Taj Mahal

Tag Mahal Mausoleum in Agra, the City of Love ♥️.  Where everything is in perfect balance and harmony with one another and where you can lose yourself in the romance of pure love, unity, peacefulness, passion, pride, honor, paradise and where so many more blessings preside for the eye of the beholder.  Where pure love is the soul of life from as soon as you enter the main gate, taking a stroll in the garden of paradise and around the Taj.  A never ending romance of love and loss to be enjoyed for eternity.

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The Taj Mahal deservingly became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and on 07/07/07 it was officially announced as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, eternally to be alongside the other six new Wonders of the World, which are –

  • Chichén Itzå Pyramid in Mexico,
  • Machu Picchu in Peru,
  • Statue of the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
  • Petra in Jordan,
  • The Great Wall of China,
  • The Roman Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

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Agra town, industry and the Taj Mahal through time

Agra has had to change its way of life to preserve the Taj Mahal.  In 1996 all coal, rubber, brick, iron and chemical industries were moved out of the city within a 50-kilometer radius of the Taj Mahal.  This area is known as the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ).  Due to this, the shops don’t charge tax, but hotels do.

Agra receives millions of visitors annually.  Due to this, traffic has increased, and the age of the cars are mostly over 20 years old causing pollution. It is necessary that they do a vehicle pollution emissions check of all cars not only for keeping the Taj in tip top condition but also for the health of the locals.

The river is also considerably lower than it has ever been and the land is drier than ever before.  The wind carries the air pollution around where it ends up sitting on the white marble walls of the Taj.  The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is monitoring the situated inside the Taj Mahal to keep a close eye on the levels of pollution.

Other than the pollution problem.  The Taj found itself a target for Brit thieves who stole rare and irreplaceable diamonds, gold, carpets and lights during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.  In 1907, The British restored the Taj to the best of their ability. The finial at the top of the central dome was originally pure gold.  It was replaced instead by a gilded bronze one.

Many years ago, the Taj was under a bomb threat, so they covered it up to hide it out of sight from the aeroplanes from above with a huge canvas.  Fortunately, the bombing didn’t transpire, and the Taj has managed to survive the test of time.

Our visit to the Taj Mahal

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Our hotel had arranged for a buggy car to take us a couple of kilometers down to the Taj.  They also arranged our Taj ticket and organized a guide who met us at the hotels entrance.

Our Rs 750 ticket for foreign tourists included a water bottle and slip on shoe covers that is compulsory to wear when going inside the Taj otherwise shoes have to be taken off and placed inside the pigeon hole boxes outside in the gardens of the Taj.  You can just imagine the odour coming from all the shoes.  I’d suggest they have incense permanently burning around there.

We passed some cows while making our way down the tree lined road to the East entrance gate. The manure left by the cows on the hot tar road gives off an odour.

Curio shops are set up nearby the entrance to the Taj Mahal, selling their replicas of the Taj Mahal, from keyrings to small marble Taj Mahal’s ornaments.

The kids run up to our buggy trying to sell their Taj souvenirs before you’re able to reach any of curio shops or entrance.  To the people of Agra, the Taj Mahal is their livelihood in many ways.  The tourist trade is booming for some while the others utilize the land for agriculture in the harvesting of sugar cane and growing lots of seeds, crops and vegetables.

We arrived at the Taj entrance late in the afternoon of 18 October 2014.  There were lots of locals in a long queue waiting to go in.  Due to our foreigner tickets, we were taken directly to the front of the line for our security check.  These tickets allowed us to enter the Taj Mahal without having to join the line that ran right around the Taj for the locals.

After the 9/11 attacks, Agra has tightened up on their security.  Our guide had advised us just to leave our cell phones and everything else at the hotel and to take our camera.

East Gate entrance of the Taj Mahal

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The relevant information for visitors visiting the Taj Mahal – written on the board outside the entry gate in the picture above reads:

