Travel stories begin on spur of the moment decisions. Sometimes no amount of planning will come to fruition. Yet, at other times things will just fall into place as if it was meant to be. Being an Indian, it still took me 38 years to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. Not that plans were not made to see it before. It’s just that the time was never right. It was either too hot or too cold, school was still in session or office was in full swing and at other times it was a trip too out of the way. Whatever be the reason, now that I have seen it, I wonder if I would have truly appreciated its true worth earlier. As kids, we are more interested in toys, games and friends. When we grow up it’s the pressure of proving ourselves that takes a toll. At such a time, I believe I would have actually visited the place more to tick it off my “Places To Visit” list. And now that I have seen it, I am glad I took my time. It is not only an architectural beauty but also a place that speaks volumes of immeasurable love.
It was a sunny winter afternoon, of the New Year 2019, when I finally set foot inside the premises of the Taj Mahal. Entering through the huge Southern Gate one feels quite small and insignificant. This doorway is made of red sandstone and is 100 feet high. Decorated with motifs of entwined flowers and Arabic calligraphy from the holy Quran it is a majestic sight. A sight so grand, and yet it fails to prepare you for that first look of the Taj Mahal.
When you step inside the gate, the darkness is all-encompassing. But looking through it will make your breath hitch and heartbeat falter. The first glimpse of the white shining beauty of the Taj is breathtaking. It is a sight to behold and savor. I was completely mesmerized by the view before me. Even now I find it hard to describe the beauty of the Taj in words. It was an overload of senses. It was white, bright, grand, and majestic. If you ask my opinion it looked like a piece of heaven.
The Emotional History
It would be remiss on my part not to tell you a little bit about the history of the Taj Mahal. This epitome of love was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the loving memory of his favorite wife Empress Mumtaz Mahal. Literally speaking, “Taj” means “Crown” and “Mahal” means “Palace”. This white marble mausoleum is indeed a “Crown Palace”. Mumtaz Mahal passed away in 1631 A.D. during the birth of her 14th child. The emperor was struck with grief and decided to make a slice of heaven for his beloved wife to finally rest in peace.
Some Basic Facts
- Artisans came from all over the empire, even Iran and central Asia.
- The bricks of the internal framework were made locally.
- The white marble for the outer surfaces came from Makrana, Rajasthan.
- As per the inscription on the northern façade, the completion date of the Taj Mahal is recorded as 1647 A.D.
- At that time, its cost of construction came to around Rupees 4 crores.
- After his death in 1666 A.D., Emperor Shah Jahan too was put to rest beside his wife in the Taj Mahal.
The plan of the beauteous Taj displays bilateral symmetry. The central point is the tomb also known as the “Rauza”. It has four minarets. On either side of the Taj Mahal are the mosque and the assembly hall. This assembly hall is known as the “Jamat Khanah” or the “Mehman Khana”. What few people know is that the Taj Mahal is as wide as it is high which is 55 meters. The main highlight of the monument is the exquisitely carved pictorial mosaic inlaid with semi-precious stones. The translucent marble changes from dawn to midnight due to the play of lights. At the brink of dawn, the dome on the top appears like an ethereal beauty cloaked in bright yellow. At midnight, it shines like a pearl giving the Taj a magical aura.
Inside The Taj Mahal
In order to enter the main marble structure tourists have to buy an additional ticket. You will also have to wear shoe covers in order to enter the mausoleum. Once inside, photography is prohibited. There are no artificial lights inside but none are really required. Sunlight pours in through the carved windows making everything bright and visible. The intricate mosaic artwork studded with gemstones continues inside. In the center is the raised platform beneath which the Empress rests. The other platform is that under which the Emperor was put to his final rest. Their actual resting place is a room under this room to which entry is prohibited.
Behind The Taj
Behind the Taj Mahal flows the river “Yamuna”. Across the river is the “Mehtab Bagh”. In English, it means the “Moonlight Garden”. In the center of the garden is an artificial pond. Many people believe that the shadow of the Taj that falls in this pond at night is the mythical “Black Taj”. Another set of people believe that this was supposed to be the site of a
Black Taj or not, the white is an enthralling experience in itself. Its grandeur is a remnant of our rich cultural heritage. Combined with great love stories of the past it is an emotional and visual overload. If you happen to be in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a must visit.
A reverent love story.
Beyond times and still holding strong.
A wonder on Earth holding spellbound.
Wah! Taj a slice of heaven on ground.