Placed at the northern end of the charbagh garden, the Taj Mahal stands on a raised platform overlooking the River Yamuna. Sometimes also referred to as rauza-i munauwara, "the enlightened mausoleum," the central white marble structure is surrounded by four tall white minarets and is crowned with a massive bulbous dome, which is also surrounded by four smaller white domes. The four façades are identical, each containing a 33-metre iwan arch, flanked by two stacked blind arches on either side. The façades and the arches are decorated with the most exquisite Arabic calligraphy and floral and geometric motifs, either carved or inlaid with polychrome stones that sparkle in sunlight.
The Taj Mahal complex is preceded by a forecourt known as Chowk-i-Jilaukhana. This forecourt lies to the south of the complex and is rectangular in shape and enclosed in a red sandstone wall. At its centre is a perfectly maintained green lawn, which contrasts in colour with the red sandstone arcaded porticoes along the sides. Each of the southern, eastern and western walls contains a monumental gateway that acts as an entry point into the complex, but most visitors nowadays enter through the eastern gate and to a lesser extent the western one as well. The eastern and western ends also contain a few administrative buildings as well as two small octagonal mausoleums containing the tombs of two other wives of Shah Jahan (clearly not his favourites!). On the northern side of Chowk-i-Jilaukhana stands the imposing monumental gateway, Darwaza-i-Rauza, which leads from the forecourt into the actual Taj Mahal enclosure.
Considered the pinnacle of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal was commissioned by the great Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife, Arjumand Banu Begam, soon after her death in 1631. She was his favourite wife, who was known as Mumtaz Mahal, "the most excellent, or most exalted, of the palace." Her tragic death, while giving birth to their ninth child, devastated the Emperor who wanted to ensure that she not only went to celestial heaven, but heaven on Earth as well. Thus, no expense was spared in the construction of her massive white marble mausoleum, which coincided with the height of the Mughal Empire's wealth, power, and architectural excellence. Construction was completed in 1648, and ten years later, Shah Jahan himself was buried within it, next to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal.
Taj Mahal is amongst the 7 Wonders of your world is a tomb made to the southern edge of your River Yamuna in Agra, India. It was created by the Mughal king Shah Jahan inside the loving remembrance of his wife Mumtaz Mahal whose real provided identity was Arjumand banu beagum. http://bit.ly/dKFvAq
North of Darwaza-i-Rauza, the main gateway into the Taj Mahal enclosure, lie the vast gardens of the mausoleum. They were designed in a typical Mughal-period charbagh layout, which consists of four symmetrical landscaped quadrants divided by paved paths, flower beds, and a water channel. However, whereas most Mughal-period mausoleums were built at the centre of a charbagh garden, where the four quadrants meet, the Taj Mahal distinguishes itself by standing to the north of its charbagh garden. Instead, the four quadrants converge into a raised white marble water pool which represents the "celestial pool of abundance," known as al-Kawthar in Arabic.
An identical mirror image of the Taj Mahal mosque, the Mehmankhana lies to the east of the mausoleum. The structure was used as a caravanserai or an inn, but its construction was necessary mainly to provide perfect symmetry to the Taj Mahal complex.
Directly west of the Taj Mahal mausoleum lies the triple-domed red sandstone Taj Mahal Mosque. It faces the direction of Mecca and stands on the lower platform of the mausoleum. The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal was placed in this mosque for a while until the construction of the Taj Mahal was completed in 1648. The mosque's mirror image on the other side of the mausoleum is the Mehmankhana, which was used as an inn or a caravanserai.
A monument in itself, this imposing structure is the main gateway into the actual Taj Mahal enclosure. It separates Chowk-i-Jilaukhana, the forecourt to the south, from the grounds and gardens of the Taj Mahal, which extend northwards all the way to the River Yamuna. Its name, Darwaza-i-Rauza, simply means "mausoleum gate" (darwaza = gate, rauza = mausoleum), and if it were anywhere else in the world it would be one of the most treasured edifices. Its grandeur, however, is rightfully eclipsed by the magical Taj Mahal further north. Darwaza-i-Rauza is square in shape, with an octagonal bastion at each corner, and is crowned with multiple chhatris (domed pavilions) and small minarets. It was built in red sandstone and decorated with white marble, inlaid with Arabic calligraphy and polychrome floral designs, similar to those covering the Taj Mahal itself, while each façade contained the customary cusped arches and lofty iwans (porticoes under half domes).
For more photos, take a look at the travelogue: "Taj Mahal - Darwaza-i-Rauza."
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal, the biggest reason you came to Agra in the first place, is AS EARLY IN THE MORNING AS POSSIBLE. It is open from 6 am to 7 pm. Get at the ticket counter by 5:45 at least. There is a long walk after you buy the ticket. There will be people in line already, especially if you are not an Indian citizen and then will have to stand in the ''foreigner'' line (terrible differentiation).
It is as touristy a spot as you will ever see. It is an insatiable magnet for tourists (fewer backpackers from what I could tell). So enjoy it with as few people around. You will have cleaner vantage shots. You also get to see the changing colors of the marble during sunrise as long as it is not a cloudy day.
