Wah! Taj indeed…

A brief business trip to Agra culminated in my seizing an opportunity to visit the most magnificent structure built on earth in the name of “love for one’s beloved”! It was a drive of 200 kms on the Delhi-Faridabad highway to Palwal – Mathura and then finally Agra. The best option is parking ones car in one of the shopping complexes(for me it was Sanjay Place, which was the venue for my meeting), and taking a cab or an auto to the Taj. Navigating through the narrow and crowed streets of Agra, which reminded me of our Chandni Chowk in Delhi, it was unbelievable that the destination was such a majestic monument, actually one of the elegant jewels of India.

The breath taking elegant Taj Mahal

The breath taking elegant Taj Mahal


As soon as one enters the “entry gate” and passes through the North Gate, the main entrance to the Taj, one cannot but stop and admire the breath taking beauty of the Taj for a while and forget everything around!

The water bed in front of the Taj..one can see the perfect reflection of the Taj in it

The water bed in front of the Taj..one can see the perfect reflection of the Taj in it

The Taj Mahal stands tall as a symbol of the love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan became the Emperor in the year 1628 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, Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to their 14th child.

It is said that Shah Jahan was so heartbroken after her death that he ordered the court into moaning for two years. Some time 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, which is also said to be the last wish of Mumtaz Mahal. This exquisite monument came to be known as “Taj Mahal” and now rekons amongst the Seven Wonders of the World.

The mesmerizing beauty of the Taj cannot be baroqued in any words. It is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”

The main entrance gate to the Taj..the north gate

The main entrance gate to the Taj..the north gate

The entrance to Taj Mahal is lofted by four gates, the north south, east and west. The main gateway (darwaza) is a monumental structure built primarily of marble which is reminiscent of Mughal architecture of earlier emperors. The vaulted ceilings and walls have elaborate geometric designs, like those found in the other sandstone buildings of the complex.

Inscriptions on the walls of the Taj

Inscriptions on the walls of the Taj

The exteriors and interiors of the Taj are richly ornamented.

A closer view of ceiling the main archway of the Taj

A closer view of ceiling the main archway of the Taj

One of the ornamentations done on the surface of the Taj Mahal is the splendid calligraphic work. The calligraphy of the Taj Mahal mainly consists of the verses and passages from the holy book of Koran. It was done by inlaying jasper in the white marble panels.

Calligraphy on the walls of the Taj

Calligraphy on the walls of the Taj

The complex is set around a large 300-meter square charbagh or Mughal garden. The garden uses raised pathways that divide each of the four quarters of the garden into 16 sunken flowerbeds.

The Yammuna river..as it looks now

The Yammuna river..as it looks now

A raised marble water tank at the center of the garden, halfway between the tomb and gateway with a reflecting pool on a north-south axis, reflects the image of the mausoleum. The raised marble water tank is called al Hawd al-Kawthar, in reference to the “Tank of Abundance”. The charbagh garden, a design inspired by Persian gardens, was introduced to India by the first Mughal emperor, Babur. It symbolizes the four flowing rivers of Jannah (Paradise) and reflects the Paradise garden derived from the Persian paridaeza, meaning ‘walled garden’. In mystic Islamic texts of Mughal period, Paradise is described as an ideal garden of abundance with four rivers flowing from a central spring or mountain, separating the garden into north, west, south and east.
The Taj Mahal complex is bounded on three sides by crenellated red sandstone walls, with the river-facing side left open.

One of the many sandstones structures in the complex

One of the many sandstones structures in the complex

Outside the walls are several additional mausoleums, including those of Shah Jahan’s other wives, and a larger tomb for Mumtaz’s favorite servant. These structures, composed primarily of red sandstone.

There are certain myths that haunt the gradeur of Taj too. Some legends say a black marble Taj Mahal, exact replica of the Taj, was proposed by Shahjahan as his own mausoleum, which was never built due to extremely high cost incurrence. The second legend says Taj was basically a Shiva temple which was taken oven by Shahjahan. The third story has it that Taj was a Rajput palace and that if we study the motifs and architecture of the Taj we can conclude that too. Its also believed since the Taj was located on the banks of Yammuna river, there was always a pertinent risk of it sinking into the river bed. Its said in two years of its completion the north side of the Taj started showing sinking signs and developed fissues and cracks, Shahjahan then consulted the best of architects from across the world and got the Taj repaired.

