Taj Mahal – The pearl of Agra

The large industrial center Agra, located in Northern India, has amazing architectural masterpieces. The reason for this is that the city was the capital of the Mughal Empire, that ruled between 15th and 18th century. They left to the world some incredible creations, such as Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, which are part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. However, without a doubt, Agra’s biggest pearl is Taj Mahal – one of the most beautiful constructions in the world. A magnetic place, a temple of eternal love, a symbol of India.

No matter how much you have heard of Taj Mahal, no matter how much you have read about it, nothing can prepare you for the moment you see it for the first time. It is very hard to find the right words that could describe the majestic mausoleum and could allow you to get a real image of it. That’s why we are not going to try to do it. We will just tell you the story and let you blissfully enjoy Taj Mahal when you decide to travel to India and visit it. We can just hint that Taj Mahal will welcome you in a different color depending on the period of the day when your eyes see it. If it is morning the marble will have a pink hue, as the day goes by it becomes milky white, at sunset it is golden, and in the evening, when the moon shines on its walls and domes, the gold turns into silver. But let’s get to the story.

The day is April 30th 1612. Prince Khurram, the third son of the emperor Jahangir, is marrying the beautiful princess Arjumand Banu Begum. That’s how begins the amazing love story, whose personification will be embedded in Taj Mahal years later. In 1628 Khurram ascends the throne of the Mughal Empire, accepting the name Shah Jahan (king of the world), adn his wife is called Mumtaz Mahal (the Exalted One at the palace). The two were inseparable, together everywhere and in everything. Mumtaz Mahal accompanied her husband in all his military campaigns, and some historians even consider that they took together the decisions about the future of the Empire. Their happiness however did not last long, and the love story turned into tragedy. In 1631, during a military campaign, Mumtaz Mahal died at the age of 39, while delivering birth to their 14th child with Shah Jahan. At her deathbed she asked her beloved one to create something big and great to honor her.

Shah Jahan was devastated. The legend says that his hair turned white in a few days, and a 2-year mourning period was set at the Empire. Those who did not comply with it, had to pay with their lives. The end of this period was the time of the construction of Taj Mahal. The emperor devoted his life into the creation of the mausoleum. He didn’t spare neither money nor efforts. The overall completion of the mausoleum took more than 20 years! 20 000 masons, stonemasons, craftsmen, sculptors and artists were working on the construction. 1000 elephants were used in the transportation of the heavy loads, and the construction costs equal $827 million today.

Taj Mahal was completed in 1653. Shah Jahan fulfilled his beloved wife’s wish, but this eventually cost him the throne. The costs of building the mausoleum were a heavy burden for the Empire and led to a financial crisis. Every year the people resented more and more, and four of the emperor’s sons started to cast plans for the throne. In 1657 Shah Jahan fell severely ill, and this was followed by a war between his heirs, which was won by Aurangzeb. Even though the emperor recovered, his son usurped the power and imprisoned him in Agra Fort. Shah Jahan spent the last 8 years of his life there, and throughout this time he sadly watched his creation every day. That’s how the story of Taj Mahal ends. One of the wonders of the world that you could enjoy if you get a visa to India.

The Taj Mahal complex covers an area of 580 meters length and 300 meters width. Apart from the impressive tomb, it includes many other buildings – a mosque, inns for prominent guests and stables. The mausoleum was built in perfect symmetry in order to be equally beautiful from each side. It has a square basis, rounded at the corners, and each side is 56,6 meters long. There is a small dome placed at each corner, and the central one resembles a great pearl. It is 70 meters high. The facade of the mausoleum is covered with carvings and colored stones inlays, and verses of the Quran are combined with floral motifs. The walls are made of polished semi-transparent marble with gemstones inlays. The tomb is placed on a platform, with four minarets rising on its sides, each 41,6 meters high. They are constructed with an outward slope, the purpose of which is not to land on the tomb and destroy it if there is an earthquake. Each tower has one letter written on it, and if read together they form Ar-Rahman (the mercyful one), one of Allah’s 99 names.

Two identical buildings made of red sandstone are located on both sides of the mausoleum. One of them is a mosque, and the one on the East is just a replica, because it is not facing Mecca and therefore could not be used for prayer. The complex gate was completed in 1684, 18 years after Shah Jahan’s death. Its impressive height is 30 meters. The purpose is that the tomb could not be seen before entering through the gate.

Every year millions of tourists from the whole world take a trip to India in order to see Taj Mahal and to get closer to this great love story. From its creation to today the complex is a source of admiration. Countless number of myths and legends were born over the years, many of which do not correspond to the truth. One fact however is indisputable – Taj Mahal should definitely be visited if you travel to India.