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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The photo does not do it justice due to the resolution, but the intricate inlaid etchings are amazing.
I recommend early morning or later in the afternoon for a visit. Avoid the central part of the day since the temperature will be the hottest. Also, during the middle of the day, the sunlight is not as conducive to photographs as when the sun has a lower angle.
The Red Fort is on the same side of the river, but is best you take a taxi/rickshaw between the two. It could take a while to walk, even though the taxi is ~7 minutes.
Yes, you must buy a ticket to get inside the compound that the Taj is in. You will not be able to see much from outside the wall.
There are plenty of people around to take photographs. Ask a fellow tourist if you want to have your picture taken with your own camera. Otherwise, those people who take pictures of you will require you to return in a couple hours to their location and pick up your photos.
So much has been said and written about the Taj Mahal. It is one of the most recognizable monuments in the world. Despite its familiarity, the beauty took my breath away. I wondered what kind of love this was- what kind of man would create such perfection. The domes glow and turn different shades, reflecting the light.Even on the grey, overcast day that we visited,it seemed to shimmer.
Shah Jehan was a passionate man.Only passion and the grief that aged him overnight could have inspired him to build the most perfectly flawless architechural creation in the world. After the death of Mumtaz at the age of 39, the Shah was inconsolable. The court went into mourning for two years. A memorial to his beloved queen Mumtaz had to be erected.It was to be one that the world would never forget. The white marble domes have inspired poets and painters since the 17th century. Songs have been written and sung about it. And upon first gazing at it- one can never, ever forget it. Few can be unmoved by its beauty.
The location was chosen carefully- it had to be erected on the banks of the Yamuna, so that the emperor could gaze at it for the rest of his life. He died , imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb, at the Red Fort. The Taj Mahal may have been one of the last things saw.
Work began in 1633. 20,000 workers laboured for 17 years to build it. The most skilled architects, inlay craftsmen, calligraphers, stone-carvers and masons came from all across India and lands as distant as Persia and Turkey. Coral from Arabia, Agate from the Yemen, garnets from Bundelkand, and onyx and amethyst from Persia decorate the pristine white marble. Koranic verses were carved into the marble.
(Mumtaz married Shah Jehan at the age of 21. A loyal and loving wife, she accomponied him on all his expeditions.She bore him 14 children, and died in childbirth while travelling with him).
Gardens and a water canal lead up to the Taj.The water of the pool reflects the white marble. They also compliment the beauty, and were designed with utmost attention.The banks of the River Yamuna was the perfect site.The day that we saw it, it was flowing gently.The security is very tight- for obvious reasons. Men and women are "frisked" separately. Shoes have to be removed on entering the mausoleum.Photography is not allowed inside the tomb area. Food or drinks are also not allowed inside, after passing the security check.
The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays
The exterior of the Taj Mahal is what is totally grand, while the interior is of much less interest, as in fact the building is a tomb. After, the clear daylight made itself known, I spent consider time capturing architectural details. The bulding is in fact a composite structure of red brick and mortar clad mostly in the most beautifully marble I have ever seen. The color variations are by inlays of other fine colored stone, and in many cases semi-precious stones are still found glimmering in the upper reaches of the arches. The Arabic script that arches over the doorway was ingeniously calculated so that the letters at the top of the arch appear equal in size to those at the bottom, without any effects of distortion. The layout of the Taj Mahal is entirely symetrical, with a balance of towers, and even a false mosque to balance the real mosque that flanks the center piece Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is a very grand and beautiful monument. Despite seeing it on TV and photos, experiencing it in real life is really different and enriching.
When you are at Taj Mahal, take your time to relax and explore the area (do not rush for time). It will be very crowded, especially during the best hours to visit in the morning. Best to visit during the cooler months (December to February is a good time to come).
The interior chamber of the Taj Mahal (which houses the tombs) is an octagon with the design allowing for entry from each face, though only the south garden-facing door is used.
The interior walls are about 25 metres high and topped by a false interior dome decorated with a sun motif. Eight pishtaq arches define the space at ground level. As with the exterior, each lower pishtaq is crowned by a second pishtaq about midway up the wall. The four central upper arches form balconies or viewing areas and each balcony's exterior window has an intricate screen or jali cut from marble. In addition to the light from the balcony screens, light enters through roof openings covered by chattris at the corners.
The exterior marble architecture and decorations of the Taj Mahal are among the finest to be found in Mughal architecture. As the surface area changes, a large pishtaq has more area than a smaller one, and the decorations are refined proportionally.
The calligraphy found in Taj Mahal are of florid thuluth script, created by Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan, who signed several of the panels. The calligraphy is made by jasper inlaid in white marble panels, and the work found on the marble cenotaphs in the tomb is extremely detailed and delicate. Higher panels are written slightly larger to reduce the skewing effect when viewing from below. Throughout the complex, passages from the Quran are used as decorative elements.
Please go to part 2 of this tip for more information and photographs.