Agra, Visiting the Taj

The immortal monument of love, Taj Mahal is one of the most visited medieval buildings of the world. Such is the importance of this eternal monument that it has almost become a symbol of India. Most foreigners who visit India are lured by the Taj and it is one of the first things that they want to visit in the country. The Taj Mahal tours take tourists on the fascinating journeys of the city of Agra and its surrounding locates, all of which still smell of history. With the numerous historic monuments that a tour of Agra promises, the erstwhile capital of the mighty Mughuls is one of the highlights of tourism in North India.
The star attraction of the Taj Mahal tours is of course, the Taj itself. Built by the fifth Mughul emperor Shahjahan (1628 – 1658), this monument has immortalized the name of Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved wife of Shahjahan, in whose memory he built this marvelous tomb. The Taj is characterized by highly stylized calligraphy, intricate carvings in marble, delicate arrangement of precious stones, and the famous pietra dura inlay work. The sheer size of the Taj is enough to mesmerize the observer, and indeed, many distinguished visitors from all over the world have been captivated by its ethereal beauty.

Agra is known as the city of Mughuls, and rightly so. Before the Mughuls, there were rulers here, but it is the Mughuls who gave Agra worldwide fame as one of the most magnificent cities of its times. The other Mughul monuments have given Agra the status of one of the premier tourist destinations in India. The Taj Mahal tours also cover these amazing medieval monuments that have witnessed dramatic moments in the history of India.

The chief among these is the Agra fort, which remained the center of Mughul power till the capital was shifted to Delhi. Fatehpur Sikri is yet another famous place, known for the lavish fortified palace of Emperor Akbar. It is located 37 kms west of Agra, and is among the most important destinations to be visited on an excursion from Agra. The massive gate called Buland Darwaza and the revered tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti are the chief attractions of this place, apart from the magnificent red sandstone palace itself. Both the Agra fort and the palace complex at Fatehpur Sikri are among the best known Indian monuments. They also signify a great blend of Indian, Islamic and European architectural traditions that were allowed to fuse together under the patronage of the Mughuls.

Besides the above, the Taj Mahal tours also cover some other monuments which have been outfamed by the Taj and the imposing Agra fort. These include the tomb of Nurjahan’s father, given the title Itmad-ud-daulat, Chini ka Rauza, which is a tomb of one of Shahjahan’s ministers, and is known for its brilliant glazed tiles. The city also has a few beautifully laid out gardens, whose origins date back to the times of Babur, the founder of the Mughul dynasty. The tomb of Akbar at Sikandara is located about 5 kms from Agra and is among the city’s major attractions.

Last but not the least, the Taj Mahal tours let you visit the nooks and corners of the city that are still deep rooted in its history. The bazaars, the handicrafts, the fabrics, and even the sights and sounds, all make up the city of Agra.

This famous monument of love stands on the bank of the river Yamuna, in the city Agra of north Indian state Uttar Pradesh.

Taj at a glance :
This magnificent monument of love was built by the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaj Mahal. Its construction was started in 1632 and completed at the and of 1648. It was designed by Ustad Ahmed Lahauri and was completed in 22 years by the hard labour of 20000 crafts men and at a cost of 32 million rupees. Its now famous as one of the seven wonders of the world and listed as a world heritage monument by UNESCO.

Taj Mahal Architecture :
Built entirely on white marble, its a fusion of Mughal, Persian and Islamic architecture style. The entire architectural complex mainly consists of Darwaja or gateway, garden, Masjid or mosque, mausoleum. The actual tomb is situated inside the Taj. With a hight of 213 feet, its central dome is 58 feet in diameter. It has four subsidiary domed chambers and four minarets with 162.5 feet at each corner. There is an octagonal tower at the centre with a central hall and four smaller halls grouped around it. Taj Mahal is a two storied structure and its walls are decorated with exquisite inlaid design of flowers and calligraphy using precious and semi-precious stones.

Taj Gateway:
The main gate is built in red sandstone and stands 30 mt high. The walls of the gate are inscribed with verses from the Koran in Arabic. In the centre of the gateway, there is a platform from where tourists can capture the Taj on film. Originally the door of the gateway was made of solid silver and there were letters inscribed on it.

Taj Garden:
Taj gardens were designed by Ali Mardan Khan, one of the nobles of Shah Jahan's court. These were laid out by Persian garden plan style. The entire area of Taj complex is 580m by 300m and out of which the gardens alone consists an area of 300m by 300m. The fountains and running water channels are supplied with water from a set of reservoirs which are atop the rooms in the garden walls.

Taj Mausoleum:
From the garden the visitors climb on to a huge red sandstone platform over a meter high. A double stair case takes the visitors to a marble platform of about 95m square, which is the only way to reach the tomb. Each side of the central structure or the mausoleum is 56.6 m long with a large central arch. The main chamber contains the duplicate tombs of Mumtaj and Shah Jahan which are surrounded by decorated marble screens.

Taj Mosque:
To the west of the Taj is a mosque made of red sandstone and is used for Friday prayers. An identical mosque is also built to the right of the Taj and is known as Jawab(answer). It was built to maintain symmetry. This cannot be used for prayers as it faces away from Mecca, the Islamic holy place.

Taj Museum:
There is a museum situated left to the central chamber and houses several portraits of Mughal emperors, paintings, royal ornaments and two marble pillars which are believed to have once been part of the Agra Fort. Also the galleries have several drawings and plans of Taj. It is closed on Friday.

Taj Mahatsoav or Taj Festival :
This 10 days long festival is held at Shilpgrama near Taj Mahal in the month of February every year. This is the best place to experience the rich art, craft and tradition of Agra. Dance, music, camel rides, exquisite cuisine and various folk performances are its major attraction.

Taj Mahal Timings & Entry Fee :
Taj Mahal is closed on Friday for public except for those who go for afternoon prayer. It will remain open from 6 am to 7 pm everyday except Friday. For foreigners entry cost is Rs 750 and it is Rs 20 for Indians.

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