Many of us have seen the Taj Mahal before, and most travelers believe a trip to India would be incomplete without seeing this magnificent structure at least once. A UNESCO world-heritage site easily recognized around the globe, the Taj Mahal is believed to be the ultimate symbol of love and is the main reason millions of travelers visit Agra.
The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Arjumand Banu Begum, whom he renamed as Mumtaz Mahal, meaning Jewel of the Palace. She passed away while giving birth to their 14th child and Shah Jahan decided to build a mausoleum that was well worthy to lay her tomb in.
It took about 20 years and 20,000 workers to complete the entire structure. Taj Mahal was built entirely out of beautiful white marble brought in from Rajasthan, and ornately decorated with precious and semi-precious stones. It is also a true tribute to Mughal architecture with touches and influences of Persian, Islamic, Indian and Turkish Ottoman art and designs. The Taj Mahal was brilliantly designed – a must see while in India.
After construction was complete, Shah Jahan was placed under house arrest at the Agra Fort by his son, Aurangzeb. From his living quarters, he used to look out at the Taj Mahal where his beloved’s tomb rested. After Shah Jahan passed away, Aurangzeb laid his tomb side by side with Mumtaz.
The main gateway, the large beautiful garden with a water tank in the middle and the Taj Mahal behind that; all of this are in symmetry, including the position of Mumtaz’s tomb. I wonder whether Shah Jahan had a slight touch of OCD. The only feature that is a bit off balance or strays away from this strict symmetry is the 4 minarets, which were made to lean slightly outwards, so that in the case of an accident or collapse, they would fall away from the tomb and cause minimal damage.
I prefer to visit the Taj Mahal in the evening, not because I’m too lazy to wake up early (Ok, that plays a part) but because majority of the crowds seem to make their way out by then. Also, because it’s special to see how the Taj Mahal still glows by the moonlight that falls upon the white marble surface as it gets darker.
The first time I visited the Taj Mahal was with my family in 1998. I have been there a couple more times after that, the most recent being October 2012. Apart from few luxury hotels, the city itself is quite rural, but this single mausoleum has the magic and power to draw in massive crowds daily and this is keen to the survival of a large majority of the locals’ businesses.
The fairly new highway called the Yamuna Express; uncharacteristically smooth, efficient and orderly, takes you from Delhi to Agra in approximately 3 hours.
Whether or not you believe it to be a symbol of love, to me the Taj Mahal is a symbol of symmetry and that is my real fascination with it. A must-see while in India, here are few more photos capturing my Taj Mahal moments:
My post would be incomplete with a bit of humor. Bonus shots:
Have you visited the Taj Mahal before? Were you also impressed with this magnificent monument? For those who haven’t been, would you love to see it someday?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, but as always, all opinions are my own.