  • Entry from East Gate & West Gate is permitted from sunrise to sunset for visitors. South Gate opens from 8 am to 5 pm only.
  • The monument remains closed on Fridays for visitors.
  • Ticket windows close half an hour before sunset.
  • Keep the counterfoil of your admission ticket with you while visiting the monument.
  • Kindly collect free shoe covers and water bottle with the 750/150 tickets.
  • Shoe racks, lockers for video camera & Wheelchair facilities are available inside the monument premises free of charge.
  • Entry of children below 15 years of age is free.
  • Please cooperate with personnel on duty and show your ID Card on demand.
  • Carrying of arms & ammunition, explosives, fire & smoke items, offerings, eatables, liquor, canvassing items, tripods, tobacco products, torches & electronic goods except mobile phones are prohibited inside the main mausoleum.
  • Tickets for video camera are available at the main entrance gate. Please note that videography is prohibited beyond the red sandstone platform at the main entrance gate. Still photography is prohibited inside the main mausoleum.
  • Before getting a guide or a photographer, please check their ID Card.
  • Do not write/engrave on the walls of the monument. Drop your water bottles & shoe covers in the bin and help keep the monument clean.
  • Mobile phones must be switched off inside the monument.
    Visitors are requested to take care of their belongings.

The above information is from the Superintending Archaeologist, Archeological Survey Of India, Agra Circle. Help Desk +91-562-2330498 or email: circleagr.asi@gmail.com

The main entrance

This red sandstone building was built to ensure that people would only be able to view the Taj Mahal from within the main entrance of it as it slowly reveals its beauty.

On its roof, there are 11 small domes in a line on either side.  These are said to represent the 22 years it took to complete all the buildings and the garden on this 42-acre piece of land which is 580 x 300 meters in diameter.  It took a team of 22 000 labourers made up of architects, craftsmen, stonemason and skilled lapidarist’s who built everything.  With the use of  1000 elephants, they transported the marble and stones from as far as 400 kilometers away.

The Taj Mahal took between the years 1631 – 1648 to build and the surrounding buildings took a further five years till 1653 to complete.

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The red sandstone is covered in areas with the white marble which has precious and semi-precious like lapis lazuli, onyx, carnelian, jasper, jade, black marble to name a few.  Roughly 28 different kinds of precious and semi-precious stones as been used on the Taj and the surrounding buildings.

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As we walked through the archway, the view of the Taj slowly comes into view.  They refer the entrance to a man seeing his bride for the first time as he lifts her veil slowly from covering her head to reveal her real beauty, slowly, for the very first time, allowing you to see nothing else besides the beauty right in front of you.

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The Taj Mahal Mausoleum stands majestically proud and perfectly in the center of the archway, and as you walk through the wide foyer, its four minarets reveal themselves to you.  These towers would fall away from hitting the Taj if they were to fall.

When you think you’ve seen it in all its beauty,  the garden of paradise in front of you and the mosque to the left of the Taj with the restroom to its right reveals themselves to you as you step further out from the entrance way.  The perfect harmony of balance between where you are, with the red sandstone building behind you and the two on either side of the Taj.  The main water channel runs from the main entrance all the way to the base of the Taj with a platform where one can relax and admire the view around you.

The Indo-Islamic (Indian and Islamic) architecture is astounding.  Down to the incredible details in everything.

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The love story begins with Prince Shihab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram, the grandson of Akbar the Great, in Agra, which was once the Capital City of the Mughal Empire.  The Prince was a military man who set his eyes on a beautiful lady dressed in silk while trading her glass beads.  Her name was Arjumand Banu Begum.  In 1607, the Prince started the process to ensure he could marry Arjumand.  She became his third wife when they wed in 1612.  They were 14 and 15 years old at the time.  Arjumand was given the name Mumtaz Mahal once married and the highest honor of the land, the Royal Seal.  The prince became the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who reigned Southern Asia from 1627 – 1958.  Mumtaz Mahal would join Shah Jahan on all his military missions around the country.  She bore him 13 children during their time together.  The legacy says that Mumtaz Mahal either died while giving childbirth to their 14th child or in the line of military duty while accompanying her husband in Burphanpur in India on the 17 June 1631.  Mumtaz was the love of Shah Jahan’s life, and he found himself traumatized by the loss of her so he set out to build the majestic Taj Mahal Mausoleum where she could be buried in her a tomb fit for royalty, where her beauty could live on forever.

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Shah Jahan

  • 5 Jan 1592 – 22 Jan 1666
  • Khurram “joyful” in Persian
  • Father – Emperor Jahangir
  • His mastery of design includes the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid in Delhi. He also is associated with re-designing some buildings within the Agra Fort, the Wazir Khan Mosque and the Moti Masjid in Lahore, Pakistan.

Mumtaz Mahal

  • April 1593 – 17 June 1631
  • Mumtaz Mahal means the “Chosen one of the Palace or Jewel of the Palace.”
  • Father – Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan
  • 99 names of Allah adorn her tomb

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It was wonderful that our guide could take some pictures of us together.

