Testimony of Love: The Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal is a historical monument located in Agra, India. Considered as “Symbol of India” and great architectural jewel it is one of the Seven Wonders of World and also UNESCO World Heritage site. The word Taj Mahal means “Crown of Palaces” and looking on its beauty, history, and significance it justifies its meaning. Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. The construction of the building started in 1632 and took almost 20 years to complete with almost 20000 artisans and craftsmen worked together to complete this task.
Located on the banks of river Yamuna it is considered as an architectural masterpiece that world has never seen before and best example of the combination of Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural style. It attracts more than 3 million people every year.
History and Reason for Construction: Mughals in India brought some great architectural knowledge with them which was influenced by Persian and Arabic style. This can be seen in many monuments build by them like Humayun Tomb at Delhi, Akbar’s tomb, Red Fort etc. Almost all Mughal rulers constructed some great building of that time, but during the reign of Shah Jahan it reached its peak and some best structures were constructed.
Arjumand Banu Begum was the third wife of Shah Jahan and the most beloved one among all his wives. It was deep love and affection between them that emperor gave her the title of Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel of the Palace). But Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to the fourteenth child at Burhanpur in Deccan region of India. At the time of her death, Shah Jahan promised that he will build the greatest mausoleum for her and no other building in the world would be such beautiful.
Construction: Construction of Taj Mahal began in 1632 and Agra was selected as the place for construction under chief architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The land was exchanged from Maharajah Jai Singh but the biggest issue was to save Taj from the currents of Yamuna River. To overcome this three acres of the area was excavated to build the foundation and filled with dust and elevated up to 160ft above the river bank. The entire complex spans an area of 55.5 acres and nearly 1000 elephants were utilized to transport building materials. Materials were brought from all over the India neighboring areas like white marble was brought from Makrana in Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab, jade, and crystal from China. It is said that Shah Jahan created a mythical feminine so that he can divert the supply of food grains to the construction site. It took nearly 12 years to complete plinth and tomb and additional 10 years to build minarets, mosque, gateways, gardens, and fountains. Once the building was complete it costs 32 million INR at that time.
A Walk through Taj Complex: The entire complex can be divided into following 5 locations:
- Moonlight garden on the north bank of River Yamuna.
- Southern Bank of river containing the Mausoleum, Mosque. It is also called Riverfront terrace.
- The Charbagh garden.
- The ForeCourt or “Jilaukhana” with two additional tombs.
- The Bazaar or “Taj Ganji”.
Moonlight Garden: Moonlight garden is also known as “Mehtab Bagh” is a garden across the river Yamuna. This garden is located in at the northern bank of Yamuna and the primary reason to construct garden was to provide a location to view Taj and enjoy its beauty. The width of the garden is almost symmetric to the entire Taj complex.
River Front Terrace: The riverfront terrace contains the Taj Mahal and two Mosques facing each other called “Jawab and Mosque”. The riverfront terrace provides an excellent view of Yamuna River flowing side by and as well as for Charbagh garden. This place was also constructed so that prayers can be offered easily.
The Charbagh Garden: The construction of Charbagh garden was done to symbolize the four rivers flowing in paradise as per Islamic culture. The charbagh garden is divided into four quarters (in Hindi char means four) and they are subsequently divided into 16 parterres. At halfway between the tomb and the gateway, there is a raised marble water tank and it reflects the Taj Mahal. Beautiful trees and fountains can be seen in between gateway and tomb and it enhances the overall beauty.
The ForeCourt: The main reason for the introduction of forecourt by Shah Jahan was that visitor can prepare them before entering into tomb area and they can manage their procession of horse and elephant. The northern end of forecourt leads to Taj Mahal while southern end leads to Taj Ganji Market.
The Bazaar or “Taj Ganji”: Taj Ganji is basically a market and a large number of shops can be seen there. Initially, this area was constructed for workers and craftsmen.
How to Reach: Agra is well connected by major cities of India via road, rail, and air. Domestic airport at Agra servers for speedy connectivity. Apart from air Agra railway station comes under northern central railway zone of Indian Railways and is well connected by all major stations. Train for Agra can be searched at http://www.indianrail.gov.in/between_Imp_Stations.html
Additional information can be found at Govt. of India Tourism Office 191, Mall Road, Agra Ph- + 91-562-2226368 and at Office of U.P. Tourism 64, Taj Road, Agra. Ph- +91-562-2226431.
Distance from major cities: Distance of Agra via road form major cities is as follow Agra-Delhi: 205Km, Agra-Lucknow: 370Km, Agra-Varanasi: 600Km, Agra-Khajuraho: 400Km, Agra-Gwalior: 120Km.
Entry Fee: For children below 15 years no charges, above that 20 Rs for all Indian Citizens. For the citizen of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries 510 Rupees. For other foreign visitors, the cost is 750 Rupees but the ticket of 750 rupees includes other monuments located in Agra like Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar’s Tomb, Itimad-Ud-Daulah’s tomb and if they visit those on the same day then they don’t have to pay for it.
Opening Time: Taj Mahal is open for visitors on all weekdays except on Friday for prayers. Night viewing is also available on Full Moon day and two days before and after it.
Museum: Museum is open from 9.00 AM to 5.00 P.M. it is situated on the western side of NaubatKhana and its entry is free for all visitors. It is also closed on Friday.