WoW Taj : Truly a Wonder of our World…
They say that if you look back one more time just when you are exiting the Taj Mahal and wish for something, your wish is sure to get fulfilled. I have always wished to be able to visit this wonder of our world again and it has always got fulfilled.
2 weeks back as I was returning back from office on a Friday night, a message from Abha about a dear family friend is short trip from Bombay to Delhi/Agra inspired us to plan our own quick road trip to the Taj. And it was awesome to be able to stand in front of the breathtakingly beautiful Taj Mahal once again, it was the very time for Meera, even Kabir was just 1yr+ when we had visited Agra few years back. It was a memorable trip, no matter how many time one visits the place, the awe-inspiring monument that it is still gives the goosebumps when one stand it front of it and tries to appreciate its beauty.
Despite the heavy crowd and limited time we got the spend inside, this one last view of Taj in the fading lights was totally worth the whole trip. We were inside the Taj by 4.30 and got out around 6.30pm – we all were hungry & tired, specially the kids, after the long road trip during the day and walking around the monument for two hours.
Info for those planning a visit:
- Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World – A UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its an Islamic tomb, build by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan; the construction started in 1631 and completed in 1653; it took 22 years & 20,000 workers to built this marvel made of white marble at the cost of 32,000,000 Rupees in those days.
- Shah Jahan build Taj Mahal in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Bano Begum) on the banks of Yamuna river at Agra, a vibrant town in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, his grandfather Emperor Akbar had built a capital city near Agra called Fatehpur Sikri. Apart from the Taj Mahal, there is a Red Fort, the Tomb of Emperor Akbar and many other tourist attractions in Agra. Today Agra is a trade hub for the Western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
- The architecture of Taj Mahal is known as Mughal style – a combination of Persian, Islamic and Indian architecture style. Chief Architect of Taj Mahal was Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, it is said that on the completion of Taj Mahal hands of the architect and all the 20,000 workers were cut to avoid any piracy.
- One can visit it any time of the year – though the summers from March to July are really very hot. Its open from Sunrise to Sunset (5.30 in winter; 6.30 in summers is the cut off time for entering inside). Special tours are organized on the full moon nights – it is said that this wonder of marble looks different at different times of the day. It is closed on Fridays for general tourist but Muslims can go inside without any ticket on Friday to pray at a mosque inside the complex.
- Entry Fee is Rs. 750 (10-12 US$) for foreign Tourists and Rs 510 for citizens of SAARC & BIMSTEC Countries. For Indian tourists it is only Rs 20. But the Indian tourists with normal ticket need to take a long detour to get inside the main complex, while the foreign tourist with more expensive ticket can avoid that and get inside the main complex directly.
- There is no entry fee for children below 15 years of age – domestic or foreigner
- There is generally a of crowd on the main entry gate and it takes about 30min+ to get inside; hundreds of local guides roam around the main gate and parking area – for about Rs. 500 they can guide one to a lesser known entry point called labour gate (since it housed the labor working on the Taj Mahal during its construction) and also tell many interesting tales about the Taj Mahal.
What makes Taj Majhal a Wonder of the World?
- Taj Mahal attracts 2-4 million visitors annually with over 200,000 from overseas. In 2001, the UNESCO documented more than two million visitors to the Taj Mahal.
- The Taj Mahal was Shah Jahan’s imagination of his beloved wife Mumtaz’s home in paradise.
- India’s’ Nobel Laureate, Rabindra Nath Tagore, referred to the Taj Mahal as a “tear drop on the cheek of time”.
- The Taj Mahal takes on different colouring at different times of the day, from a pinkish hue in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden at night when lit by the moon. They say the changing colour resembles the changing moods of the fairer sex.
- There was a popular myth that Shah Jahan was planning to construct a black Taj Mahal across the Yamuna, there is a garden at that site and it also offers a beautiful different view of Taj. But its not a true story.
- During British colonial rule in India, Taj Mahal was defaced by the British soldiers who chiseled out precious stones from the walls of the monument. At the end of the 19th century, British Viceroy, Lord Curzon, ordered a restoration of the monument and also gifted a large lamp which hangs in the interior chambers of the Taj Mahal.
- In 2000, an Indian writer P.N. Oak claimed that the Taj Mahal was actually a Shiva Temple and filed a petition with the Supreme Court of India to excavate the site of the Taj Mahal to look for proof. His petition was rejected by the Supreme Court.
- Different types of marbles used in construction of Taj Mahal were brought over from many different regions & countries: Rajasthan, Punjab, China, Tibet and Afghanistan.
- The four minarets of the Taj Mahal have been constructed slightly outside of the plinth so that in case the minarets fell, they would fall away and not on the main structure.
- The four sides of the Taj Mahal are perfectly identical creating an astonishingly mirrored image on each side. It uses the principles of self-replicating geometry and symmetry of architectural elements.
- The Taj Mahal is surrounded by significant gardens and a number of other buildings including a mosque and guest houses which make up the 17 hectares of land within the complex walls.
- The full height of the Taj Mahal is 171 metres (561 feet).
- For the transportation of the construction materials, more than 1,000 elephants were employed.
- As many as 28 different varieties of semi-precious and precious stones were used to adorn the Taj with exquisite inlay work.
- Passages from Quran have been used as decorative elements throughout the complex.
- On the sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, 99 names of Allah can be found as calligraphic inscriptions.
- Taj Mahal was built in stages, with the plinth and the tomb taking up roughly 15 years. Building of minarets, mosque, jawab, and gateway took additional 5 years to be completed.
But you may also find interesting to note that
- Mumtaz Mahal was Emperor Shahjahans 4th wife (he married 7 times overall). The first and supposedly the most beautiful one was Ishrat Banoo, there is no big memorial build for her.
- Mumtaz was already married when Shahjahan got his eyes on her and he got Mumtaz’s husband killed to so that he could marry her. Mumtaz died while delivering her 14th baby.
- Just after a week of Mumtaz’s death, Shahjahan married her younger sister, Farzana Begum.
- Shah Jahan son Aurangzeb (one of the cruelest Mughal ruler) revolted against his father, killed all his brothers (including Dara Shikoh – a very learned man and Shah Jahan chosen heir to the throne).
- Aurangzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan in the Red Fort, his palace short distance away.
- Shah Jahan could only see the Taj Mahal from a small window inside the Palace turned prison.
- After his death, as per his wishes, Shah Jahan was laid to rest in the Taj Mahal besides the tomb of his wife Mumtaz. It is said that after the death of Mumtaz Mahal Shah Jahan was so crushed that all his hair and beard were said to have grown snow white within just a few months.
- The greatest Mughal Emperor Akbar is also buried in Agra, inside a beautiful monument called Sikandra.
- The inspiration for Taj Mahal is supposed to be the Humayun’s tomb in Delhi – strikingly similar in looks,though much smaller and made of red stone and the tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah in Agra, known as mini Taj.
- I’timad-ud-Daulah built between 1622 and 1628 represents a transition between the first phase of monumental Mughal architecture – primarily built from red sandstone with marble decorations, as in Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi and Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra – to its second phase, based on white marble and hard stone inlay, most elegantly realized in the Taj Mahal. It was commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, originally a Persian Amir in exile who had been given the title of I’timad-ud-Daulah (pillar of the state). Mirza Ghiyas Beg was also the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal.