Friday, March 29, 2013

India Travelogue: The Taj Mahal

A quick drive from Agra Fort and we found ourselves in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal. This is it folks, the moment I've been waiting for! Wheee!

This is the gateway to the gardens. People know that the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum but it is actually part of a much larger complex which consists of gardens and several tombs for the wives of Emperor Shah Jahan. The Taj Mahal is the finest example of Mughal architecture, you'll see why a little later.

To better illustrate, here's a bird's eye view of the complex.

The gateway features inscriptions from the Qu'ran on the outside and the structure is made of red sandstone. Shah Jahan practiced religious tolerance during his reign and as such, the Taj Mahal features designs with Christian, Hindu and Islamic influences.

And then a preview of the Taj Mahal -- at this point my eyes were welling up...

The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage".
Taj Mahal is regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles.
The Taj Mahal was everything I imagined it to be -- stunning and breathtaking! We felt serenity amidst the infernal heat of the sun, I spent a good minute just taking it in.

Shah Jahan officially had 3 wives but the Taj Mahal was created in memory of Shah Jahan's favorite and third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. After his wife's death, Shah Jahan was beset with so much grief that he went into secluded mourning for a year, and when he came back his hair turned white, his back bent and his face worn. He then commissioned the creation of the Taj Mahal as his favorite wife's resting place.

Trivia: The Taj Mahal was erected in Agra because during the time of Shah Jahan's rule, Agra was considered as the country's capital. 

Pardon the cheesy photo, the tour guide made me do it! :D
To protect the Taj Mahal from the elements, vehicles are advised to park at a safe distance and tourists are to wear protective shoe covers (in our case, blue booties) or go barefoot while exploring the Taj. This is also a sign of respect as it is a revered monument.

In India, animals are sacred and you'll see them just freely flying around or crossing the streets (as in the case of cows). In this area, eagles, crows and parrots abound:

View from the Taj, there were a lot of tourists that day
going inside

Four minarets standing 137 ft. high are placed at the corners of the Taj Mahal and are slightly leaning outward to protect the structure should a strong earthquake hit Agra.

The Taj Mahal is sheathed in white marble and decorated in exquisite borders made of precious stones. It's been said that it's so packed together that "not even a single strand of hair can pass through".

The structure also has many optical illusions. The photo above shows the zigzag onyx design at a 45-degree angle when in fact they are flat!

One of the many distinct features of the Taj Mahal are the flower borders meticulously made of slivers of red camelian, brown, red, green jasper, green jade, blue lapis, green malachite, agates, mother-of-pearl, and amethyst polished to perfection.

No photos or videos were allowed while exploring the tombs inside, but here's a quick ninja photo. These are replicas of the actual tombs which are underground. There are strict military personnel inside and surrounding the Taj Mahal. One wrong move and you're bust!

made of white marble -- so cool to the touch!
Mom and Dad having so much fun!
Why, hello stranger!

By 5pm the gates were closing and it was time to leave. Ahh, this is certainly one those trips that will stay with me forever. I love this shot of me and my sister resting and taking a final look at the Taj before we bid it goodbye.

I'm so happy and blessed to have ticked the Taj Mahal off my bucket list of places to visit. The perfection and opulence of the Taj was really worth the 9 hours flying time plus the 5 hours travel via land. I would really recommend visiting the Taj Mahal even once in your lifetime, it truly is a remarkable experience.

Related posts: 

India Travelogue: New Delhi
India Travelogue: The Red Fort of Agra
India Travelgue: Jaipur (Day 1)
India Travelogue: Jaipur (Day 2)


  1. Beautiful photos, beautiful experience Kira. I am green with envy! He he he. Lovely post.

    1. Hi Sheng!

      Thank you :) Writing about Jaipur next! :)