Taj Mahal, Agra

Location Map of Taj Mahal
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The Taj Mahal is more than just a mausoleum - it is has been described by the poet Rabindranath Tagore as a "teardrop on the cheek of eternity". As an expression of the height of the Mughal dynasty's architectural genius in the Indian subcontinent, as the symbol of a bereaved emperor's love for his empress, and as an inspiration to countless photographers and artists who have tried to capture its many subtle nuances of light and shade, the Taj Mahal continues to captivate people worldwide with its history, its design, and its symbolism of eternal love.

About the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is an integrated complex of structures that include a white marble mausoleum containing the tombs of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1592 - 1666) and his third wife Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631). The Mughal dynasty built many mausoleums in the Indian subcontinent but the Taj Mahal is undoubtedly the finest. The mausoleum is built entirely of white marble, set on a high base or plinth which includes four tall minarets, one on each corner. On either side of the tomb are a mosque and a guest house, while the tomb faces a garden laid out in the "charbagh" style, with a central walkway with fountains and viewing platforms with green spaces and trees on either side. The entrance to the complex is through a grand ornamental gateway, inscribed with Quranic inscriptions and the calligraphed line "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you."

Location of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is located on the banks of the River Yamuna and is easily accessible by road.

How to Reach the Taj Mahal

Agra is about 200 km from Delhi (165 if you use the Yamuna Expressway) and is easily accessible by flights, roadways and train services. The travel time from Delhi to Agra by road is around 3 hours.

In order to minimize the effects of pollution, vehicles are not allowed in the immediate vicinity of the Taj Mahal. Cars and buses have to park in parking lots a short distance away from the mausoleum complex and tourists can board non-polluting electric buses to reach the Taj Mahal.

You can travel from Delhi to Agra, see the Taj Mahal, and return in one day. However, if you wish to see more of the sights of Agra and shop in the city's markets, then it is a good idea to stay overnight.

Best Time To Visit the Taj Mahal

The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is in the autumn, winter and spring months from October to February. The peak summer months of May to July are best avoided because of the hot weather. The months of October and November, after the monsoon, offer the sight of the Taj at its mesmerising best, as the gardens are lush with greenery and the Yamuna river flows proudly past the Taj Mahal, swollen with post-monsoon rain. Both these factors enhance the overall experience of viewing the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal Timings

The Taj Mahal complex is open for visitors from sunrise to sunset (6 a.m. to 7 p.m.) on all weekdays, with the exception of Friday. On Fridays the mosque in the Taj Mahal complex is open for prayers from 12 noon to 2 p.m. At this time, tourists are not permitted to enter the complex.

On full-moon nights, and one night before and after a full-moon, the Taj Mahal complex is open for visitors who wish to view the Taj by moonlight - a truly spectacular sight. The moonlight viewing sessions are not permitted during the month of Ramadan and on Fridays.

While travelling to the Taj Mahal complex, do note that security restrictions apply at the complex and the only items a tourist may carry into the grounds are the following: mobile phones, still cameras, small video cameras, small purses carried by ladies, and water in transparent bottles.

Taj Mahal - Entry Fee, Timing, Address, Official Website

Address Dharmapuri, Forest Colony, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001
Entry Fee Entry fee for Indians: Rs. 40 Entry fee for Children: No entry fee for children below the age of 15 years. (Both Domestic and Foreigner). Entry fee for Foreigners : Rs. 1,000 Entry fee for others : Rs. 530 (Citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries) Visitors can also book online tickets or e-tickets at IRCTC website www.asi.irctc.co.in or can buy them from the e-ticket windows at the monument.
Timings Visiting Hours - Sunrise to Sunset
Days When Closed Friday
Phone No (Official) +91-562-2226431, +91-562-2233056
Official Website http://tajmahal.gov.in
Photography allowed or not Allowed
Wi-Fi Visitors can use free wi-fi internet service for half an hour inside the complex. Rs. 30 per hour will be charged for using the facility after half-an-hour.

Taj Mahal Myths

There are many myths associated with the Taj Mahal, some of which have been repeated so many times over the centuries that they have become part of the perceived history of this beautiful monument.

