Taj by night!

S Balakrishnan
Taj Mahal is a feast for eyes; more so when it glows in the natural pearly light of the full moon. I had the fortune of enjoying such a marvellous sight in 1980. Sharad Purnima (full moon in the month of Ashwin/Sept.-Oct.) is the best full moon night to view Taj Mahal. But I was late by a month on the night of Kartik Purnima (Oct.-Nov.). The credit for viewing the full moon-lit Taj and the blame for not viewing on Sharad Purnima but on Kartik Purnima goes to my great host and friend Mr. N. Sundaram, now Dr. Sundaram. We got acquainted while working in Port Blair a year back in 1979. Then I moved on transfer to Cuttack and then to Central Institute for Research on Goats (CIRG), Makhdhoom, Farah, in Uttar Pradesh, in between Agra & Mathura.  The travel bug in me thought ‘What a chance to visit Taj and Mathura, Lord Krishna’s Janma Bhoomi, on the pretext of visiting him; boarding & lodging would be completely free!
We had a daytime view of the Taj Mahal and then moved over to Fatehpur Sikri, the abandoned capital of Akbar, some 36 km from Agra.  Returning to Agra again, we stayed at the Taj Mahal complex, as long as we desired, for the luminescent view of the monument in the light of Kartik full moon. Sitting in the lawn, away from the crowd, we drank the white beauty to our content.  In those days, terrorism threat was not there and so the security was lax. So much so that one could even have dinner at Taj! (See my article ‘Dinner @ Taj!’ - https://thephoenixpostindia.com/?s=Dinner+%40+Taj%21). But now there are many restrictions & limitations, especially for a night view (check the website of Taj Mahal). Unfortunately, I did not have a good camera but just a small camera – Agfa Isoly-II. Sundaram had a camera that could click double the number of 72 snaps in the standard roll of 36 frames. So I could click only a poor shot of the full moon-lit Taj. But I exhausted all the 72 frames clicking the Taj during the day visit.  
All in all the whole experience was an exhilarating one - a close friend by the side, the Taj Mahal bathed in moon light, and the pleasant October winter night!  I have one more unfulfilled desire of viewing Taj Mahal drenched in the rains. After this first visit, it was 25 years later that I visited Taj next during a summer. By that calculation, I have to wait for eight more years from now to complete the next cycle of 25 years for my hat trick visit during the monsoon of 2029.  But will they allow me then with a walking stick, for I will be 73 years old then. Plan well in advance for a darshan of Taj during the next Sharad Purnima which is on Sunday the 9th October 2022.  
The wanderer in me next took me to the Sun Temple in Konark for a floodlight-lit view of the Temple. Viewers were not allowed inside the complex during night then, so I viewed it walking on the broad compound wall. The Black Pagoda presented a dramatic view as the floodlights were switched off one after another from each direction. Thus within a gap of a month I had the privileged darshan of the White Beauty and the Black Beauty in moonlight and floodlight!
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