Travel Destination: Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Money + Love = Taj Mahal?

There are very few places in the world made by the man that people decide to visit over natural beauties like the beaches in The Maldives or maybe the stunning landscapes in Iceland. 

If you ask us, we will choose nature over the usual buildings and what we are kind of used to seeing every day. 

However, the Taj Mahal is one of those places you can’t find anywhere else, and it is unique in its own way. Not only because of the magnificent structure and result you must be aware of, but also the history behind it and how the man designed and built it. 

Sadly, we haven’t been able to visit it (yet), and as much as we would love to add this experience to our list, it will have to wait a bit longer. 

Regardless of our postponed visit so far, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it from the place you have written it down on your destinations list and place it at the top unless it is already there. 

To ensure you’re confident about choosing it as your next place to visit or add it to your list before you make the mistake of underestimating how enjoyable and life-changing a visit to this place can be, we will be sharing all the information we’ve compiled so far. 

In this way, you will have a short guide but also understand why the Taj Mahal is one of the World’s best places to visit and our love for it so far. 

Building a World Heritage Center: Taj Mahal’s History

Just like you read it, this beautiful structure is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Centers around the world, and you ought to protect it when deciding to visit it. 

The fact that it has been declared as one gives you a hint of how magnificent and important this place must be, and before we jump to the part of when it became a heritage place, let’s dive into its history.

For starters, you should know the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum complex that was built in 1632 to house Shah Jahan’s beloved wife remains. 

The famed complex was built over 20 years on the south bank of the Yamuna River, Agra (a city in Uttar Pradesh state), India. It is one of the best examples of Mughal architecture that combined Indian, Persian, and Islamic influences. 

It is made of shimmering white marble and seems to change color depending upon the daylight. 

But with the simple concept, who was Shah Jahan, and why would he decide to go over this difficult task for his wife?

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Shah Jahan was part of the Mughal empire and dynasty, which ruled northern India from the 16th century to the mid-18th century. 

This ruler raised victorious after the dispute with his brothers when his father, King Jahangir, died in 1927. As a result, he was crowned emperor of Agra in 1628.

Arjumand Banu Begum, also known as Mumtaz Mahal (“Chosen One of The Palace”), was at his side. He married her in 1612, and although the king had other two queens, he was his favorite among them. 

Although we won’t dive too deep into his ruling years, we will tell you that his personal life was quite lively. 

Having over ten children with his beloved and favorite wife, she passed away when she gave birth to the 14th child of the couple in 1631. 

Shah Jahan was always a ruler known for building many impressive structures during his reign, which is one of the main characteristics of his kingdom and some of the beautiful places you will appreciate during your stay in Agra. 

With his love for beautiful structures and now a grieving heart for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, he ordered the construction of a stunning mausoleum across the Yamuna River starting from his royal palace in Agra to place the remains of his queen. 

Without delay, the construction started in 1632 and continued for the next 20 years. 

The next information isn’t entirely confirmed, but Ustad Ahmad Lahouri was presumptively the chief architect of the structure. He was an Indian of Persian descent and would later be credited for designing the Red Fort in Delhi.

For such a difficult and magnificent task, over 20,000 workers and people had to be involved. Those include people from India, Persia, Europe, and even the Ottoman Empire. 

One thousand elephants were also used during the construction of the mausoleum complex.

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Its Design & Final Thoughts: Magnificence in Detail

Although the Taj Mahal can look like a general structure compared to other constructions over the years, you really need to look at it twice to reformulate this idea and focus on one thing: Everything included during its design. 

It is more than just a few walls and the outside you can appreciate. 

The mausoleum was made of white marble with semi-precious stone inlays like jade, lapis lazuli, jade, and even amethyst. All those and turquoise were used for creating intricate designs using a technique called pietra dura.

Even when we just started, you can notice the real value of the structure with the simple use of white marble and precious stones that cost hundreds today, if not thousands of dollars.

Now, the central dome is as tall as 240 feet (73m) and surrounds four smaller domes. At the corners, four towers or minarets stood in slender towers. 

According to Islam traditions, Quran verses were written in calligraphy at the arched entrances of the mausoleum, which must have taken a great deal based on the magnitude of the entrances. 

The cenotaph or commonly known as a false tomb of Mumtaz Mahal was kept in the mausoleum. It is an octagonal marble chamber that is adorned once again with semi-precious stones and includes carvings. 

Below this precious cenotaph, you will find the real sarcophagus that contains her actual remains.

The Taj Mahal complex also included the main entrance of red sandstone, a square garden that was divided by long pools of water, and quarters. 

There was also a red-sandstone mosque and a similar building called a jawab across the street from the mosque.

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According to the legend and history, Shah Jahan planned to build a second grand mausoleum across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal to house his remains when he died, and the two structures were to be connected by a bridge.

However, Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s third child with Mumtaz Mahal, deposed his father in 1658 and seized power. 

As a result, Shah Jahan not only couldn’t start his project but also spent his last years under house arrest at Agra’s Red Fort Tower, looking out over the magnificent resting place he had built for his wife with a view that was provided. 

