Silhouette of the Taj Mahal
Indian SubcontinentTravelogue

The Taj Mahal: Epitome of Love

 

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

The Taj Mahal

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 - my first ever click!

The Taj Mahal – my first ever click!

 

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.

The Tomb

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.

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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 Minarets

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

  1. The domestic airport is available at Agra, which is connected to Delhi.
  2. Agra is well connected to all major cities of India via Indian railway.
  3. 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
  4. Visiting hours of the Taj Mahal are from Sunrise to Sunset (6.00 hours to 17.00 hours). It is closed on Fridays.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. While sunrise is the best time of the day to visit the Taj, the night views are also stunning.
  8. 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.

Guess who? One beauty with another

Guess who? One beauty with another

 

The side view of the Taj Mahal

The side view of the Taj Mahal

 

Just taking a chill pill at the Taj - it was a very hot day indeed!

Just taking a chill pill at the Taj – it was a very hot day indeed!

 

Behind the Taj Mahal... the lake view

Behind the Taj Mahal… the lake view

 

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!

Love, Archie

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!

  • You saved your blackberry photos till now? Great! Photos doesnt look old though and you look beautiful.
    I havent visited Taj yet. But your description is tempting me to make a visit soon.you gave very detailed info on the monument

    • Hi Mahathi – lol… yes… I used to take a backup so ensured that the important pictures were saved…
      Thank you so much for the appreciation and the compliment… You must visit the Taj soon, you can’t be in India and not see the Taj… 🙂
      Thanks again 🙂

  • Annabel Collins

    Beautiful blog on the history of the Taj Mahal and lovely pictures also.

    • Hello Annabel. Welcome to #TravelwithArchie.
      Thank you so much, I am happy that you liked the piece. Hope you keep coming back and follow the entire series. Cheers 🙂

  • Sulaiman Sait

    Wonderful blog post ma’am 🙂
    Indeed an epitome of love. Been there and I was awestruck by seeing the structure that was made to perfection.

    • Hi Sulaiman – welcome to #TravelwithArchie.
      Am sure you were, for everyone who visits the Taj is awes-struck! Perhaps you could write about your experience too… what say? Cheers 🙂

  • Great to read your post. Beautiful pics.

    • Thank you so much Rupam. Glad you liked the whole package! 🙂

  • Manish Purohit

    Very nice post, the pics complimenting well to the grandeur of the historical monument. The history, the dynamics…the post covered it all. Great start to the series. looking forward to more…
    P.S. I still await my date with The Taj though 🙁

    • Hi Manish – so happy to see you here 🙂
      Thank you so much for the appreciation and I am really glad that you liked the presentation. Gives me some more motivation to go on with the rest. Next one coming up soon. Cheers 🙂

  • Nice pics. Can’t believe what you can do on a Blackberry.

    When I first visited the Taj Mahal in 1979, there weren’t so many crowds as when I returned about five years later. However, as a tourist I can’t object to other tourists in my shot…I’m in theirs.

    • Hahaha, a lot can be done on the Blackberry. Actually the camera on it was always bad and hence all the pictures are usually not very clear! But, oh well… it used to come in handy because who traveled with a DSLR on work? 🙂

      True that, actually when I went that to the Taj, on my own also it was so crowded. Luckily there was a guide kind of person from the hotel where I was put up, who accompanied me for a quick first visit and that’s why it was ok… I guess we skipped lines etc too, because I was at a Taj Mahal Hotel… LOL
      But I so want to visit it again with Desh, my husband… and this time there will be amazing pictures and videos too… 🙂 Cheers Roland and thanks for reading 🙂

  • Purba Chakraborty

    Loved the first post on the “Monument Series”. Beautiful pictures dear. Both you and the Taj look awesome 🙂
    Looking forward to the next posts in the series 🙂

    • Hey sweetie… thank you so very much…
      Next one coming up very very soon 🙂 Much love

  • Great pics and a wonderful write-up…:-) The Taj, the eternal symbol of love… 🙂

    • Thank you so much Mani. Happy to see you here after so long 🙂

  • Taj Mahal is beautiful indeed…can’t forget the first view I had of this grand monument. It was breathtaking…!!

