My interest on historical monuments has brought me to India, the home of the Taj Mahal. This famed structure situated on the banks of Yamuna River, in Agra, has drawn thousands of tourists around the globe, and I was one of them. Taj Mahal is perhaps the symbol of India where its grandeur reminds the people of its past and the stories behind its construction.
Taj Mahal is no ordinary historical edifice. This famous monument is an expression of both great love and anguish. It was out of that passion of Shah Jahan, the great Mughal emperor, for his wife that Taj Mahal was erected. He ordered the building of such exquisite monument to house the tomb of his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal, who passed away after the complications of childbirth. His love for his queen was so profound that he dedicated his time and wealth to construct a marvelous resting place for his precious one. It was perhaps for that strong emotion of love that makes this monument outshines the rest.
Taj Mahal is nothing less than a Mughal architectural masterpiece. It occupies an enormous land area of 17 hectares which consists of the main gateway, a garden, a mosque, a guest house, and the main mausoleum. The moment I reached the red sandstone gate, the majestic view of the Taj Mahal showed up right before my eyes. It revealed itself in white marble at the end of a garden centered with a long watercourse in which reflects the shadow of its splendor. Taj Mahal stood gloriously in serenity. The ivory-white façade shimmering against the varying shades of blue skies as the background makes it even more beautiful.
My visit to the Taj Mahal started with a ride on that eco-friendly rickshaw which dropped us near the ticket booths. Upon acquiring the entrance tickets costing 1000INR for foreign visitors, we immediately collected the shoe covers and the complimentary bottle of water. Entry to the monument requires submitting ourselves to a security check. There are 4 lanes separating men and women of both nationals and foreigners. Security is strict on checking bags so better carry a small one containing only the important stuff. It is not permitted to bring food, tripod, flashlight, and video cameras.
Passing through that main gate made of red sandstone marks the dramatic transition between loudness and tranquility. The long garden which serves as a pathway that directs visitors towards the mausoleum contributes to that atmosphere of calmness of the whole Taj Mahal complex. It is said that this garden portrays the paradise described in the holy book of Quran. At the center of the garden, halfway towards the mausoleum, is a platform. This is the spot where most tourists flock waiting for their turn to sit on the bench and have their pictures taken. This bench is a perfect location to take photographs of the Taj Mahal. This is why most royalties have their photos taken at this place when they visit the shrine. Unluckily, during my visit, a scaffolding on one of the minarets was erected which somehow disrupts the scene. Anyway, this is for a good purpose which is to remove the yellow discoloration on the white marble caused by pollution.
The Taj Mahal is situated at the end of the symmetrical garden and at the middle of two identical structures: the mosque and the guest house. It rests above a white marble platform with slender towers positioned on each corner that emphasizes it at the center. These four minarets purposely lean outwards so that on an event of an earthquake, it will not fall towards the main mausoleum thereby, sparing it from the possible collapse. The central dome with a height of around 35 meters is the principal feature of the Taj Mahal. Its shape is accentuated by the four small domed kiosks surrounding it; and its height is punctuated with the intricately designed cylindrical base.
The highlight of the visit of the Taj Mahal is getting inside the mausoleum which houses the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, who was also buried there. According to the story, Shah Jahan planned to build his own mausoleum made of black marble across the Taj Mahal. However, that dream was not made into reality after he was put into house arrest by his own son in Agra fort. Hence, when he died, his family decided to bury his remains beside his beloved queen at Taj Mahal.
The entrance of the main mausoleum is at the left corner where shoe covers are required before entry. Getting on top of the platform has given me the best opportunity to look closely on the exterior of Taj Mahal. The walls were inscribed in calligraphy with verses of the Quran and other areas were designed with colorful precious and semi-precious stones inlaid on the white marble. The interior of the mausoleum is embellished with carved marble and intricate floral patterns of semi-precious gemstones set on white marble on a technique called pietra dura. The same technique was also used to decorate the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. The false tombs are enclosed in a lattice framework in the main chamber of the building. The actual graves are located at the lower level where entry is prohibited. Photography is not allowed inside the main chamber where the cenotaphs are situated.
The Taj Mahal with its architecture and ornamentation is truly a spectacle of grace and beauty. It is a symbol of power and prosperity as well as a testament of that romantic love story of Shah Jahan and his queen.
My visit to this famous shrine in Agra, India was culminated with an exciting Tonga ride, a horse-drawn carriage. This is perhaps an enjoyable and memorable way to say goodbye to Taj Mahal. The ride has taken us towards the parking lot where our driver was waiting to bring us to our next destination, the Agra Fort. See more of Agra Fort stories here.