The Taj Mahal, Agra

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    The Taj Mahal

    by georeiser Written May 18, 2010

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    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.

    The Taj Mahal, Agra The Taj Mahal, Agra The ticket to Taj Mahal The Taj Mahal entrance, Agra The area in front of Taj Mahal, Agra

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    "a teardrop on the cheek of eternity"

    by smirnofforiginal Written Apr 30, 2010

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    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.

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    Decoration

    by illumina Written Mar 16, 2010

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    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...".

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    Mausoleum / Rauza

    by illumina Updated Mar 14, 2010

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    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.

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    Masjid and Jawab

    by illumina Written Mar 14, 2010

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    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.

    Jawab at sunrise
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    Minarets

    by illumina Written Mar 14, 2010

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    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.

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    Plinths and platforms

    by illumina Updated Mar 14, 2010

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    The main mausoleum, mosque and rest-house all stand on a red sandstone platform, the Chameli Farsh, or terrace, on the riverfront itself. It measures 997 ft by 373ft, and is approximately 43ft above the level of the river, and 4 feet high from the garden. The terrace has also, historically, been referred to as the 'kursi' or throne. Before ascending the steps onto this, you must remove or cover footwear.

    The river-facing side of the platform originally had open archways, which are now filled in. These allowed light, and breezes from the river, to reach the inner tahkhana rooms within the platform; these galleries of rooms, connected by a corridor, were reached by staircases descending from openings in the plinth to east and west of the mausoleum. There are four chhatris, or domed pavilions at each corner of the platform, one of which you can see in the main photo.

    The mausoleum itself stands on a Chhakka, a second platform of white marble measuring 320 feet square (93 metres) and is 18.6 feet high from the Chameli Farsh.

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    Perimeter walls

    by illumina Written Mar 13, 2010

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    The Taj Mahal complex is enclosed on three sides by red sandstone walls, with the fourth left open to the river Jamuna. The wall is crenellated, and has columned arches running around the inside, and is interspersed with domes and small buildings - there are two on either side of the main gate which contained a photographic exhibition when I was there, and two half-way between the gate and the mausoleum, on either side - the one on the west, originally the Music House, now contains the museum.

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    Darwaza-i-Rauza

    by illumina Updated Mar 13, 2010

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    The Taj complex proper is divided into five elements (gateway, gardens, mosque, resthouse and mausoleum) which should be considered in order, culminating with the world-famous mausoleum itself.

    The Great Gate, or Darwaza-i-Rauza (Gateway of the tomb), is constructed of red sandstone inlaid with white marble, and stands to the north of the entrance forecourt. It supposedly provides a transition between the worldly (the bazaar) and the spiritual (the gardens, mausoleum and mosque).

    Once inside, the arched doorway creates a frame for the beauty of the main building.

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    Bageecha / Gardens

    by illumina Updated Mar 13, 2010

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    The gardens between the gateway and the main buildings are divided into four parts by water-channels crossing in the centre, which are supposed to represent the four flowing rivers of paradise.

    Each of the four quarters of the garden are divided again into four flowerbeds (now lawns), separated by raised paths.

    From the Quran: "Such is the Paradise which the righteous have been promised: it is watered by running streams; eternal is its fruit, and eternal is its shade."

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    Al Hawd al-Kawthar

    by illumina Updated Mar 13, 2010

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    The water channel running from north to south from the gateway to the mausoleum forms a linear reflecting pool in which the Taj Mahal is reproduced when the fountains are turned off. Where it crosses the east-west channel, in the centre of the garden, is a raised marble lotus-tank with a cusped border, named after the "Tank of Abundance" promised to Muhammad in paradise where the faithful may quench their thirst upon arrival.

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    The Forecourt

    by illumina Written Mar 13, 2010

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    Once past the ticket office, and through the queues and security checks, if you entered through either the east or west gate you walk along one of two paths lined with red sandstone colonnades which emerge into the Chowk i-Jilau Khana ("market in front of house"). This courtyard, which the south gate approaches directly, contains two royal tombs in each of the southern corners, probably those of Shah Jahan's other wives

    The colonnaded paths contained shops behind the archways from the 17th century til 1996, hence the Chowk part of the name.

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    The Taj Mahal

    by illumina Updated Mar 13, 2010

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    The Taj Mahal is almost certainly the main, if not only, reason that most people visit Agra. Begun in 1632, it was built as a mausoleum and tribute for Arjumand Banu Begum, commonly known as Mumtaz Mahal ("beloved ornament of the palace"), by her devastated husband the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

    It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983, and is considered to be the finest example of Mughal architecture in India.

    The monument is open dawn til dusk, and entry costs 750rupees (as of Feb 2009) for non-Indians, split into two tickets - a 250 rupee Archaeological Society of India entry ticket and a 500 rupee ticket which is valid for five sites - the Taj, Agra Fort, Itimadud-Daula, Sikandra and Fatehpur Sikri - for the duration of one day.

    For elements within the Taj, see following tips.

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    The incomparable Taj

    by NedHopkins Updated Nov 8, 2009

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    Just after whistling half-a-dozen people off the median strip, next to the pool, a guard decided to become our guide. For over 30 minutes he took us to the 14 spots he said would give us the best pictures of the great monument. I couldn't argue -- and don't doubt that he was right.

    These shots were taken at different times on 24-26 December 2004.

    The incomparable Taj, early afternoon Through the morning haze Late afternoon From across the river on a hazy day
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    Taj Museum

    by RAJASTHANBYCAR Updated Sep 19, 2009

    Twards the left side of the Gate way to the Taj Mahal, there is the Taj Museum also known as Jal Mahal. It is a double storied building western Naubat Khana having a quadrangle projection outside and is built on a raised platform.In main hall the paintings of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal both on ivory, encased in ornamental wooden frame, replicas of coins minted Akbarabad (Agra) are on display.
    Some original, documents and Farmers are preserved.Among these two paintings are very famous which are taken from the famous person Epic Shah-nama of Firdausi.These are portraits of the lady of the Taj and shah Jahan.In some other exhibits, an interesting manuscript of the 'Chihi-Majlis',contains the sign of Shah Jahan under the Royal seal which dates back to 4th February 1628.Some jade and porcelain object, like the Quran stand arms, utensils, plans and drawings of Taj Complex, paintings, specimen inlay work, marble pillars,are exhibited here.

    Taj Museum
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