    • Oh yea, I am sure it must have been quite a sight.
      Thanks for reading and for your valuable comment Bushra 🙂

  • Nice pics Archie, your writing is exceptional. Whenever I read something feel like visiting that place. 🙂

    Anytime you and Desh are in Delhi be my guest.

    • Thank you so much Vikas 🙂 That makes me feel really good… 🙂 Compliments are good :-p
      You must visit whenever you can., for Dilliwalas it is just at a stone’s throw, right?

      Thank you so much for the invite. Vaise I am also half Dlliwali now because Desh is from Delhi 🙂

      • Yeah, hardly 3 hours run from here. I will make a trip to Agra and Mathura together 🙂

  • yogi saraswat

    Visit this place in January but due to heavy fog could not enjoy much with family. Great picture . One beauty with another , exactly . But I do not think that this structure is a symbol of Love or dedication . I think its well known example of “atyachar” on women in Mughal regime.

    • Hello Yogiji – seeing you here after such a long time…
      Thank you for the appreciation. Do visit there again, so you can enjoy the monument in its full glory…

      Well, as far as the ‘atyachar’ it goes, can’t say I disagree with you… but it isn’t so much against the women in the Mughal regime as much as I feel for the architects of the Taj. As the story goes, it seems that their hands were cut off. I wanted to mention it, but had no way to substantiate it… and I am sure it is quite true too… but… didn’t know whether to write it or not!

  • Steps Together

    amazing post..

  • Ashwath Thirumalai

    I wouldn’t be as naive as last time before the Taj,thanks to you. Keep it coming.

    • Hi Ashwath! And what naivety did you land up doing last time? I would love to know :-p LOL
      Thanks for reading buddy 🙂

  • Megha Kejriwal

    Very well described post about Taj Mahal. Reading your post made me more eager to visit this beauty.

  • Well written with the history of the Taj Mahal. Love to see it again.

  • U K

    Wow, nicely written.. 🙂

  • I visited “The Taj Mahal” once many years ago…. those memories… great post and amazing blog 🙂

  • Taj Mahal is beautiful. Its architecture is great. But an epitome of love, I doubt that.

  • Aniruddha Shrivastava

    One need to see it with his/her own eyes to believe how majestic this structure is.
    Amazing article and great pics.

    P.S. I have a story about how I and two friends entered the Taj premise on a “Friday”. Will pen down it soon 🙂

  • Anupam Chakraborty

    And if she was happy seeing Taj Mahal in her cabin?

    Love of Shah Jahan for Mumtaz was so deep that instead of the caution by Baidraj that the birth of 14th child may take Mumtaz’s life, he did a little and what happened all knows. Mumtaz’s life could have been saved!

    Coming back to the post and Taj Mahal, next time if you go there also try to see Taj Mahal in full moon from the backside, from the bank of Jamuna and its reelection on river Jamuna.

  • Atulmaharaj

    I visited the Taj few years back, it’s surely an architectural marvel. However if the whole place surrounding it is kept cleaner that how it is, it will only increase the beauty (char chaand lag jayenge) of the Taj.

  • Happy to hear that you sneaked in first to enjoy it alone! 😀

  • Nice post. I liked “One beauty with another”. 🙂

  • Ranjana Shankar

    Few years back I had visited this beautiful monument. This post made me to remember those wonderful moments

  • Wah Taj! 🙂 Our most favourite is the cover photo.

  • When I think of the Taj Mahal I think of the fact that Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth, giving birth to her 14th child. God! She was pregnant for almost 14 continuous years! That’s crazy! Plus the fact he had multiple wives makes me wonder if he built this magnificent structure for his wife or for himself?

  • Neha 14wow

    These are very stunning clicks of TajMahal…The first one is just breathtaking fab…Great post Archie…xo, Neha

    http://www.theinstylejournal.com/

  • Love to read about the architectural marvel <3

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