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India's most romantic places

February 9, 2009

The subcontinent's most enchanting spots -- from Himalayan mountain retreats and wilderness camps to former maharajahs' palaces, says Sarah Gold.

The architectural magnificence of the Taj Mahal has been glorified, exalted, and celebrated for three and a half centuries, and rightfully so. The monument's ornate complex of minarets and pishtaqs (vaulted archways), topped by an opalescent white-marble dome and mirrored in a vast reflecting pool, is both colossal and ethereal; it's been declared both a Wonder of the Ancient World and, more poetically, "an eternal teardrop on the cheek of time."

What's even more wondrous about the Taj, though, is the love story behind it. Commissioned by the grief-stricken Moghul emperor Shah Jahan after the death of his favorite wife in 1631, the splendid palatial shrine is both a towering testament to lost love and a sanctuary in which it might be recovered (both the emperor and his wife made their final resting place inside the Taj's walls).

Is it possible to visit such a place -- or even to gaze at it from a hotel-room window -- and not feel deeply moved?

In Pictures: India's Most Romantic Places
Also see: 50 Best Romantic Getaways
Also see: World's Strangest Candy

Photograph: Oberoi Amarvilas, courtesy Oberoi Hotels and Resorts

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