February 3, 2008

Taj Mahal


Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, the Taj Mahal (meaning, Crown Palace) was built by the great Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his beloved queen, the Persian princess Mumtaz Mahal who died after giving birth to his 14th child.


The Taj Mahal, built between 1632 and 1654, is one of the most well-loved, well-preserved and architecturally beautiful structures and is so popular that it needs no further introduction.

The Taj Mahal consists not just the monument containing the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal and tomb of Shah Jahan but includes an integrated complex of structures and gardens that extends over several acres and in it are subsidiary tombs, waterworks infrastructure, the small town of 'Taj Ganji' and a 'moonlight garden' that is presumed that have repeatedly gone under water during the flooding of the Yamuna river.


The Taj Mahal is a crowning jewel of the Indo-Islamic architecture. Specific design credit is uncertain, however, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is generally considered as the principal designer of Taj Mahal. The calligraphy found in Taj Mahal is believed to be created by Persian calligrapher, Amanat Khan, who has signed his name at several of the panels. The calligraphy is made by jasper inlaid in white marble panels.



The white tomb, flanked by four tapering minarets, is raised on a terrace and first seen reflected in the central canal. It is entirely covered in marble, but the mosque and counter-mosque on the transverse axis are built in red sandstone. Within the dome lies the jewel-inlaid cenotaph of the queen.

Shah Jahan, grandson of Akbar, was deposed by his son and imprisoned in the great Agra Fort for eight years, cared for by his eldest daughter Jahanara. The great emperor that he was, surely Shah Jahan had not expected that his last days would be so utterly mournful. According to the legend, when he was on his death-bed, he kept his eyes fixed on the Taj Mahal which was clearly visible from his place of confinement.

After his death, he was buried in the Taj Mahal beside his queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Probably as an afterthought Shah Jahan's tomb was built along side it, and that is why it is the only assymmetrial object in the entire Taj Mahal complex.

No words or photographs of the Taj Mahal can do justice to describe the beauty of the place, so I will not even make an attempt to do so here.


I have heard much about the Taj Mahal sparkling in moonlight when the semi-precious stones inlaid into the white marble on the main mausoleum catch the glow of the moon. The moonlight viewing has been resumed since about 2 years after a gap of 20 years and is, I believe, restricted to 400 people per night in order to avoid overcrowding.

Therefore, thinking that few things would be more romantic than viewing the Taj Mahal in the moonlight, I set off to Agra, only to learn upon reaching there that the moonlight sighting can be done only on 5 days in a month, i.e., on the full moon night plus two days each preceding and following that. May I suggest hidden 'moonlight effect' kind of floodlights to simulate the moonlight and allow viewing throughout?

Anyway, the city of love, Agra, can never be disappointing. I was, in fact, delighted with my visits to not just the Taj Mahal on that misty day in December 2007 but also got another opportunity to visit the Fatehpur Sikri, Mosque and Palace complexes in addition to the Agra Fort.


My suggestions to anyone wishing to visit the Taj Mahal are:
  • for night viewing, check the full moon dates and make reservations in advance.
  • for day viewing, start early in the morning. The gates open at 6 am. So reach there early to enjoy the beauty of the monuments with a few early-risers rather than with the crowd that fills there later throughout the day.
  • allot a good amount of time to enjoy the place as I feel the Taj Mahal reveals its subtleties when one visits it without being in a hurry.
  • once there, for some time at least, keep your camera aside, choose a corner and "feel" the beauty of the place. Allow nothing to come in the way between you and the awe of the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal is said to be appearing pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden when the moon shines - probably depicting the different moods of a woman. To admire its full glory, one needs to also appreciate the fact that the architecture and its adornments are associated to the passion that inspired it.

There is nothing like viewing the Taj Mahal with your own eyes and being embraced in its ethereal beauty. As I said earlier, no words or photographs can fully convey the magic of the place.


It was a misty day when I reached the Taj Mahal. The above are just a few photographs shot during my delightful visit to the Taj Mahal. If you wish to see the rest of my pictures of one of the world's most admired masterpieces, they are here.

42 comments:

Ananda Niyogi said...

Your post made me feel guilty & ashamed again - I have not seen the Taj yet :-(

You did a very good job of describing the Taj in such a short space, I must say. Conidering what it is, that must have been a real tough thing to do!

Shantanu said...

Thank you for the tips and the detailed post. The pics are great too! I haven't yet made it to Agra so this will be useful information when I do travel to see the Taj.

indicaspecies said...

Ananda,

Oh, there are so many places that I haven't been to either, and that includes (y)our beloved Kolkata. So it's okay. ;)

You are right and I must say that this was one post that took a longer time to write when compared to my other posts considering that much has already been written brilliantly on the Taj Mahal by better authors.

This ostensibly left me with little room for presenting anything new, and I strove to do my best. I am pleased that my humble post got your attention. Thank you for the compliments. :)

indicaspecies said...

Shantanu,

I'm delighted that you liked the pictures and that my post is of some help to you.

I wish you a pleasant time in SF. :)

Kalyan said...

WoW...some lovely captures about the Tajmahal & the beautifully written description....Taj indeed looks more majestic in full moon nights....your last few posts really makes me re-visit my memories of my visit to these places. Agra is indeed an architectural heaven & a photographers delight.

final_transit said...

Oh sorry to hear that you couldn't see the wonder in moonlight. As I was reading the post I felt you are building up a climax for a romantic description, but thats okay, I'll wait till you visit the place next time :) I spent 5 hours in the Taj complex the last time I'd been there. The only painful thing I found was the graffiti people carved on the rear walls :-( Nice misty pictures.

indicaspecies said...