The Taj Mahal mausoleum is located in Agra. It was build by the emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal took thousands of artisans and craftsmen 22 years to build, and it was completed in 1653. It is the jewel of Muslim art and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was sceptical about all the big talk, like it was "one of the seven wonders in the world" and so on. On distance it looks like any other large mosque. But you will be overwhelmed by the beauty when you get close and can see all the details. Every inch of the marble mausoleum is hand-made with decorations.
Possibly the most famous mausoleum in the world - the Taj Mahal... and India take the upkeep of the Taj very seriously which is why you wont find any factories pumping out their dity clouds around here - The Taj must stay white and clean and gleaming... and quite so... it is certainly one place in the world where, even after a lifetime of listening to the hype about it, you wont be disappointed. Spectacular! Watching the Taj change colour with the setting or the rising of the sun - beautiful!
Built by Shah Jahan for his 2nd wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died in childbirth (1631)
A total of 20,000 people worked on this building and "exquisite" does not do it justice!
Since 1983 the Taj has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site and underwent a huge restoration project in 2002 - it has been discoloured by the city pollution.
The lead up to the entrance of the Taj is a nightmare with hawkers, touts and beggars. You will get offered in excess of a thousand plastic, Taj Mahal, snow globe keyrings... you will!!!
Queues into the Taj Mahal complex were horrendous but the womens one (men and women go through separate security) moved a little quicker.
We were told we could not take bags into the Taj Mahal but everybody, including us had rucksacks and bags of various desciptions.
Upon sale of ticket you are given special shoe covers and a small bottle of water - do ensure you have a LOT more water than this with you and do not rely on the shoe covers being large enough to cover your shoes (alternatively bare foot is fine!) - it is only when you ascend the actual Taj itself that you need to worry about footwear.
Thousands of people pour into the grounds and yet there is peace and, as I found, sitting on the right side of the Taj, solitude!
I did go inside the Taj to see the tombs but it is not something I would rave about.
Camcorders may be taken into the complex (for a fee)but are permitted no further than the platform just inside the grounds. Cameras )for a fee) are allowed in all areas except the tombs.
Once you have marvelled at the building from afar, approach, and give some attention to the delicate, restrained decoration which is hidden from distance and only becomes obvious as you look more closely.
The white marble is covered with decoration forming vining floral designs above which are extensive calligraphic inscriptions in black lettering.
Three types of inlay are used to ornament the buildings of the Taj complex. Coloured marbles inlaid into easily workable sandstone is the most basic type of inlay. The second type, the positioning of colored stones into white marble on a large scale, is used to create the impressive large scale calligraphic designs and the swirling floral arabesques of the main arches, such as the examples shown here.
However, the highlight to the inlaid scheme is provided by what is described by the Mughal historians as 'parchin kari'. This was, at the time, the most expensive and up to date form of architectural decoration available to the Mughal architects. The term 'parchin kari' refers to the skilled inlaying of gemstones into white marble on a small and detailed scale. Similar to the Italian technique known as 'pietre dure', a variety of colored stones including lapis lazuli, carnelian, agate and garnet, were used to achieve spectacular depictions of the colourful flowers of India.
The Taj Mahal has been described as "having been designed by giants and finished by jewellers...".
The main focus of the whole complex is the white marble mausoleum, or Rauza-i munauwara, meaning 'building of the illuminated tomb'. It is a cubic building with abridged or 'chamfered' corners, which creates an unequal yet symmetrical octagon. It consists of four storeys: a basement which contains the actual tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan (not open to the public); the ground / entrance floor which holds the cenotaphs (empty graves), identical in form but much more elaborately decorated than the graves below; an ambulatory floor; and a roof terrace.
On each of the long sides, an arched doorway is framed by a huge pishtaq (archway), and two smaller pishtaqs one above the other on each side. The two stacked arches are replicated on the shorter sides. At the top of each of the abridged corners is a small domed chhatri, and in the centre is the huge onion dome, at 35 metres equal in height to the rest of the building. This is topped by a finial of a crescent moon lying horizontally, with a point in the middle, thus mixing traditional Islamic and Hindu motifs by forming a trident-like shape.
On either side of the mausoleum are two large red sandstone buildings, the Masjid or mosque, and the Naqqar Khana (resthouse), also known as the Jawab (answer), as it forms a symmetrical response to the mosque. It has been called the mihmankhana (guest house) as it was thought to once house visitors to the monument.
To the west of the sandstone terrace is the Mosque, facing in the direction of Mecca. The floor has been divided up into 539 spaces, decorated with a design of prayer mats in red. A central large archway (a pishtaq) is flanked by two smaller arches, all in red sandstone decorated with white marble. The mosque has a mihrab in it's wall, which the Jawab does not, however the ritual ablution tank has been added to both buildings.
The Jawab to the east is identical in design to the mosque with the exception of the missing mihrab, and the design on its floor, which is geometrical.
At each of the four corners of the square, white marble plinth on which the mausoleum stands, is a minaret; large towers each over 40 metres tall. They are one of the many features of the complex which show the designer's desire for symmetry. They were designed as working minarets - a traditional part of mosques where the muezzin calls Moslems to prayer - and contain an internal winding staircase made of sandstone leading to the roof. Each minaret is divided into three sections by balconies, and is topped by a chhatri. They tilt out slightly from the platform which is a precaution against possible collapse.