Taj Mahal

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India >> Uttar Pradesh >> Agra >> Attractions >> Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

History

Emperor Shah Jahan built this white marble mausoleum for his queen Arjumand Bano Begum or Mumtaz Mahal. The building aside, the Taj Mahal is one of the most glorious symbols of love. The great builder that he was, the Emperor commissioned a building that has lasted centuries to remain a thing of rare breathtaking beauty. The building was commissioned in 1631 and decorated with the landmark technique of intricate marble inlay work. The site was honoured with the prestigious National Heriatge Award.

The Taj Mahal regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world is situated on the banks of the River Yamuna and stands at the northern end of formal gardens. The white marble came from Makrana in Rajasthan and the red sandstone from Fatehpur Sikri. Precious stones like jade, crystal, turquoise, lapis lazuli, sapphire, jade, coral and diamonds were brought from far-flung places in Tibet, China, Sri Lanka, Persia and Afghanistan. It is believed that a fleet of 1000 elephants was used to transport the material.

The main entrance to the monument is of red sandstone, with domed pavilions in the Hindu style. The gateway is inscribed with verses from the Koran, the lettering of which appear the same size through an illusion created by the craftsmen who enlarged and lengthened the letters at different positions.

The gardens enclosed by high walls are divided into four parts or the charbagh, which symbolizes the Gardens of Paradise in Islam. There are fountains and water channels flowing through the garden, representing the rivers of water, milk, wine and honey. The monument itself stands on a raised platform with four minarets in the corners. The minarets have a slightly outward incline, to prevent them from falling on the monument during an earthquake. You have to remove your shoes before getting on to the platform. Socks, or cloth shoes available at the base, should be kept on since the marble gets very hot during the day.

A huge dome, rising 44 feet high with a brass spire on top crowns the Taj Mahal. Inside is a central chamber with high ceilings that houses the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. A delicately carved trelliswork marble screen encloses them. The empress’ tomb, which is directly under the dome, has the 99 names of Allah inscribed on it. Shah Jahan’s cenotaph is higher and to the left. It has a pen box inscribed on it, which symbolizes a male ruler. Just below these cenotaphs are the real graves, in a dark and humid crypt filled with incense. If you donate a few coins to the attendant, he will lay them as offerings on the graves.

Surrounding the central chamber are four octagonal rooms where the other members of the royal family were to have been laid to rest. The base is carved with floral motifs, of roses, tulips, and narcissi. Some of the designs have up to 60 pieces.

On both sides of the Taj are two identical red sandstone mosques . The one to the left holds Friday prayers even today. The one to the right, the jawab (answer) was built only for symmetry and holds no prayers since it faces away from the Mecca.

In front of the main entrance is a platform, which is popular for use as a spot for taking photographs. You will find many couples sitting on it with the Taj Mahal as the backdrop to pose for the most precious memento of their visit. On the western wall of the compound is the museum where you can see a good collection of Mughal miniature paintings - portraits of the Mughal rulers, ancient coins and porcelain. The museum also has a gallery with the original drawings of the Taj Mahal on display. They show how meticulously the building was planned, including an accurate estimate of the time to be taken for its construction.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Agra is in the winter months between October and March when the weather is ideal to go sightseeing.

Trivia

It took 22 years and 20,000 workers to build this monument of love. It is said that the Taj Mahal looks a different colour at different times of the day. This changing colour is believed to represent the many moods of a woman!

Timing

The Taj Mahal is open from Saturday - Thursday 6:00 am - 7:00 pm. On Fridays the monument is closed to the public.


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