Finally, he died in 1666 and was buried beside her. 

Visiting the Taj Mahal: Why People Choose Going

Going back to what we were mentioning about being a “simple” structure for some people, we’re confident you can understand a bit deeper that it isn’t just another building or construction in the world. 

The mausoleum is quite a complex structure that was built with incredible materials and under the idea of a very specific design that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. 

Of course, the materials and, notably its marble façade, aren’t the only impressive features but rather the history and reason behind its construction, which we have left clear so far. 

Although history and architecture are definitely part of the top reasons, they are not the only reasons behind the visit. 

The glamour and beauty it shows to its visitors are beyond words as everyone who has gone there agrees with something: It is much more beautiful than what you can appreciate in photos. 

The surroundings of the Taj Mahal also go perfectly well with the structure, and photographers, as well as travelers looking for a great design made by the man, are in love with the different colors of the stones based on the sun when it goes down.

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In addition, there are more structures you can visit during your trip before moving to the “Crown of all Palaces” (which is what Taj Mahal means in Persian) and have a look at the Mosque, Char Bagh on the garden, and the stunning southern gate. 

Many myths and legends were born from the beautiful mausoleum as well, so you can enjoy more than the history we have mentioned so far (and we are still missing a lot) while having a great time listening and learning about the legends of the Taj Mahal. 

Finally, the Taj Mahal was named World Heritage Site in 1983 and is called “the jewel of the Muslim art in Indian and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”

Due to this designation and the current standards, the Taj Mahal is considered one of the modern seven wonders of the world and has all the rights to be so. 

Perfect for Tourist: What to Do When Visiting

If you have doubts about visiting and spending all your time looking at the construction, we get you; you’re not trying to spend several days doing the same. 

As impressive as the Taj Mahal is, it is true tourists won’t be satisfied with walking and having a look at the structure for days, even when it is so big and detailed that there is no problem if you decide to do this. 

But following the usual guide and activities, is visiting the mausoleum the only thing you can do? Not quite. 

We mentioned other structures during the previous section, but we didn’t include some activities and places you can do and visit as well.

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Fatehpur Sikri is a city made of red sandstone, and it is a very popular tourist attraction near your main attraction along with the Agra Fort, Itimad-ud-daula’s tomb, and Akbar’s tomb. 

All these constructions are stunning to look at, and you can sign for an entire tour if you research for the right tour guide. 

The Taj View Point is a perfect spot developed by the Agra Development Authority on the bank of river Yamina near Mehtab Bagh that allows people to have a panoramic view of the Taj Mahal. 

Special events organized by the associations and groups assigned for the care of the Taj Mahal are also available for any tourists, and you can have a wonderful day for very low prices, which is one of the main reasons people decide to go for a visit. 

In fact, visiting the Taj Mahal and its surroundings isn’t expensive compared to other locations, and you can find great deals in Agra city. 

Some activities you will definitely enjoy include having a yoga class with a stunning view of the Taj Mahal, a culinary class for the traditional food, visiting the famous kinari bazaar, and just having a look around the city.

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Lights, Camera, Action! – Shooting Big Films

With such a stunning place open for the public, and we aren’t talking about the Taj Mahal only but rather the entire city, wouldn’t you take this opportunity to shoot a film? We definitely would, and we’re happy to know others agree with us. 

Many films have had the stunning place as either the main or secondary location for photography and filming. 

Considering that Bollywood is a film industry as big as Hollywood, you should expect several movies being shot in the place. 

However, the latter film industry also adds some films to the list in the place, and we are more than happy to mention some of them. 

“The Bucket List” from 2007 with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson is one of the most recent films in Hollywood featuring the place. 

“Octopussy” (1983) with Roger Moore and Maud Adams has an incredible scene filmed in Taj Mahal you shouldn’t miss if you haven’t watched the film. 

Other films like “Bheja Chokh” (1988) from Bollywood, “Kala Sach: The Black Truth” (2014), and documentaries like “Archi-faux” (2018) have the place starring within the time, and the silent film “Shiraz” is one you cannot miss. 

Many others like “Victoria & Abdul” (2017) and dozens of Indian movies and TV series can be added to the list. Some with the name of the modern wonder from the 1900s can take part in our list as well.

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5 Interesting Facts About the Taj Mahal

  • The changing colors in the mausoleum represent the changing moods of the emperor’s wife, being three different tonalities the main ones: A pink color during mornings, milky white in the evenings, and golden at nights. 
  • Taj Mahal attracts over 6 million tourists every year, surpassing Agra’s population by a lot (1.5 million as of 2011). 
  • Due to the Indian rebellion in 1857, the British army ripped off many of the precious stones used on the mausoleum. 
  • There’s an unconfirmed rumor in history that says that the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan chopped off the hands of those involved in the construction to avoid them working on another similar project. 
  • The Taj Mahal would cost about $1 billion to be built today.

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Written by Dame Cash

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