Of the Taj Mahal, Sir Edwin Arnold, English Poet said, “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.”
The Taj Mahal was as spectacular as I had always hoped. The crowning finale to the India portion of our trip, it did not disappoint. The Taj Mahal made the most recent list of the Seven Wonders of the World as all the tour guides were quick to inform us.
According to history.com and our tour guide, “Shah Jahan ruled most of northern India from the early 16th to the mid 18th-century. At his side was Mumtaz Mahal, whom he married in 1612 and cherished as the favorite of his three queens. In 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died after giving birth to the couple’s 14th child. Six of these fourteen children survived, four sons and two daughters The grieving Shah Jahan ordered the building of a magnificent mausoleum across the Yamuna River from his own royal palace at Agra.
Construction began around 1632 and would continue for the next two decades (or 22 years represented by the 11 + 11 domes noted below). In all, more than 20,000 workers (only Muslims) from India, Persia, Europe and the Ottoman Empire, along with some 1,000 elephants, were brought in to build the mausoleum complex.
He named the Taj Mahal in honor of his wife. The mausoleum was constructed of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones (including jade, crystal, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise).
Its central dome reached a height of 240 feet and was surrounded by four smaller domes; four slender towers, or minarets, stood at the corners.
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.
Inside the mausoleum, an octagonal marble chamber adorned with carvings and semi-precious stones housed the false tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. The real sarcophagus containing her actual remains lay below, at garden level.
The rest of the Taj Mahal complex included a main gateway of red sandstone 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.
As the story goes, Shah Jahan intended to build a second grand mausoleum in black marble across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, where his own remains would be buried when 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.”
As you can surmise, the Taj is a symbol of love. For that reason, you will find humorous lovey dovey couple photos going on everywhere; and, our tour guide informed us people love to have their weddings here – can’t imagine what that costs! Our interesting looking shoe coverings are used as a sign of respect instead of leaving your shoes and going barefoot. We had incredible weather, but we were told sometimes the marble is so hot it will burn your feet.
Unfortunately and fortunately, as a foreigner your entry ticket is 1000 rupees instead of 40 rupees. However, this also allows you to use a different line that is MUCH shorter. With our tour guide, we were in and out surprisingly in around 2 hours, so quick you almost had to stop and make sure you didn’t miss it. The crowds were impressive though on a Saturday, but that was the only day we could go.
This is the famous picture our guide informed us that everyone must have!
Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel awardee in literature said of the Taj, “You know Shah Jahan, life and youth, wealth and glory, they all drift away in the current of time. You strove therefore, to perpetuate only the sorrow of your heart? 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.”
Forgive me for this quick and unentertaining post, but drowning in upcoming travel plans and about to be forced offline by the Annapurna Circuit for 2 weeks! Don’t forget us, lol, we will be back soon! And we have postdated a few posts just in case.