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Did you know that the Indian authorities are seriously intending to close the Taj Mahal to visitors within the next five years? If this temple to love has always been on your wish list for the ultimate Indian odyssey, then you will have to make some plans to get there before it is too late.

That Taj Mahal, the "tear on the face of eternity" is an iconic white marble mausoleum in Agra and was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz had tragically died giving birth to their 14th child, Gauhara and the emperor was inconsolate with grief. It is universally considered to be a masterpiece and a UNESCO world heritage site of distinction and great beauty. To add to the romance of the legend, over 1,000 elephants transported precious materials from all over Asia to add to the elaborate architectural detailing. Jasper came from Punjab, jade and crystal from China, turquoise from Tibet, sapphire from Sri Lanka and Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan. Rather like the pyramids, thousands and thousands of workers, including skilled craftsmen, were employed to build the monument, with work beginning in 1632 and finishing 22 years later. Always popular with lovers and romantics, there is another lure to the phenomenal pavilion. The guilty are supposed to be pardoned there and any sinners have their sins washed away. Maybe this is why is still attracts more than 2 million visitors every year? The best times to view are said to be sunrise and sunset and it is also open on the night of the Full Moon (although not during Ramadan).

Having survived potential bombing by the Luftwaffe and the Japanese and then the internal wars of 1951 and 1972, the Taj Mahal has faced its biggest threat from modern environmental conditions. Acid rain and pollution are slowly turning the marble yellow and perhaps as serious, the river level is dropping at a rate of five feet a year leading to cracks appearing in the famous tombs. The minarets on the tomb were seen to be tilting in 2010 and there have been predictions that it will in fact collapse. Although polluting traffic is now banned anywhere near the site and visitors have to either walk or make their way by electric bus, many fear that the damage is now done and closure is inevitable.

Should you decide you better stop procrastinating and start making that yearned for trip to India a reality, there are many other reasons to visit the Agra region. The mighty Mughal emperors were in a permanent battle to outdo each other with their magnificent palaces. The red sandstone Agra Fort is perhaps the second most famous and there are also the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, the Mehtab Bagh and the Swamadhi Swamiji Maharaj Bagh to see, the latter still being slowly built to this day, 80 years after conception. With a 7 night trip, you could start in Old Delhi, take in the wonders of the Taj and still fit in Jodphur and Jaipur. A word of warning though, you may fall in love with India just as badly as Shah Jahan was besotted with Mumtaz.

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