Years back when I worked with an MNC Bank in Mumbai, I was moved to a new department – Marketing. I had a new lady boss too, who had just joined the Bank and I took up the task of making her cabin more likable, lovable and workable; since the previous boss had left it as a ‘matter-of-fact’ boring workplace. Men I tell you!! I went home that evening and looked up my cupboard to find the old cuttings of the pristine beauty – The Taj Mahal. We had an old calendar which had pictures of the Taj in monochrome and color. I had cut all the pictures from that calendar after the year had changed and saved it for later use. I chose the three best pictures – two stunning black and white shots and one sunrise shot with showed off the monument in its full glory. I got them framed and put them in a slanting angle in her cabin, along with the many other things I did to beautify her space. But this one was my favorite, because of my love for the Taj. And mind you, that time I hadn’t even visited this gorgeous beauty.The Taj Mahal: Epitome of Love! #monuments #TravelwithArchie @archanackapoor Click To Tweet
There is a reason why I love calling myself a vagabond and the crazy girl who dreams about places and then travels there to see how they look and feel in the real world. I dreamt about visiting the Taj for years and finally when I took up my third job years later, I got a chance to visit the Taj Mahal. I was holding a sales convention in Agra – the Taj city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and the moment I got some time I just sneaked out to have a look at the stupendous monument of love. Though there was an evening outing planned with all the delegates who were there for the convention, I wanted to spend my own sweet time there and alone first. Because being with the delegates meant being the ‘good host’ and ensuring they enjoyed while we worked, and I just didn’t want to do that. I know I know, selfish me, but then what do you do when you want something badly? Of course, I did play the role of the good host later too. If you ask me whether I am satiated with my maiden visit to the Taj – a BIG NO! I want to go there again with my husband and click all those dramatic and romantic pictures that couples click in front of the white beauty. That was something I really missed out on. Also, all my pictures that you will see soon are from the cell phone – my beloved Blackberry of those times. I want to click some stunning pictures with my DSLR next time.
Oh! Enough of me now, let’s move to the Taj – the masterpiece of architectural style in conception, treatment and execution and one that has unique aesthetic qualities in balance, symmetry and harmonious blending of various elements.
History of Taj Mahal
In 1631, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned project Taj Mahal. He wanted to build it in memory of his ‘favorite’ wife – the Persian princess – Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their ‘14th’ child. That’s the reason why the Taj Mahal is considered the personification of love, as the love-story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. The construction finally began in 1632 and by 1643 the principal mausoleum in white marble was also completed. The most stunning pictures of the Taj are either with the sky as a background or with its surrounding garden. The surrounding buildings and garden took another five years to complete.
The Taj Mahal is located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in a vast Mughal garden that encompasses nearly 17 hectares, in the Agra District in Uttar Pradesh. As I already mentioned, the construction of the mausoleum was completed by 1643; and later, the outer courtyard and its cloisters were added and completed in 1653. The existence of several historical and Quaranic inscriptions in Arabic script have facilitated setting the chronology of the Taj Mahal. For its construction, masons, stone-cutters, in-layers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from the Central Asia and Iran. Ustad-Ahmad Lahori was the main architect of the Taj Mahal.
Undoubtedly, the Taj Mahal is considered to be one of the greatest architectural achievements in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture. Its recognized architectonic beauty has a rhythmic combination of solids and voids, concave and convex and light shadow; such as arches and domes further increases the aesthetic aspect. The color combination of the lush green scape reddish pathway and blue sky over it show cases the monument in ever changing tints and moods. I love using the words ‘in full glory’ for the Taj, because thanks to these ever changing tints and moods, the white against the exceptional blue blanket make it a true blue beauty, one that has been admired and loved for centuries. The relief work in marble and inlay with precious and semi-precious stones make it a monument par excellence. It is said that the precious stones represented flowers and were executed with wonderful perfection. The hues and the shades of the stones used to make the leaves and the flowers appear almost real. Alas, I wish I would have been able to witness the stone work too. I don’t think the stones are seen now. At least I did not spot them.
It is said that the uniqueness of the Taj Mahal lies in some of the truly remarkable innovations carried out by the architect and horti-culture planners. One such genius planning is the placing of tomb at one end of the quadripartite garden rather than in the exact center, which added rich depth and perspective to the distant view of the monument. The tomb is the central focus of the entire complex of the Taj Mahal. It is a large, white marble structure standing on a square plinth and consists of a symmetrical building with an iwan (an arch-shaped doorway) topped by a large dome and finial. Like most Mughal tombs, the basic elements are Persian in origin. Four minarets frame the tomb, one at each corner of the plinth facing the chamfered corners. The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; whereas the actual graves are at a lower tomb chamber (crypt) – a practice adopted in the imperial Mughal tombs.
