Regarded as one of the most famous landmarks in the world, India’s Taj Mahal (Crown of the Palace) is actually one large memorial built by a Mughal shah in memory and as witness to the love he shared with his wife.
Built from the year 1631 to 1648 in the City of Agra, the white marble edifice was commissioned by the Mughal Empire’s Shah Jehan as a tomb for his beloved wife, Arjuman Banu Begum, more popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal.
The story goes back in 1607, when the then prince of the royal Mughal household strolled down the Meena Bazaar, accompanied by a string of fawning courtiers, he caught a glimpse of a girl (Arjuman) hawking silk and glass beads. Five years later the 20-yr-old Jehan went on to wed the then 19 year old Arjuman.
It was a fairy tale union from the start, one that withstood court intrigues, battles for succession and finally, the grand coronation. And when she died on the 19th year of their marriage, he etched her story in stone. The Taj Mahal is the living symbol of the monumental love between them and an inspiration for those who still believed in romance and true love.
Taj Mahal is regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world, and some Western historians have noted that its architectural beauty has never been surpassed.
The mausoleum is recognized for its refined elegance, which provides a contrast to both the Hindu architecture of pre-Islamic India. Its thick walls, corbeled arches, and heavy lintels, and to the Indo-Islamic styles, in which Hindu elements are combined with an eclectic assortment of motifs from Persian and Turkish influences have melded together to produce an effect that is magnificent yet very romantic.
The Taj stands in a formally laid-out walled garden entered through a pavilion found in the front. The tomb, raised on a terrace and first seen reflected in the central canal, is entirely sheathed in marble. The mosque and counter-mosque on the back however are built in red sandstone.
The four minarets, set symmetrically around the tomb, were intentionally scaled down to heighten the effect of the dominant dome in the center. The mosques, built only to balance the view are set sufficiently far away to do no more than frame the mausoleum. In essence, the whole riverside platform was designed and used as a mosque courtyard with the tomb as its centerpiece.
The great entrance gate with its domed central chamber, set at the end of the long watercourse, is a breathtaking view for many. For the most dramatic photo opportunities, visitors are advised to visit during dawn or at sunset.
Dawn is a magical time when the place is virtually deserted and the first rays of the sun light up the Taj. In the afternoon, the Taj is a dazzling spectacle in white, and in the evening the Taj dons the orange glow of the setting sun. Of course, there’s nothing more romantic than beholding the Taj on a full-moon night especially when the experience is shared between lovers.
Try arriving just as it opens or when it is about to close. A few minutes alone in the perpetually echoing inner sanctum will reward you far more than several hours spent on a guided tour.
Visitor’s should try to see up close the actual tomb which stands on its own marble plinth that rests on a red sandstone platform that serves to level the land as it slopes to the river. The 4 tall minarets rise up from the corners of the white marble plinth. They taper to a height of 138 ft. and are crowned with eight windowed cupolas.