Well actually, as the age old adage goes “thousand people…thousand stories”, so is with this brilliant handiwork of the Mughal kings. But the last word to this magnificence is it is worth the accolades bestowed upon it!

A holistic view of the opulent Taj

A holistic view of the opulent Taj

14 Comments

  • Munish Gupta says:

    I havent visited Taj yet and plan to do soon but your post is really very enlightening on Taj Mahal

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Mala,

    A very detailed post supported with nice pic.

    • mala says:

      Thanks Mahesh,

      Post the visit to the Taj, i spent some time researching on the internet and Discovery channel…so had lots to share with the fellow ghummakars

      Mala

  • nandanjha says:

    Wah Taj.

    Pics would have looked even more gorgeous, at a little bigger size.

    Very informative post Mala.

    • mala says:

      Hi Nandhan,

      I have clicked bigger images but thought the ones i have posted would suit best. I optimized the existing images to make them lighter for the webpage to load easily.

      Shall try putting the larger images next time around…thanks for your suggestion.

      Mala

  • Manish khamesra says:

    As ever very interesting article from Mala. I am also happy to see that you were also able to include all myths associated with Taj. One belief that you failed to write is that the right hand of all the workers was cut so that another Taj could not be created.

    One thing that suprises me is that why in India we associated buildings with emperors, but the architects never got got any mention.

    Living very near to Agra, I have not yet visited it, but I am crossing my fingers that on my visit I would really find it so beautiful as has been narrated at so many places. Till then Taj would remain among the Nine wonders of world :-)

    • mala says:

      Hi Manish,

      Thanks for your appreciation.

      Yes, i guess i forgot adding the “chopping off of right hands of the workers by Shahjahan, after completion of the Taj, so that the gradeur of Taj could never be replicated”…but is that a myth…guess all of us believe its the truth…i am not too sure about that though!

      And as far as your second point goes, i guess its always the leader of a project, who takes the credit for well done projects…since Shahjahan was the one who probably conceptualized the idea…thus he is accreditted for its magnificence! And anyways common man remains common man, he never gets to wear the throne!

      Sure you should visit the Taj..amazing it is.

      And what are the nine wonders? Haven’t heard that one…

      Mala

      • Manish Khamesra says:

        Hahahahaha I think my subconscious mind knew that Taj is not part of seven wonders of the world, so it extended it to nine ;-)

        There are beliefs that Taj was in-fact a Shiva temple and so on … If that is true then Shahjahan can not be discreditted for chopping off the right hand :-)

        On serious note, I have never read about it in the books, so i doubt it was true. But it is also true that in text books we try to remove the bitter truths. Anyway now this myth is also part of your post.

        Project lead taking the credit :-) It seems it happens only in India. In Europe, there are many buildings commissioned by Pope and designed by renowned artists like Raphael, MichaelAngelo and many more. Surprisingly, people there don’t remember the person who commissioned them but remember who designed them.

  • Valerie says:

    Really interesting and informative post. I am planning a trip to Agra and can’t wait to see it.

    • mala says:

      Hi Valerie,

      Thanks for your appreciation.

      Surely, you should visit the Taj…and i guess with all the information, i have posted, you will enjoy the beauty of Taj more!

      Hope you have a wonderful trip.

      Mala

  • nandanjha says:

    Usually a size of 550 X 375 looks best.

  • Sword Fish says:

    Hi Mala !
    I always appreciated everything what ever you did. Your visit to Taj insptre me to plan a visit. The marble work associated with Taj is great. If you are further interested, then you can visit “Ranakpur’s Jain temples”. Ye mein nahi kehta balki log kehte hein ki miniature work on marble is the best at Ranakpur. Log kagaj pe design itni asani se nahi kat sakte jitna vaha pe marble pe carving kar di gayi hai. Delwara’s Jain Temple, Mt. Abu, Rajasthan is also a place to watch with its awesome marble work. Hope to see you soon. Do you remember me ? Guess! Who am I ? ? ?

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