Our guide was excellent with all the information he shared about the buildings, Agra and of the lives of those involved with the Taj Mahal, which included the crazy myth that the craftsman had their hands cut off so that they couldn’t replicate this outstanding achievement.

Later in the evening while walking around some of the shops in the town of Agra, we found out for ourselves just how many families are making their living from this beautiful craftsmanship.  There are around 250 to 300 families that have specialized as lapidaries who inlay precious and semi-precious stones into marble.  The father shows his daughter, and when she marries, she shows her new family and so the trade gets passed down for centuries.  They don’t use any machinery. Instead, the lapidarist uses their hands and feet to master their art with the utmost of precision.  The artists freely show you how they cut the semi-precious stones and how they carve out the marble where they will inlay the stone.  What they never will share with you is the glue that holds it all together which is a top secret.

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Compulsory pictures requested from our kids of us trying to pick up the Taj Mahal with one hand.  ✔️

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Our guide with Ian in the picture above.

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The Taj Mahal name means the Crown Palace.  An infinite token of love where Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan’s immortality and legacy of love still lives on.

The Taj Mahal viewed from the South

The main entrance of the octagonal Mausoleum and the central dome which stands 81 feet high and has a diameter of 58 feet.  It is referred to as an Onion Dome as it comprises of a double dome which isn’t visible from the outside.  The inside dome is apparently 10 meters apart from the outer layer.  The Hindu architecture shines through with the use of the lotus flower and the top finial that symbolizes prosperity, purity and unity.  By unity, this can also include a mixture of all religions where they can come together as one.

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The Arabic calligraphy above the main entrance of the Taj Mahal reads “O soul, thou art, at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you”.

Eternal peace and tranquility as written in the Holy Quran in the full verse of 89:27-30 – “O soul thou that art at rest, return to the Lord, well-pleased, well pleasing, so enter among My servants, and enter My Garden.”

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The Masjid / Mosque in the West

The mosque faces the Holy City of Mecca.

It is obligatory in the Muslim law to build a place of worship nearby a mausoleum.

The mosque has been constructed out of red sandstone and comprises of one main iwan entrance with two smaller arches on either side. The domes, kiosks and minarets have a white marble veneer cover.

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The Taj Mahal viewed from the West

The sun was starting to lie low in the sky, and the colour of the white marble was radiating a romantic hue about it.  The Taj is known to change its colour during the day from a soft pale pink and milky white and to a radiant glow of red at sunset.  The different shades the Taj turns is said to represent the different moods that a woman can go through within a day.

You can visit the Taj Mahal during the full moon and for the two days before and after the full moon.  The precious and semi-precious stones are said to sparkle and shine their beautiful colours under the full moon’s light.  If I were to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal again, I would make sure to coincide my trip with the full moon to see the magic for myself.

The fine lattice work in the windows and screens inside the Taj Mahal allows the light to travel through it.  The perfection of all the details and balance is everywhere you look.  It has been said to have been made by giants and decorated by jewellers.

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The arches used in the Taj on all its octagonal sides are all enclosed one end and open entirely on the other, known in Persian/Arabic as an iwan.  The outer white marble walls are spectacularly adorned with precious and semi-precious stone inlays with a column of Arabic calligraphy with messages out of the Holy Quran decorating the walls.  A real labour of love.

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Beauty everywhere, beyond words in the balance of nature and manmade objects.

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In the picture below, we are standing with the Taj Mahal behind us looking out over the garden of paradise with its water channel and elevated pathways running up on either side towards the main entrance gate.

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Ian in the picture below is in front of the main iwan entrance.  You can see how precisely the stone masons have carved away at the white marble.  It may look like it’s a double storey building but its is only a single storey building.

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The beautiful flowers which are embossed out of the white marble.  These adorn the walls in many places.

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You will find yourself breathless when looking at all the incredible attention to detail.

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In the picture above I take a closer look at the semi-precious stones inlaid into the white marble. The white marble is robust and cold to the touch while the vines, leaves and flowers add a softer touch.  From the finest of petals to the engraving out of arches and patterns.

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A net known as a jali in Hindi has been made by evenly carving out the white marble with lots of tiny honeycomb holes.  It helps with the having the areas closed off for security, to get fresh air inside and to allow the sunlight to shine through into the Taj.  The burial chamber has this type of Jali screen consisting of this delicate honeycomb design surrounding it.

