The TajMahal at Agra does not cease to mesmerize tourists and travellers from around the world. The same holds good for us Indians too, as I am back from my fifth trip to the Taj.
Old monuments and buildings fascinate me to no end since my childhood and so do the doors and windows.I keep wondering what stories and mysteries are hidden inside them to be unravelled. No, no ..not being intrusive, just that they pique my inquisitiveness. I am sure, many of you are intrigued by them, too.
I am not going to dwell into the history of TajMahal in this post, except that, the monument was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for one of his wives popularly called ‘Mumtaz Mahal’ and it took around 20,000 workers to build this magnificent complex in a span of 22 years!
Expectations from the Taj
The Taj Complex in Agra sprawls 55 acres, with the white mausoleum at its fag end, flanked by River Yamuna on its North and interspersed with beautiful red sandstone structures. Entered through one of the three gates/sides, the monument welcomes every person with symmetrical corridors, beautiful arcades and lush green well-manicured lawns numbering four at the entrance. One cannot resist but admire the thought process that went into conceptualizing the whole design plan of the Taj Complex.
TajMahal at Agra isn’t all white
On my recent visit, last week, I restrained myself from falling into the trap of the white monument that lures the visitors and engulfs them by its awesomeness. Instead, I ventured and explored the red-sandstone structures that stood majestically in silence across the complex.
These red sandstones are a reminder of the contribution of Indian workers, the scores of prayers rendered under its domes by the Muslims, the influence of the Rajputs and the sea of visitors who were sheltered in these corridors. They are also the first structures that welcome the thousands of tourists who visit TajMahal at Agra every day, telling their own tales to the ones who listen!
Welcome to the TajMahal
The main archway called the ‘Darwaza‘ is a combo of both sandstone and marble with Mughal architecture reflected in its engraved calligraphy and geometric ceilings. There are 22 small domes on the archway that represent the number of years it took to build the Taj. Supposedly, after every year, a dome was constructed to keep track of the time! This archway is like the portiere that opens to a spectacle!
The very first time I came face to face with this teardrop, I was spellbound. It looked like a delicate piece of milk chocolate flanked and protected by brown choco chunks on either side. Pardon me for this weird analogy, however, these were my first impressions of this monument almost a decade back. I discovered that it looked a little pale with a yellow tint, as I went nearer. This paleness is attributed to the dismal level of pollutants in the air over and around the monument.
The wall around the complex encompasses huge corridors that would have provided stay for the scores of visitors in the immediate years of the completion of the Taj.Now, they provide the required respite from the heat by providing shade and a place to rest for the visitors.
Rightly, on the right side of the main archway, there is a cookhouse which used to satisfy the hunger of the visitors.However, now, it lies closed reminiscing its past glory.
The White balances The Red
The marble mausoleum that houses the graves of Shahjahan and Mumtaz Mahal, is flanked on either side by structures in red stone.The one onto the West is the ‘masjid’ / mosque whereas the right side structure is a guesthouse termed the ‘jawab‘(answer) to balance and fulfil the architectural needs of symmetry. Another distinction is the black marble flooring of the mosque that has the outlines of prayer mat numbering 569. The masjid and the jawab look the same, barring these differences.
As one moves further, you come across the water body with numerous fountains. The fountains are said to be naturally connected to the River Yamuna on the banks of which the TajMahal is constructed.So, the flow of the river controls the water in the fountains. (According to my guide!) The other side of the river bank has remnants of the foundation structure that was laid for the construction of the Black TajMahal as a complement to the one in white.
Last week, it rained heavily and one can see the Yamuna gushing with water flowing majestically behind the TajMahal at Agra. Are you able to get a glimpse of the Agra Fort in the above pic? It is widely believed that – post his imprisonment by his own son Aurangzeb, Shahjahan spent his last years cherishing his time with Mumtaz and gazing at the TajMahal from his prison room in the Agra Fort! Or maybe he visited his wife’s grave stealthily through the tunnel…
Doors of Taj
There are numerous doors inside the complex and one such door which is sealed is said to lead to a tunnel connecting the TajMahal and the Agra Fort.I wonder if it is constructed like the labyrinth at the Bada Imambara, in Lucknow.
Most of these doors have been sealed, for now, barring few that are used to stock items used for Eid celebrations. Another door which lies to the right of the Main Darwaza must have been an entry point for the animal carts that had brought in loads of marbles and sandstone for the construction of the Taj.
It is interesting how these monuments end up revealing themselves in layers on every visit. Maybe because, on our first visit we end up seeing through the eyes of a tourist, during the second visit we see through the eyes of a traveller, the third visit makes us explorers, fourth transforms us into historians, the fifth turn you into a detective, haha!
Like many of the Mughal era monuments in India, this too is widely believed to have been built by destroying a Hindu temple. However, there is not much evidence to prove this belief. In spite of all these controversies, it is undeniable that TajMahal at Agra is indeed the pride of India.
I was accompanied by my hubby, son, parents and grandparents on this trip and we made sure to make maximum use of the benches for family snaps with the backdrop of the Taj. My favourite snap has to be the one in which four generations of family members are all smiles in front of the white wonder!
Parting Shot of the TajMahal
I am yet to soak in the beauty of the TajMahal during the dawn and dusk, as I have always ended up visiting it at around 10 AM. Even on this trip, it was pretty hot and much of the complex could not be explored. Surprisingly, I am still yearning to visit the TajMahal at Agra on a full moon day!
So, have you been to the TajMahal at Agra, yet? If yes, what mesmerised you? Did it meet your expectations or do you think it is over-hyped. I would love to hear your views on this…Please express your feelings in the comment section below….Until next time, Ciao!