The myths of mutilation of the artisans and craftsmen: Contrary to public perception there is no historic evidence for the many stories about architects being blinded, artisans having their hands chopped off or architects being thrown off the heights of the mausoleum in order to prevent them from ever creating such perfection. Another myth claims that the artisans all had to sign contracts that they would never again build a similar structure. However there is no evidence for this either.

The myth that the British planned to demolish and sell off the Taj piece by piece: According to the myth, Lord William Bentinck, then Governor General of India, intended to break down the Taj Mahal and sell it off as blocks of marble. The apparent reason for this myth is explained by the biographer of Lord Bentinck, John Roselli, who explains that Bentinck did sell discarded blocks of marble from Agra Fort, in an effort to raise funds for the local administration.

The myth that the Taj Mahal was built by a Hindu ruler: There have been several stories circulated that the Taj Mahal is not a Mughal structure but existed before Shah Jahan's time. There is no evidence to support these ideas and both the Supreme Court of India and the Allahabad High court have dismissed petitions that aim to propagate these unfounded opinions.

Taj Mahal History

The history of the Taj Mahal is also one of the world's greatest love stories. It began in 1607 when the Mughal Prince Khurram (later known as the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan) first set eyes on the beautiful Arjumand Banu Begum (later known as Mumtaz Mahal). She was the niece of the the empress Meherunissa (later the Empress Nur Jahan). Khurram, the son of the Emperor Jahangir, expressed his desire to marry Arjumand and some years thereafter their marriage was celebrated with great pomp and splendour.

Their marriage was a blissful one and Khurram, who came to the throne as the Emperor Shah Jahan in 1628, after the death of his father Jahangir, drew great strength from the support that Mumtaz Mahal provided. During the course of their married life they had 14 children (of whom 7 survived) and Mumtaz Mahal travelled with Shah Jahan across the length and breadth of the Mughal Empire, even camping near battlegrounds as Shah Jahan consolidated the frontiers of his empire. As his confidante and life partner Mumtaz Mahal brought Shah Jahan the comforts of home and family, even when they were far away from their imperial palaces. It was at one such military campaign in Burhanpur, in 1631, that Mumtaz Mahal breathed her last, giving birth to her 14th child, Gauharara Begum, who survived to live to the age of 75. The court records of the time describe Shah Jahan's immense grief at the loss of his beautiful wife and ever-present companion. It is said that he went into mourning for a year, his hair turned grey and he never remarried.

A tomb like none other

Mumtaz Mahal's body was buried at the time in a garden in Burhanpur, but was later disinterred and carried in a golden casket back to Agra. It was temporarily buried in a royal garden near the banks of the river Yamuna. Shah Jahan completed his military campaign in Burhanpur and began to envision the tomb he would build in memory of his lost love. Shah Jahan's reign is considered the golden age of Mughal architecture, in which he had constructed the city of Shahjahanabad in Delhi, including the Red Fort and Jama Masjid, the Moti Masjid in Agra, expanded the Lahore Fort and the pleasure gardens in Srinagar, Kashmir. He had a keen interest in architecture and wished to leave a legacy behind, not only in the form of the Mughal empire which he expanded, but also in its architecture, arts and aesthetics. The pinnacle of his architectural achievement is the tomb he laboured 22 years to build. Constructed over a period from 1632 to 1653, the Taj Mahal was the ultimate expression of the love of Shah Jahan for Mumtaz Mahal. Their ornamental graves lie side by side in a chamber below the main floor of the Taj Mahal. Close together for eternity, never to be parted, their love story is the unforgettable history of the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal Facts

Construction: The Taj Mahal was constructed over a time span of 23 years. Construction began in 1632 (after Mumtaz Mahal's death in 1631) and was completed around 1653.

Timeframe: Construction of the main mausoleum was completed in 1648 and the surrounding buildings and garden were completed after another five years.

Number of workers: Twenty-thousand artisans and craftsmen worked to construct the building, lay the lawns and carry out the intricate carvings and inlay work.

