Taj Mahal, is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the visited landmarks in the world. It is a Mausoleum completed in 16th century, which means “Crown of the Palace”. It is a tomb built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Travel back in history about the Taj Mahal, I have read this story :
“Taj Mahal, the magnificent monument that stands at the heart of India has a story that has been melting the hearts of millions of listeners since the time Taj has been visible. A story, that although ended back in 1631, continues to live on in the form of Taj and is considered a living example of eternal love. It’s the love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, two people from the course of history who set an example for the people living in present and the future to come. An English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold best describes it as “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.” The story that follows next will prove why the statement is true.
Shah Jahan, initially named Prince Khurram, was born in the year 1592. He was the son of Jehangir, the fourth Mughal emperor of India and the grandson of Akbar the Great. In 1607 when strolling down the Meena Bazaar, accompanied by a string of fawning courtiers, Shah Jahan caught a glimpse of a girl hawking silk and glass beads. It was love at first sight and the girl was Mumtaz Mahal, who was known as Arjumand Banu Begum at that time. At that time, he was 14 years old and she, a Muslim Persian princess, was 15. After meeting her, Shah Jahan went back to his father and declared that he wanted to marry her. The match got solemnized after five years i.e., in the year 1612.
It was in the year 1628 that Shah Jahan became the Emperor and entrusted Arjumand Banu with the royal seal. He also bestowed her with the title of Mumtaz Mahal, meaning the “Jewel of the Palace”. Though Shah Jahan had other wives also, but, Mumtaz Mahal was his favorite and accompanied him everywhere, even on military campaigns. In the year 1631, when Mumtaz Mahal was giving birth to their 14th child, she died due to some complications. While Mumtaz was on her deathbed, Shah Jahan promised her that he would never remarry and will build the richest mausoleum over her grave.
It is said that Shah Jahan was so heartbroken after her death that he ordered the court into mourning for two years. Sometime after her death, Shah Jahan undertook the task of erecting the world’s most beautiful monument in the memory of his beloved. It took 22 years and the labor of 22,000 workers to construct the monument. When Shah Jahan died in 1666, his body was placed in a tomb next to the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. This magnificent monument came to be known as “Taj Mahal” and now counts amongst the Seven Wonders of the World. This is the true story of the Taj Mahal of India, which has mesmerized many people with its bewitching beauty. ” – tajmahal.org.uk
My visit to Taj Mahal started past two o’clock in the morning when my alarm clock rang and took me few minutes to prepare myself and went down to the main street of the hostel to see if the driver for the trip is already there. The pick up time as agreed was three in the morning – dawn.
I was skeptical on the idea of travelling to Agra at dawn alone with only the driver. Despite the rumors of safety for women, I booked to one of the Travel Agency which I considered reliable after reading positive reviews online. I made sure that some of my work colleagues, friends and the hostel administration where I stayed in Delhi knew which company I booked, contacts, phone numbers and emails. The security guard took the plate number of the car as well.
The humidity was bearable at dawn. We took the main highway the Taj Express going to Agra which is located in the Southern part of India in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Since it was a long drive, I told the drive to wake me me up when we reach Agra.
I woke up with a tap at my shoulder, it was the driver and he said we reached Agra. Our car was parked on the side of the road near the main gate of Taj Mahal waiting for my tour guide. It was past seven in the morning. Took us four hours.
From the main gate, you can hire a rickshaw to take you to the gate where you can buy your ticket. For some companies admission fee is already included on the tour but you can buy it online to avoid the queue. You can buy tickets for various monuments in Taj Mahal on this site, click here.
We entered through the Western Gate. Tour companies started to show up with group of tourists. Included with your ticket is a bottle of water and a disposal plastic slippers that your guide will give you when you enter Taj Mahal.
The Royal Gate
The royal gate is the main entrance to the Taj Mahal, built from a red sandstone and decorated with Arabic calligraphy on a white marble, vines, leaves and flowers made from precious stones.
From there you can see, the exquisite Taj Mahal. The Architecture is a combination of Persian, Turkish, Indian and Islam. The head architect was Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, a Persian architect.
No matter how early you will arrive, the gate opens at eight in the morning, so expect that there will be a lot of photo bombers on your pictures.
Lotus is the prominent symbol in Hindu and that is used as a decoration on the Dome of Taj Mahal. Lotus in Hinduism symbolizes beauty, fertility, prosperity, spirituality, and eternity.
The four minarets around the Taj Mahal is forty meters tall in cylindrical beveled angles which is designed to be leaning outward, in case there will be an earthquake, it will not fall on the Taj Mahal.
The carvings on a white marble are Arabic Calligraphy, passages from Holy Quran, inlaying each pattern with Jasper stones. It says “O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you.” The other Arabic inscriptions are made of black marble.
Camera and Video are forbidden inside the tomb.
“There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have seen the Taj Mahal and love it and those who have not seen the Taj and love it.”- William J. Clinton -42nd U.S President.
It was said that many skilled workers were called all across from India, Persia and Turkey, inlay craftsmen, calligraphers, stone masons, carvers and after the tomb was completed, their hands have been cut off.
To name a few of the stones used, these are Carnelian, colored Agates, Jasper, Lapis Lazuli, Amber, Bloodstone, Garnet, Jade, Emerald, and sapphire. When you put a light on Carnelian stone, it will glow a translucent orange shade.
The flowers, vines, and leaves are carved on a white marble inlaying precious stones outside and inside of the tomb. The inside tomb is more extravagant with intricate patterns of stucco designs, railings and gemstones such as rubies were used as a decorative piece that slowly replaced by other stones. It was such an jaw dropping masterpiece. I touched the carvings and I can’t help to wonder the hard labor and promised of eternity to this building. No wonder that it took twenty-two years to built.
The actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are placed at the lower level.
Entering the tomb, you will be wearing a plastic disposal slippers. At the back of the main tomb is the Yamuna River, a Mosque and an entertainment room called Mehmaan Khana, used to be a drawing room, a place were guests are being entertained such as dancing and some plays.
The Yamuna River is the second largest and the longest river in Ganges, Northern India. The river was bit dry and so far it was clean during my visit. I didn’t see any plastic or garbage’s floating or around it.
From there you can see the Agra Fort, which is my next stop.
The best months to visit India or Agra- Taj Mahal will be from November to February/ March, where the heat is still bearable.
I have visited many countries in the world but I considered Taj Mahal, as the most beautiful structure that I have ever seen.
I hope that I will go back and see it again. I’m touched by the story and I find this ‘ a forever loved masterpiece”
“Let the splendor of diamond , pearl and ruby vanish? Only let this one teardrop, this Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time, forever and ever.”-Rabindranath Tagore-
Let me know about your trip in India or Taj Mahal.