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The floor inside consists of octagonal stars alternating with a cruciform pattern.

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The view from the North and East

The Taj Mahal Mausoleum stands on a red sandstone plinth and a white marble terrace that’s situated 50 meters high up on the bank of the Yamuna river.

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Did Shah Jahan want to build a black Taj for himself to balance out the beauty of his love to Mumtaz Mahal?  He laid her jewel-encrusted labour of love tomb right in the centre, an ideally placed cenotaph for his queen. His tomb is so much larger and unsymmetrically placed as if it was just an afterthought by those who buried him at the time. It’s the only thing that is out of place with the balance of everything.  These questions run through many people’s minds.  Traces of black marble were found across the Yamuna River from the white marble Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan may have had ideas to balance out the Taj Mahal in the end.

In 1657 Shah Jahan became ill.  Mumtaz and Shah Jahan’s eldest son, Dara Shikoh ascended to the throne.  Dara’s brothers Aurangzeb, Shuja, and Murad went to claim their share and to declare Shah Jahan as incompetent to rule.  Aurangzeb got a military army together and fought his brother, Dara’s army for the reign of the land.  Aurangzeb and his army won the Battle of Samugarh against his brother and Shah Jahan was declared incompetent to rule and found himself placed under house arrest in the Agra Fort. He could see his beautiful creation, the Taj Mahal through a diamond in the wall.

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The Arabic calligraphy on the Taj Mahal walls is made up of stone inlays sharing verses of Allah’s messages from the Holy Quran.  Awakening one’s spiritual journey here on land and to what may await one on Judgement Day.  Warning and giving judgemental advice to the unbelievers and the rich rewards for the faithful.

The calligraphy creates an optical illusion that all the letters and words are the same size.  They are not.  They increase in size the further away from the ground, making it easy to read by someone standing on the ground.

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The top finial with its moons crescent lying down and its horns pointed heavenly.

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Right in the center of the iwan there is a white teardrop with a red trident enclosed inside.  Along with vines, flowers and leaves that have all made by inlaying precious and semi-precious stones into the white marble.

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We look small compared to the enormous size of the Taj Mahal.

One of the four minarets top kiosks.  It has a staircase inside where one can reach to the upper part of the roughly 132-foot tower.  It is a haven for the bats who scare the people if they are brave enough to walk up to the top.

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The rest house on the East side of the Taj Mahal

In keeping with the symmetry, harmony and balance the rest house mirrors the design and materials used in the building of the mosque in the West, which is precisely on the opposite side of the Taj Mahal. It is also known as the Jawab, which means to answer as it balances the symmetry of everything to perfection.  You have a mosque in the West where you can ask your questions and the rest house in the East that answers your questions. Perfect!

It was once used to accommodate those who were visiting.

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The above picture is a  little clearer of the rest house with Ian and me in the foreground.

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The garden of Paradise which covers an area of 300 square meters, is perfectly laid out with the land being divided into four and into four again to make up the 16 flower beds.  It also ensures the perfect balance of the Islamic garden of Paradise consisting of four waterways known as the rivers of water, milk, wine and honey.

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In the picture above you can see the white marbled terraced area where Lady Diana sat in the famous photograph at the time.  She would have been looking out towards the main red sandstone entrance with the majestic white marble Taj Mahal behind her.

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The beauty of the Taj Mahal is majestical, to say the least. A true tribute to the architecture at the time.  The heart and soul of a beautiful person, place or object will forever stay close to one’s heart.  Which was what Shah Jahan set out to achieve, and he did, perfectly to a “T”.

VIEWING:

Every day from sunrise to sunset except on Fridays when it’s closed.
Night time – Open five nights a month over the full moon and two days before and the two days afterward from 8.30 pm to 12.20 am for a maximum of 400 people per day divided into 50 people at a time for a duration of 30 minuites only. It is not open at night time during Ramadan or on any given Friday.

TICKET BOOKING:

Your hotel should be able to book your ticket and hire a guide.
Tickets for night viewing can be purchased 24 hours in advance from the Archeological Survey of India, Agra Circle, 22 The Mall, Agra, Uttar Pradesh in between 10 am and 6 pm.

FEE:

Rs 750 – Foreign Tourists
Rs 510 – Citizens of SAARC & BIMSTEC Countries
Rs 20 – Domestic Indian Tourists
No entry fee for children under 15 years of age – Domestic or Foreigner.

 

manifesting memories

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