Taj Mahal – The Symbol of Undying Love
The Taj Mahal attracts millions of people from all over the world every year. For good reason: this beautiful building looks as if it belongs in a tale from One Thousand and One Nights and represents a tragic and romantic history. Everyone should visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site once in their life. In this day and age, there are usually lots of tourists. Nevertheless, it remains a unique and very special sight, particularly because of its architecture and history.
The Taj Mahal is a 56 meters wide and 58 meters high mausoleum, located in the Indian city of Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Aside from being India’s most famous landmark, it’s also a place of religious worship for Muslims, and among Indians, a popular destination for newly-wed couples.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Taj Mahal. We’ll tell you about the history, its architecture, and, of course, what to keep in mind when visiting this famous building.
History of Taj Mahal
You might wonder about the purpose of this beautiful building. Many people don’t realize that the Taj Mahal is not a mere tourist hotspot, but actually a mausoleum.
The story of this building begins in 1631 when Arjumand Banu Begum (also called Mumtaz Mahal), the favorite wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, died giving birth to her fourteenth child. According to legend, as she was dying, she told her husband to build her a tomb unlike any other in the world. He was so in love with his wife that this task became his life’s mission for the next 20 years. Around 1648, he fulfilled his wife’s wish. He built her a magnificent and truly unique tomb – the Taj Mahal.
However, only a few years later, the Emperor’s son attempted a coup, thus dethroning and imprisoning his father in the Red Fort in Agra. The Emperor spent the rest of his life in there and had to observe the symbol of this undying love from a distance.
After his death, he was buried next to his wife inside the building. But the legend claims that Shah Jahan had actually wanted to build a contrasting, black marble tomb for himself opposite of the white Taj Mahal.
Architecture of Taj Mahal
If this extraordinary story isn’t reason enough for you to visit, the beautiful architecture will certainly convince you to embark on the next flight to India. The construction involved 20 thousand craftsmen and numerous architects. They combined Indian design elements with Persian architecture to create this stunning structure.
One thousand elephants were used to transport all the necessary materials from other parts of India and Asia to Agra. The distinctive white marble came from the Indian city of Jaipur, 400 kilometers away. 28 different types of precious and semi-precious stones grace the marble. Among these are agates from Yemen, onyxes from Persia, crystals from China, and sapphires from Sri Lanka.
The Taj Mahal is on a 100-meter square platform of marble. Surrounding the structure is an 18-hectare garden with an elongated water basin set in the middle. With the right weather conditions, the water of the basin reflects the Taj Mahal. This reflection is one of the most popular photos motifs.
A mosque of red sandstone, which faces west towards Mecca, is also part of the premises. Around the main building are four 41-meter-high minarets. They are slightly tilted to prevent them from falling onto the main building in the event of an earthquake.
The most notable parts of the Taj Mahal are the tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan inside the building. Only the tomb of Mumtaz was planned initially. It is positioned right in the center of the burial chamber to keep the overall symmetry. The later-added tomb of Shah Jahan is somewhat larger and placed asymmetrically next to his wife’s. Both tombs display detailed floral decorations, and the tomb of Mumtaz also bears inscriptions from the Quran.
These adjacent tombs emphasize the Taj Mahal’s significance as a sign of undying love. The sight is sure to leave every visitor in awe.
Your Trip to the Taj Mahal
If you now decide to visit the Taj Mahal, we will provide some useful information. First, how to get there. It is located in the city of Agra, about 200 kilometers south of Delhi. Agra has an airport, so if you are an international traveler, you can fly there with only one layover. However, to save money, we recommend that you fly to Delhi, and from there, take the train to Agra.
The best times to visit are the cooler months from October to March. If you are comfortable in high temperatures, you can also visit the Taj Mahal in summer, when there are fewer tourists.
Please note that there are different tickets for Indian and international visitors. Tourists from abroad pay about 15.50 pounds (21 US dollars), while Indian citizens only have to pay about 2.50 pounds (3.50 US dollars). If you buy your ticket online in advance, you even get a small discount.
The Taj Mahal is most impressive at sunrise. During the early hours of the day, the entire area around this building radiates a magical atmosphere that you must experience! It’s not quite as crowded, the air is still clear, and the Taj Mahal shimmers in the soft light of the morning hours. However, this means getting up early; so be at the entrance no later than 6 am.
Another highlight is to experience the Taj Mahal in the light of the full moon. On each night of the full moon, including the two nights before and after, you can visit it at night. It is truly an image to behold!
As the landmark of India and with 40 thousand visitors a day, various security measures take place at the Taj Mahal. These were reinforced again after bomb threats in 2006.
You should therefore pay close attention to the following tips. Take as little as possible with you when you visit the Taj Mahal. You mustn’t carry photo tripods, large backpacks, or food with you. You only need water and a camera or your mobile phone. Inside the Taj Mahal, you mustn’t take photos, and you have to wear shoe covers to protect the floor from scratches and dirt.
Despite many efforts to protect the Taj Mahal, the environmental damage from the surrounding area is having a serious impact on its structure. A major issue is local companies diverting water from the Yamuna River and causing its level to drop. The supporting pillars of the Taj Mahal lie directly on this river and are thus increasingly exposed to the air and becoming more fragile.
Deforestation is another problem near the Taj Mahal. The trees once protected the site from sandstorms, which are quite common in India. With many of the trees gone, the sandstorms are endangering the exterior of this building. In addition, the generally high air pollution in India is causing the Taj Mahal to turn yellow. Smog around the building is a common sight.
Special measures have been taken to counteract the environmental damage. Cars and buses running on petrol are banned within 2 kilometers of the Taj Mahal. When you visit the Taj Mahal, you can get there by battery-powered vehicles and horse-drawn carriages. And something else worth noting is that a ticket is only valid for a maximum of three hours. If you want to stay longer, you have to buy a second ticket.
Furthermore, only 40 thousand people may visit per day. That still sounds like a lot, but before this rule, as many as 70 thousand visitors came to see the Taj Mahal.
These limits are meant to reduce the crowds and preserve the beautiful building. But experts say that stricter measures are needed to protect it from decay. So, you should probably visit the Taj Mahal soon. Otherwise, it may be too late.
The Taj Mahal may be a crowded tourist hotspot, but it’s still worth a visit. If you want to see this symbol of undying love, observe the history of the Indian Mughal Empire, admire the fusion of Indian, Persian, and Muslim architecture, then it’s the perfect place for you.
When travelling to India, make sure to choose the right season and time of day to enjoy your visit to the fullest. Also, be sure to follow the safety rules. As the Taj Mahal is increasingly affected by environmental damage, it’s best to pack your bags now, fly to India, and see this gorgeous and unique structure while you still can.