When India is mentioned, more often than not, people immediately associate it with Taj Mahal. Rightly so since it is one of the most famous and photographed buildings in the world. Taj Mahal is the iconic image of India. A vacation in India is not complete without visiting it. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore described it as “the teardrop in the cheek of time”.
I was blessed to see for myself this awe-inspiring symbol of undying love. When my group arrived in Agra where Taj Mahal is located, our tour guide intentionally did not allow us to see it from afar. He wanted our first image of Taj Mahal when it is right there in front of us.
The best time to visit Taj Mahal is during sunrise. Not only to avoid the crowd and Indian heat but because of the sun’s reflection on this infamous edifice. We left our hotel around 5:30 am so we could be in the queue when the gates open between 6:00 am – 6:30 am.
Once we entered the gate of Taj Mahal, our tour guide made sure that we would not have a glimpse of it. He told us to look somewhere else. As we were in the queue at the main gate or darwasa, he instructed us to close our eyes and walked slowly forward. At the right point, he told us to open our eyes. Wow! We had our first sight of Taj Mahal. It is so awesomely beautiful being framed by the archway of the main gate. There was a frenzy with everybody trying to get good pictures. It was a challenge to get really nice ones with so many tourists.
Meaning the Crown of the Palace, Taj Mahal was built by King Shah Jahan as a final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to their 14th child. He was so grief stricken that he built the gargantuan mausoleum as an ultimate symbol of his undying love for his wife. The monument of love was built because of grief.
Commissioned in 1631, construction of Taj Mahal began in 1632 and completed in 1653. It is an enormous mausoleum of white marble. The interiors are decorated with beautiful inlaid stonework incorporating semi-precious stones in them. Unfortunately many of these semi-precious stones have been stolen.
The whole complex is 17 hectares (42 acres). It is set around Mughal gardens. The mausoleum is the centerpiece of the complex. Halfway between it and the main gate at the center of the garden is a pool positioned to reflect the image of the mausoleum.
The Taj Mahal is regarded as the best example of Mughal or Indo-Islamic architecture and is one of the most well preserved beautiful tombs in the world. It represented the rich history of India. In 1983, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being the “jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. In 2007, it was declared as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. 7 to 8 million visitors a year come to see this beautiful mausoleum.
The bench in the picture below is tagged as the Princess Diana Bench. It is the one where the princess was photographed sitting sadly when she visited Taj Mahal during the time when she and Prince Charles were having marital problems.
Aside from the mausoleum, there are other beautiful buildings which include a mosque and a guesthouse. Reflecting pools are strategically placed.
To add to the sadness why the Taj Mahal was built, not long after it was finished, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb and imprisoned in not very far Agra Fort. He could only gaze through a window his beautiful creation. After his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried alongside his beloved wife Mumtaz.
Taj Mahal is open daily except on Fridays from 6:00 am to 6:30 pm.
Aside from the beautiful complex, the magical allure of the story behind its construction draws the tourists to Taj Mahal. I am one of these tourists and I did not leave disappointed.