PM Stephen Harper visits the Taj Mahal

David Akin, Parliamentary Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

NEW DELHI — Every year, a staggering four million people come to see India’s beautiful icon, the Taj Mahal. On Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen added to that total.

“It’s really something,” Harper said. “You kind of have to come here to see it to believe it.”

The Taj Mahal visit — in Agra, about a four-hour drive south of the Indian capital of New Delhi — was the first stop on Harper’s extended six-day tour in India, the longest single stretch he’s had in any one country since becoming prime minister in 2006.

“People tell me it was built as a monument to the love of his queen and it’s really a great gift of beauty to all humanity,” Harper said after he and Laureen wandered hand-in-hand through the Taj’s sprawling gardens.

Harper has his history pretty much correct. The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz died giving birth to the couple’s 14th child in 1631. In 1632, Shah Jahan began work on the white marble icon and it would be finished in 1653. Now, it’s seen as one of the supreme monuments of one man’s love for his wife.

Asked if he was planning anything similar for his wife, Harper chuckled.

“My wife has tastes a little more modest,” he said. “And she also wants them while she’s still living.”

In fact, Laureen Harper’s tastes include a fast motorcycle and an open road.

“I’m not waiting until I’m dead,” she said, laughing.

The Harpers also visited Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi on Monday, another magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site here built in the 16th century.

With those sightseeing trips over, Harper got down to business meeting business leaders late Monday.

On Tuesday, he jumps in to the political portion of his trip, meeting several Indian politicians, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


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