Agra – Taj Mahal

We were so glad we kept Agra and the Taj Mahal for the last leg of our India tour. We were told by many people the Taj Mahal alone was worth a visit to India; must agree, it is truly amazing building with a beautiful story behind it. This incredible structure is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built-in Agra between 1631 and 1648 commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife – Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.

See below for more information on the Taj Mahal and a few other sites from our last stop on our India tour.

I could not believe I was finally going to get a live view of this beautiful building. I have seen many pictures of it and also documentaries of how it was constructed and why. As we approach the Grand gate we could see a small portion of this large structure. It was late evening and the sun was setting giving us its familiar golden sunset tones. It was a Sunday so there were a lots of people trying to get the best view possible.

 

Finally past the Grand gate and wow; you finally get a full view of this monument from a devoted loving husband. We visited the Taj twice; once at sunset and the second time at sunrise. The main reason is that white marvel is translucent and reflects the ambient light very well. This gives the Taj a different feel depending on the time of day. Here is a picture taken at 7:00 AM on Monday morning, fewer people which was a relief.

 

The marble used to build the Taj Mahal comes from the town of Makrana. The white marble from this area is considered the best quality marble in the world. It is famous for its dense structure which does not allow water so it does not degrade and become pitted as other marbles do (e.g. Carrara Italian marble). No wonder the condition of the marble in the Taj looks so good. Here we see some India visitors mixed with a few westerners enjoying the outer court that wraps around the Taj.

 

I took this photo early Monday morning as the fog from the river Yamuna started to roll over the Taj. It happened very quickly while I was taking some pictures, suddenly I noted the three individuals with turbans walking briskly by. What an opportunity I thought and quickly positioned myself to include them and the whole Taj Mahal. I really like this picture and plan on making a very large print of it when we return to the US.

 

The planning for this building and compound must have taken quite a long time. There is a reason for everything in it and it is carefully planned to assure perfect symmetry and provide amazement. The Taj has 4 outer towers that lean slightly away from the center of the Taj;  I was told by our guide this was done in case the tower would collapse due to an earthquake they would crumble away from the main building. The building has 8 perfectly symmetric sides, precious and semi-precious stones were used in the beautifully inlaid decorations in and outside the building. The verses of the Koran you see flanking this portal are proportionally larger as you follow it all the way to the top; the reason? … so you could read it all the way up while standing on the main court.

 

You are not allowed to wear shoes in the court or inside the building. The price of admission includes disposable booties that seem to do a great job in keeping a nice gloss on the marble floors. This picture gives you a good perspective of the Taj size. By the way, yes, you can go inside and you can see two tombs in it. The emperors body Shah Jahan joined his beloved wife a year later in the main room. Photographs were not allowed once inside the Taj so, I  have none to show. Inside, it is even more detailed and many more precious stones decorate the main hall. The two cenotaph are surrounded by thin marble walls that have been carved in such a way that it looks like lace – really impressive.

 

Photographs were not allowed once inside the Taj so I am using here one from the web (released to public domain). The inside has even more detail and many more precious stones decorate the main hall. The two cenotaph are surrounded by thin marble walls that have been carved in such a way that it looks like lace – really impressive.

 

The main building took 12 years to complete; the rest of the complex an additional 10 years. Thousands of craftsmen and an untold amount of money was spent on this unique building. Here is one small detail of flowers carved in the hard marble; just a sample of the workmanship you see around this whole building.

 

After visiting the Taj Mahal we had the opportunity to see how this beautiful and colorful inlays are made. A slow process of drawing the patterns you want, then hollowing the insides of it, forming the semi-precious stones by careful grinding them with a wet stone and finally placing them so the desired shape and color gives you the desired result. Great stuff.

 

One last look at one of the side of the Taj.

 

A view from the Taj Mahal from inside the mosque to the left of it. A beautiful building in its own right.

 

I would have liked to stay a whole day seeing how the building looked and feel changes as the sun arcs from east to west, but had to get going. I know, it sounds like I am nuts, but hey… it is what it is. So we said good-bye to the Taj.

 

A few miscellaneous people pictures

As we exit another site of interest, this your muslim girl caught my eye. It was a hot day; cannot imagine how hot it must get if you are wrapped in black as she is. She looked cool however.

 

From what we saw of India it is a hard country for the majority of its population.

 

However, there is rest for all; even the camels.

 

This lady seems to be doing a brisk business with her ironing. Reminds me of my mother; boy did she liked to iron. Of course, that resulted in me having to iron most of what I wear.

 

While touring the outdoor market in Pushkar I saw this lady with her colorful sari and pierced nose and ring. Yikes, what if it got caught on something…?!

 

The sacred Pushar Lake – holy to Hindus was one of the stops our guide took us to. A bright and warm sunny day, many were dipping themselves in the holy water for spiritual cleansing purposes. Looked like it had been a resort like place many decades ago.

 

Another view of Puskar lake. The ever-present cow in the background just touring the spot and seeing what is going on.

 

Chatting or maybe gossiping about someone in the small town of Pushkar before getting in for a spiritual cleansing dip?

 

As we start out trip back to Delhi, we saw many interesting roadside sights. This man was very busy making clay pots. Crude, but effective giving the conditions judging for the number of pots he has made so far.

The all familiar sight of crowded vehicles moving people from town to town. How would you feel traveling like this each day? It comes to what you get or must get used to I guess.

 

Another familiar sight, both in India and in China. Judging by the rear tire, this seems to be a large, but light load. Good thing.

 

Necessity often overlooks safety. Remember doing similar things during my young days in my native country of Peru.

 

Have never seen so many alternate forms of transportation than in India. The horse and camel are being used as I have never seen it before. I am amazed as to how these animals are so used to cars and trucks; they just go on without flinching.

 

Loved visiting India. Would like to return and spend more time in smaller towns, but that is unlikely. A wonderful country rich in history and potential with a few people that have in excess, but the majority having very little. Resilient and maybe resigned to their condition would be how I would describe many of the people we saw on the streets of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. A country that has so much, but the individual seems to get so little even thought they show desire to be busy. Just a casual observation.

SarahMarch 12, 2013 - 3:01 PM

Taj Mahal is really a place worth going for a visit.
Really like your photos.

Alma ShurtleffMarch 9, 2013 - 11:10 PM

Amazing pictures!!

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