Kalyan,

Thank you very much for your compliments, and I am glad you had an opportunity to view the Taj Mahal in the moonlight. Have you blogged about that experience?

I completely agree with your opinion of Agra.:)

indicaspecies said...

Priyank,

Building up a climax..haha!! Are you taking me to be a story-teller? Unfortunately for you, I'm only narrating my actual experience, and fortunately for me, there is hope for a next time. ;)

Wow Puku! 5 hours is a good amount of time and I hope those who are yet to visit the place would hear it loud and clear. :)

As for the graffiti there or elsewhere along the monuments of India, what can I say about the woeful lack of civic sense?

final_transit said...

Well Celine you can narrate your actual experiences AND tell a compelling story. I think your passion for Taj is very evident from the way you wrote this post, and that was what I was complimenting you on :)

indicaspecies said...

Puku,

Thanks for everything. You rock man!!

AJEYA RAO said...

Post on Taj make me sad....havent been there yet....:(

backpakker said...

Another regret ...sigh

Ive read and seen many posts on Taj and then again, I havent read one like yours..Its so personal , historic with some tips as well along with some lovely pics ..thanks

shaan said...

awesome description n a diffrnt way to describe taj's beauty i appreciate ur efforts keep up da gud wrk....:)

kaylee said...

WOW I LOE THEM :) HOw are you these days? i have never been there :(

kaylee said...

love sorry

Anonymous said...

Lovely post about the Taj Mahal...made me re-live my memories of my visit way back in 1988.

indicaspecies said...

Ajeya,

Make a trip there and cheer up now. :)

indicaspecies said...

backpakker:

Lakshmi,

Thanks for your kind words. Knowing the traveller that you are, I have a feeling you are gonna make it there soon. All the best. :)

indicaspecies said...

Shaan,

Kya shaandaar comment hai yaar..haha!!

Thank you very much for your encouragement, as always. ;)

indicaspecies said...

Kaylee,

I'm great, as always, and thank you for visiting me again. I hope you get a chance to visit Taj Mahal some day. :)

indicaspecies said...

anonymous:

Thank you for your visit. Would have been nicer if you had identified yourself. Anyway, I am glad my post made you 're-live' your memories of 20 years back. :)

bendtherulz said...

ok have to confess something -

I am going to use your link and send to a client to show them why i am insisting on a visit to this place..!
(am assuming that i have your permission)

secondly, i will be taking a print out of this post sans pics and going to recite by heart and impress others.... :-)

on less kidding note , thanks for sharing !!
Tk care ~

indicaspecies said...

bendtherulz:

Hahaha...am highly flattered !!
Please feel free and go right ahead and use it. And thanks in advance for the profit-sharing arrangements that you will have to agree upon..haha~!!

On a more serious note, thank you for being here, and your comments. :)

CHEWY said...

I kept wondering if you had photos of the Taj Mahal. The misty shot is incredible.

Old Wom Tigley said...

Hello Celine
Thank you for your kindness and your visit to my blog... you are most welcome anytime.
I can see my self spending some time here as well. I have little time tnight but promise to call back and spend some quality time here.

Keshi said...

I wanna visit the TM some day...its so fascinating!

Keshi.

Purnima said...

Beautiful pictures !

Anonymous said...

lady you are smart....lol...already given your thanks for profit sharing ehan...Not bad...!!

Just saw other pics as well. Very nice.

Bendtherulz

*~*Sameera*~* said...

Breath-taking pics there dear!

I so agree with you,viewing this magnificent piece of architecture in moonlight is one of the most romantic things one can do :)

indicaspecies said...

chewy:

Thank you very much D. :)

indicaspecies said...

old wom tigley:

Hi Tom,

Welcome to my blog anytime and I hope we get opportunities to visit each other more often. Those are real nifty limericks that you have come up with at David's.

Thank you for your kind words here. :)

indicaspecies said...

Keshi,

Yes it is. Hope you get a chance to do so soon. :)

indicaspecies said...

Purnima,

Thanks a lot. :)

indicaspecies said...

bendtherulz:

I wanna hear something new..haha!!
Pleased that you like the other pictures as well.

Hey, when are you gonna bestow on me that "special" tour of the Delhi monuments? Mind you, I do not intend to forget such an unique offer. ;)

indicaspecies said...

Sameera,

The white marble of the main mausoleum catching the glow of the moon sure paints a romantic picture. I'm delighted that you liked the pictures. :)

the mother of this lot said...

I would love to visit the Taj Mahal. Your photographs are beautiful.

Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments.

Zhu said...

That's a place I'd love to see! It's on my "must-visit" list... one day, probably.

Cuckoo said...

Your pictures are awesome but as you said, the real beauty can not be captured in pictures or words. Have been there twice.. once when the solar eclipse happened some years back.
But have to confess, every time it has a different tale to tell.

Thanks for renewing my memories.

indicaspecies said...

the mother of this lot:

Taj Mahal is beautiful and I hope you get a chance to visit it sometime. :)

Thank you for your visit and kind comment here.

indicaspecies said...

Zhu,

I hope you get a chance to visit the place soon. :)

indicaspecies said...

cuckoo:

Let's see what tale it has during our third trip. For next time, will try to view it in the moonlight. Have you done so?

Thank you for the kind words about the pictures as well. :)

Indrani Ghose said...

I have not been lucky enough to see the Taj Mahal of Agra! Nice pics. Have you seen the Taj of Deccan? You are invited to view in my latest blogspot.