinoor Suite in the Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, one can view the Taj Mahal from the bathroom as well!

Now, picture this. An absolutely stunning structure stands casually in the middle of a crowded street, swarming with people and honking vehicles. The passers-by don’t look twice at this beautiful blend of Indo-Islamic and Gothic architecture; for them it’s always been there. The Mahabat Maqbara stands tall, like it has since years, waiting for someone to turn around and appreciate its intricacies. Seemingly allotted a “protected status”, the first clue towards the neglect being showered on it is the signboard itself — its rusty and the paint has peeled off in places, making the words barely legible.

However, all of that pales into insignificance when you turn around to get your first glimpse of the monument. French style windows, whimsical, spiralling minarets, ornate carvings, marble jalis and Gothic columns — the structure has it all. And if you’re lucky enough to go at sunset (like I was), you can watch the setting sun paint the sky in various hues as it descends behind the Maqbara.

The foolhardy can risk the climb up the crumbling staircases of the minarets and get a closer look at the carvings on the mosque, along with a sweeping view of the surroundings. I’d recommend you to not, though. The minarets are falling apart, and in my delight at the view, I was foolish enough to rest against the column. The stones shifted, and I narrowly escaped a fall.

We lost track of time spent marvelling at the structure. At some point, a young fellow came up to us and wondered why we were so intently gazing at the Maqbara. For him, it was an everyday sight. In fact, he even showed us a shortcut to his house which was hidden behind the ruins of the boundary wall. I’m sure he thought we were oddities, clicking pictures of the mausoleum non-stop and singing praises of its beauty.

Eventually, and with a great deal of regret, we drove ahead. The memory is imprinted in my mind, for it made the road trip to Saurashtra infinitely better. But for those who are yet to see it, here’s a picture.

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