About Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is an iconic structure and a UNESCO World Heritage site in the city of Agra in India.
History of the Taj Mahal
Built between 1631 and 1654, the construction of the Taj Mahal was ordered by the ruling emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal.
The Empress had died in 1631 whilst giving birth to the couple’s fourteenth child, Gauhara Begum and her jade and jasper adorned coffin was placed in the centre of the Taj Mahal, although her body and that of her husband (buried there later) are actually contained several floors below.
The white marble structure of the Taj Mahal, with its central dome flanked by arches and smaller domes as well as minarets is famed for its incredible symmetry and opulent design. Inside, the Taj Mahal is lavishly decorated with plant life imagery and Koranic calligraphy, each aspect of which is entirely individual. In fact, it is believed that approximately 20,000 workers toiled to create the Taj Mahal.
Nearby are several other beautiful buildings, including the Taj Mahal’s mosque and the Jilaukhana gated complex, all of which add to the overall symmetry of the site.
Some of the Taj Mahal’s original decoration has been looted over the centuries and the white colour structure is suffering from the effects of pollution.
The Taj Mahal today
The Taj Mahal remains one of the most visited sites in the world, and it’s always busy. Many Western tourists go for sunrise – on a clear day the dawn light gives the marble a beautiful warm glow to it, and the mist rising off the river adds to the atmosphere. The Indian writer
Sunrise or sunset are also widely regarded as the best time to get photographs, as well as the most pleasant temperatures. There is little shade and it can be exhausting under the hot Indian sun.
The complex itself is huge, and takes several hours to explore fully. – don’t miss the adjoining mosque and museum on site too. The gardens are extremely peaceful: look out for the gardeners cutting the lawns by hand.
Getting to the Taj Mahal
Some visitors simply go to Agra for the day from Delhi (the train is about 3 hours each way), but in reality it’s worth basing yourself here for a couple of days so you can make the most of what the city has to offer. If you plan on getting to the Taj Mahal for sunrise or sunset, you’ll probably also want a place to stay.
The Taj is right by the river, slightly to the east of the centre of Agra. Tuk tuks or taxis will get you there in 20 minutes or so.