The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahan’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world, and one of the three World Heritage Sites in Agra.
Completed in 1653, the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal king Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Finished in marble, it is one of India’s many beautiful monuments and is set amidst landscaped gardens. Built by the Persian architect, Ustād ‘Īsā, the Taj Mahal is on the south bank of the Yamuna River.
It can be observed from Agra Fort from where Emperor Shāh Jahān gazed at it for the last eight years of his life, a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb. Verses of the Quran are inscribed on it and at the top of the gate are 22 small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to build. The Taj Mahal was built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Taj Mahal has a diameter of 18 meters, and rises to a height of 24 meters; directly under this dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahān’s tomb was erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. The interiors are decorated with fine inlay work, incorporating semi-precious stones.
Agra, although brimming with beautiful and ancient monuments is quite a dirty, polluted and shabby city, unlike some of the other must-go-to cities in the north of India.
The Taj Mahal, is justly a magnet for tourists and can get very busy. The best time to go is at sunrise, around 6am as you will have to queue up to get tickets, so best to get there as early as you can to avoid the crowds. Cars are prohibited from getting close to the Taj Mahal, so best to get a hotel that is not too far and get ready for a short walk, although if you need them, there are a lot of cycle rickshaws that can take you right up to the ticket counters.
The road that leads to the Taj Mahal is full of touts and vendors selling everything and who try to entice you into their shops for over-priced and tacky souvenirs – I learnt a useful Hindi phrase that kept the at bay and really surpised them “nahin dhanyavaad” which means, no thank you.
There are some nice rooftop bars and restaurants along the street leading up to the Taj Mahal that give an excellent vieaw at sunset.
It can get very hot here, when we visited in May, it was well over 40°c in the afternoon, so there is another reason to get there early.