Architects: Ustad Ahmad Lahauri or Ustad Isa was the chief architect. Other craftsmen who worked on the building were: Amanat Khan from Shiraz in Iran, who was the chief calligrapher, Chiranjilal, an expert on precious stones, from Delhi, who was the chief decorative sculptor, Muhammad Hanif, who was chief supervisor of the masons and Abd ul-Karim Ma'mur Khan and Makramat Khan who managed the finances and the daily production on the construction site.

Role of elephants: Over 1,000 elephants were put to work on the construction site, to lift, carry and transport logs, blocks of marble and any other material that was required across the construction site.

Source of the material used in construction: About 28 different varieties of semi-precious and precious stones were used in the inlay work inside the tomb. The stones included lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, sapphire came from Sri Lanka, turquoise was from Tibet, jade and crystal from China, carnelian from Arabia and jasper from Punjab. The white marble was sourced from Makrana in Rajasthan.

Total cost of the construction: Scholars have estimated that the total cost of constructing the Taj Mahal may have been about 32 million Rupees at that time.

Shah Jahan's imprisonment: Shah Jahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb, in 1654, one year after the construction of the Taj Mahal was completed. Shah Jahan lived out the last decade of his life, till his death in 1666, as a prisoner in Agra Fort. He spent his days gazing across the Yamuna river to the monument he had built in memory of his lost love. When Shah Jahan died in 1666, Aurangzeb had him entombed beside his beloved Mumtaz Mahal. There they rest, united by death, never to be parted again.

Architecture of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is considered the pinnacle of aesthetic achievement in Mughal architecture. The Mughals had previously built many impressive structures in India, including the imposing forts at Delhi and Agra, the city of Fatehpur Sikri, the grand Jama Masjid in Delhi, and the austere tomb of Akbar in Sikandra. The Taj Mahal was inspired by the rich tradition of Mughal architecture and the tombs of their ancestors, such as the tomb of Timur the Lame, called Gur-e-Amir, in Samarkand; the grand tomb of Humayun in Delhi; and the tomb of Mirza Ghias Beg (Itimad-ud-Daulah, the royal treasurer and father of Nur Jehan) in Agra, which is also known as the Baby Taj because of its fine marble inlay work. In his construction of the The Taj Mahal, however, Shah Jahan further developed the architectural expression of the Mughal style and raised it to perfection carved in stone.

One of the major design changes that Shah Jahan brought about in the Taj Mahal was the predominant use of white marble. Previously, tombs - such as Humayun's tomb - were constructed mostly out of red sandstone. The use of marble and its decoration with semi-precious and precious stones in the form of detailed inlay work was a new innovation that raised the tomb from a mausoleum to a work of art.

The Charbagh Gardens of the Taj Mahal

The Mughals were very fond of gardens and built many beautiful parks and green spaces in their cities and within their palaces. Their tombs are usually placed in the centre of a charbagh (four-quartered) garden. The Taj Mahal differs from this pattern because the tomb is set at one end of the 300-metre garden. However, the recent discovery by the Archaeological Survey of India of the moonlit garden on the far side of the Yamuna river suggest that the Taj Mahal and its associated structures may not be restricted to one bank of the river, and the river itself may be an integral part of the design of the Taj Mahal complex. Apart from fountains and water channels along the main walkway, there is also a pool halfway along its length, in which the sublime reflection of the Taj Mahal can be seen. The design of the gardens are similar to the Shalimar Bagh, a beautiful garden in Kashmir, built by the Emperor Jahangir. The British introduced some changes to the gardens around the Taj Mahal during their reign, but much of the original splendour still remains.

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Complex of Taj Mahal

Together, the gateway, the gardens, the tomb with its impressive onion dome and surrounding minarets, and the white marble perfection of the Taj Mahal, provide a sublime and humbling experience. The story of the great love that inspired an emperor to create this wonder of the world, and the incredible craftsmanship at each stage of the construction and decoration of this mausoleum is a testament to the human spirit and its need to strive for perfection. In this tribute to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan created not only a mausoleum for his Empress, but also an inspiration for lovers worldwide, and proof carved in stone of what can be achieved when an Emperor resolves to achieve his dream.