By Cheena Kapoor
New Delhi, India (AA) - As part of his maiden two-day trip to India, U.S. President Donald Trump visited the iconic mausoleum Taj Mahal in the city of Agra, in India’s largest province of Uttar Pradesh.
The visit, accompanied by his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, was the second leg of his first day in India after they landed in the western city of Ahmedabad on Monday morning.
Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in the 17th century, the white marble UNESCO heritage monument on the banks of Yamuna River symbolizes love.
Trump and the First Lady held hands as they strolled at the Taj Mahal complex.
The U.S. president later wrote in the visitors' book, describing the monument "a timeless testament to the rich beauty of Indian culture."
The Trump family was also briefed about the history and importance of the monument.
Like in Ahmedabad, authorities had arranged grand welcome at the Kheria airbase in Agra, where Governor Anandiben Patel and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath received Trump.
Hundreds of dancers dressed as peacocks performed as he stepped out from the plane. Over 15,000 school children were lined up both sides of the route holding U.S. and Indian flags, cheering Trump's convoy.
Massive billboards with life-size pictures of Trump, his wife, and Prime Minister Modi dotted the nearly 13-km convoy route.
To ensure a trouble-free tour of Trump's family to the Taj Mahal, the provincial government is believed to have spent almost $11.8 million that also included decorating the monument and its vicinity.
Authorities had got the Taj Mahal premises cleared of visitors by noon, hours ahead of Trump's visit. Trump and the First Lady enjoyed the view of the marble marvel and posed for pictures for awaiting photographers.
The couple watched the sunset, before heading to New Delhi. The rays of the setting sun striking the grand walls of the tomb turn the vicinity into a gold hue in the evenings.
- Trump becomes 2nd US president to visit Taj Mahal
Though Trump is the sixth U.S. president who has visited India, only second to visit the Mughal-era wonder. Bill Clinton who had come to India in 2000 had visited the Taj along with daughter Chelsea Clinton.
President’s convoy stopped short of 500 meters from the monument, from where they moved into eco-friendly golf carts. As per Indian Supreme Court directions, petrol or diesel-operated vehicles are not permitted near the Taj Mahal's gate.
In the run to the preparations of Trump's visit, graves of Emperor and his wife, located in the basement, received a mudpack for the first time in all these years. Gray langurs (Semnopithecus), also called Hanuman langurs were hired to scare away monkeys in the area.
The irrigation department had released 14,000 liters (500 cusecs) water in the Yamuna River on Friday, which passes right across the Taj, to keep the foul smell away.
One of the most photographed monuments in the world, the Taj Mahal is always high on the itinerary of visiting dignitaries.