The ground plan of the Taj Mahal is in perfect balance of composition, the octagonal tomb chamber in the center, encompassed by the portal halls and the four corner rooms. The exterior of the tomb is square in plan, with chamfered corners. The large double storied domed chamber, which houses the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, is a perfect octagon in plan. The exquisite octagonal marble lattice screen encircling both cenotaphs is a piece of superb workmanship. It is highly polished and richly decorated with inlay work. The cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal is in perfect center of the tomb chamber, placed on a rectangular platform decorated with inlaid flower plant motifs. The cenotaph of Shah Jahan is greater than Mumtaz Mahal and was installed more than thirty years later by the side of the latter on its west. In accordance with Islamic tradition, verses from the Quran were inscribed in calligraphy on the arched entrances to the mausoleum, in addition to numerous other sections of the complex.
The four free-standing minarets at the corners of the platform added a hitherto unknown dimension to the Mughal architecture. The four minarets provide not only a kind of spatial reference to the monument but also give a three dimensional effect to the edifice.
The rest of the complex
The rest of the Taj Mahal complex includes a main gateway of red sandstone – which stands majestically in the centre of the southern wall of the forecourt and a square garden divided into quarters by long pools of water, as well as a red sandstone mosque and an identical building called a jawab or ‘mirror’ – directly across from the mosque. Traditional Mughal building practices would allow no future alterations to be made to the complex. As the story goes, Shah Jahan intended to build a second grand mausoleum across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, where his own remains would be buried after he died; the two structures were to have been connected by a bridge. In fact, Aurangzeb (Shah Jahan’s third son with Mumtaz Mahal) deposed his ailing father in 1658 and took power himself. Shah Jahan lived out the last years of his life under house arrest in a tower of the Red Fort at Agra, with a view of the majestic resting place he had constructed for his wife. When he died in 1666, he was buried next to her.
What the Taj Mahal means to me
A wonder of the world that is also amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites! A legend of eternal love of an Emperor for his Queen! For me, visiting the Taj Mahal is like unfolding the pages from the past to churn the charm out of its mystique and enrich my imagination about this marvel of an epic in stone. Taking a ‘dip’ into the saga which is culled out from facts and not fiction! They say that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but I think the axiom is the other way round for the Taj Mahal, for it is beauty personified. One that displays various moods through its varied shades representing the finest architectural and artistic achievement through perfect harmony and excellent craftsmanship in a whole range of Indo-Islamic sepulchral architecture! A masterpiece!
Travel Tips for the Taj Mahal
- The domestic airport is available at Agra, which is connected to Delhi.
- Agra is well connected to all major cities of India via Indian railway.
- By road, Agra is well connected to major cities in the country and is situated on the Golden Triangle of the Tourist Circuit (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur). It is connected to Delhi and Varanasi By NH-2, to Jaipur by NH-11 and Gwalior By NH-3. The major road distances are:
- Delhi – 204 kms
- Gwalior – 119 kms
- Jaipur – 232 kms
- Khajuraho – 400 kms
- Lucknow – 369 kms
- Varanasi – 605 kms
- Visiting hours of the Taj Mahal are from Sunrise to Sunset (6.00 hours to 17.00 hours). It is closed on Fridays.
- Tickets are available at:
- Taj Mahal Western Gate near Saheli Burj
- Taj Mahal Eastern Gate at Shilpgram – about 750 meters from Eastern Gate of Taj Mahal.
- Taj Mahal Southern Gate
- For security reasons only five items – water in transparent bottles, small video cameras, still cameras, mobile phones and small ladies’ purses are allowed inside the Taj Mahal.
- While sunrise is the best time of the day to visit the Taj, the night views are also stunning.
- The best time to travel to Agra is in the winters from October to December and February to March, as the moderate temperature and clear weather during this season offer the most comfortable conditions to travel around Agra. Summers can be really hot with the chances that travellers may suffer heatstroke and dehydration due to the severe heat. During the monsoon a lot of rain is expected and the road condition and sightseeing environment become awful.
Here are some of my pictures.
Hope you enjoyed the first post on ‘The Taj Mahal‘ in the Monument Series. Would love your feedback and suggestions, until we meet again with the next in series – ‘The Eiffel Tower‘ – again one of my all-time favorites!
Featured Image: Flickr,
Other Images: The Taj
One who is born with wings has many stories to tell. I was a born wayfaring story-teller! But then, how does a chirpy story-teller who also has wings on her back and wheels on her feet find a colossal audience to recount those sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes eccentric encounters. I realised there was no other way I could narrate my tales to the world unless i started penning them down in black and white. That's how TravelwithArchie was born. I love calling myself a vagabond! One who dreams about places and then travels there to see how they look in the real world. Come, borrow my wings for a while and see the world with my lens!