The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world. Its picture has covered many magazines and travel brochures, and everyone has probably seen a picture of it, but nothing really compares to the real thing – the Taj Mahal looks a lot better in reality than on a picture.
Even those who come to see the Taj with high expectations never fail to be overwhelmed by its beauty.
The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan to enshrine the body of his wife, Arjumand Bann Begum (Mumtaz Mahal) after she died in 1630 at Burhanpur in South India. The construction started in 1632 and was completed in 1653. The workforce of some 20,000 included craftsmen from Italy, Persia and Turkey. It is built by the bank of the Yamuna River, not very far from the Agra Fort.
The whole structure is more than 55 meters high and built in white and yellow marble. The Taj Mahal is flanked by two smaller red stone buildings, one a mosque and the other a rest house. Outside the walls surrounding the tomb, you’ll be harassed by many hawkers, but the Taj and the surrounding gardens are haggler free, so even with the huge crowds visiting the mausoleum, it is a relaxing place. Most people spend several hours around the Taj or in the gardens, which are well maintained. The garden has a geometrical structure, and is believed to symbolize paradise.
To enter the mausoleum, you need to put a cloth around your feet, like for any temple in India. You can rent it for a small fee just before the stairs leading to the tomb. If you want to go barefoot, you will certainly burn your feet on a sunny day due to the marble heating up under the Indian sun.
Inside the mausoleum, it is surprisingly chilly. The interiors are rather dark, and on first sight there’s not much to see, but if you take a closer look you will see all the fine marble carvings decorated with many precious and semiprecious stones of any color (sapphire, topaz, coral,…). If you’re accompanied by a guide, he will certainly show you that a lot of the interior decorations are made of transparent marble. In the middle of the room inside the Taj, a screen of carved marble surrounds the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, also built exclusively in marble, with (calligraphy and other) inlay work.
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