The Magnificent Taj Mahal

Our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal
Our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal

Arriving in Agra by overnight train, well before sunrise, we took the opportunity to head to the Taj Mahal to witness this magnificent monument greet yet another day. This is apparently the best time to view the Taj & our very first glimpse is breathtaking. We were awestruck with its absolute beauty & symmetry, casting a pinkish glow in the early morning light. Definitely worth giving up a bit of sleep & avoiding the crowds.

This famed mausoleum complex, built on the south bank of the Yamuna River & is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture which combines Indian, Persian & Islamic influences. We marvelled at this architecture in Delhi, but the Taj is the icing on the cake & agree it is the most beautiful building ever created. Taking 20-years to build, it is the lasting testament of love for Shah Jahan’s favourite wife (3rd of 3), Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 14th child.

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Looking back at the red sandstone entry arches

Entering through a red sandstone gateway, you first see the translucent marble structure, elevated on a marble platform. The only backdrop is the sky, further emphasizing the grandeur. A reflecting pool leading up to the Taj is flanked by gardens, laid out with avenues of trees & fountains. As you get closer two identical looking red sandstone buildings, one a mosque & the other, thought to be a guest house, provide further symmetry to the grounds. There are several additional mausoleums on the grounds, including those of Shah Jahan’s other wives, and a larger tomb for Mumtaz’s favourite servant.

Mosque
Mosque
Mosque interior archways
Mosque  interior archways
Koran inscribed archway
Koran inscribed archway
Light filters through cut marble
Light filters through cut marble

A  little bit of architectural trivia is always warranted in this blog, so here goes. The beautiful white marble walls are inlaid with semi-precious stones (jade, crystal, lapis, amethyst & turquoise) forming intricate designs in a technique known as “pietra dura”. The central dome or “onion” is 240 feet (73 meters) high, is surrounded by four smaller minarets & four towers on each corner. Light filters into the central dome through beautiful perforated, finely cut marble screens.

Pietra dura & exterior carved marble wall

In accordance with Islamic tradition, verses from the Koran are inscribed on the arched entrances to the mausoleum, as well as numerous other sections of the complex. It is directly below the main dome that the Cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal, an elaborate false tomb, lays with the Shah’s cenotaph to the side. The less elaborate main tombs (Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration of graves) are locked in the basement inaccessible to tourists.

While this love story is quite enchanting, there is a darker, less well know side. Some people are just doomed; the Shah’s third son (by Mumtaz) overthrew his ailing father for power placing him under house arrest in a tower at the Agra Fort. The Fort itself is very grand & while originally built as a military compound, it was later upgraded to a palace. Imprisoned & heartbroken, the Shah spent his remaining days with only a distant view of the majestic resting place he had constructed for his wife; when he died he was buried next to her in the mausoleum at the Taj Mahal.

Exiting the Taj
Exiting the Taj

Back to reality, Agra itself is a dirty, dusty town. Other than the Taj & the Agra Fort it has little else going for it, such is a shame really. Once you’ve seen these two tourist attractions, it’s time to get the heck outta Dodge!

Agra town
Agra town
Entrance to Agra Fort
Entrance to Agra Fort
Agra Fort with Taj in the distance
Agra Fort with the Taj Mahal in the distance, perhaps the Shah’s view
Camel taxi to the Taj
Camel taxi to the Taj

Our next stop was Ranthanbore for a jeep safari. The claim to fame here is a National Wildlife & Tiger Reserve. Well, the only tigers we saw were painted on the walls at the train station! So we decided to cut our stay short & head to Rajasthan, first stop Jaipur.

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Alive & well at the Taj Mahal

Author: Theresa & Bob

We love to wander, aimlessly at times it seems, and will keep moving as far and as long as we can. Serendipity has provided many wonders along the way, when least expected, and we love the anticipation of the 'next great find' just around the corner.

8 thoughts on “The Magnificent Taj Mahal”

  1. Great picture of the two of you in front of the Taj Mahal! The architecture is amazing, isn’t it?!

  2. What a beautiful picture of you both indeed looking alive and well! The Taj Mahal look breathtaking and what an opportunity to see something so life affirming! Enjoy and stay safe.

  3. Spectacular photos of the Taj, great picture of you two with that magnificent building behind you. The murals are stunning! Thank you for sharing your adventures with us……you should write a book about your “travels” Theresa, your blog is awesome! Take care my friends……and be safe! Love Brenda & Rob.

    1. Yes, many more things to see but we’ll be home before you know it (first week of April) just in time for golf season!

  4. Theresa,

    My family has really enjoyed your travel blog. Looking forward to the rest of your trip. My daughter Anna wants to know the type of camera you have been using. Great photos!!!!

    Clarence Willms MIR CHRL Director, Human Resources & Payroll 613.544.3400 ext. 2385

  5. Hi Clarence, nice to hear from you-so happy you & your family are enjoying our blog. We are using a mini iPad & pocket sized Canon (nothing fancy & a bit older). The plan is to invest in a newer camera when we get home, but thanks for your positive comments. 😀

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