Everything you need to know about the Taj Mahalby Juan José Herranz | February 26, 2021
If there’s one attraction in India that can be found on every traveler’s bucket list, it must be the Taj Mahal. Honored as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal is spellbinding, elegant and intriguing all at the same time.
It attracts nearly 7 million visitors a year. While being a token of love and passion, the Taj Mahal is also an icon of Mughal architecture. There’s so much history that’s entwined in this construction and you will be immersed in its fascinating details.
If you are hoping to visit the Taj Mahal when you visit India, it would be helpful to know the story that lies behind this beautiful monument. So, we have rounded up some interesting details for you!
What is the Taj Mahal?
The Taj Mahal was built under the patronage of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. It’s a mausoleum that houses the remains of the emperor and his wife.
The construction began in 1631 and it wasn’t complete until 1648, nearly 20 years later. The emperor wanted the finest workmanship to build the structure and utilized over 20,000 laborers and artisans. The main architect who designed it was Ustad Ahmad. It’s also believed that over 1000 elephants were used to transport raw materials for the construction.
In addition to the mausoleum, the Taj Mahal also features a mosque, a guest pavilion and two well-maintained ponds. But, is Taj Mahal a mosque? No, its purpose is that of a mausoleum.
The Taj Mahal’s architecture
You will be spending a good deal of time admiring the exquisite beauty of the Taj Mahal without a doubt. The precision, attention to detail, perfect symmetry and grandeur of elements used to decorate this building will surely leave you in awe. The structure incorporates Indo-Islamic architecture with details from Persian, Turkish and Indian styles.
The exterior features a white-marble façade, dome and four minarets of equal height surrounding the dome. While the mausoleum consists of white marble, its adjoining structures are built out of red sandstone. Both these elements are symbolic of the Mughals’ hierarchical position in society.
Inside the Taj Mahal you will find plenty different elements. Its walls are decorated with abstract mosaics, murals and incised art. Another stunning feature are the marbles inlaid with valuable gemstones like agate, turquoise sapphire, jade, cat’s eye and sapphire sourced from around the world. There’s also beautiful Islamic calligraphy inscribed on walls that are a delight to observe. Overall, the Taj Mahal is the epitome of fine craftsmanship.
The love story behind the Taj Mahal
When you step into this world wonder, you are stepping into one of the most popular love stories in the world. After all, the Taj Mahal was how the emperor chose to immortalize his deep passion and affection towards his wife.
Shah Jahan met Arjumand Banu Begum, later to be known as Mumtaz Mahal, during one of his trips to the royal bazaar as a prince. He was known as Prince Kurram and was just 16 years old at the time. It was love at first sight, but the prince didn’t get to marry her until five years later as his second wife.
Although he had three wives, Mumtaz Mahal was his favorite partner who accompanied him everywhere, including his military trips. The couple had 14 children, although only seven survived.
After the death of Mumtaz Mahal, Emperor Shah Jahan was very distressed and went into mourning for nearly two years. Afterward, he planned on constructing the most expensive mausoleum as he promised his wife on her deathbed. Today, the Taj Mahal is considered a symbol of love around the globe and is a popular destination among couples and honeymooners.
Visiting the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal city is Agra in Uttar Pradesh, facing the Yamuna River. It’s only a 4-5 hour ride away from Delhi and you can reach there by train, bus, or taxi, depending on your budget and convenience.
There are three main gates that lead to the Taj Mahal. While the western and eastern gates are used for both entry and exit, the southern gate is only used for the exit of pedestrians. There are tombs dedicated to other wives of the emperor near the western and eastern entrances.
For foreign tourists, the entrance ticket to the Taj Mahal would cost around INR 1050 (12€). If you belong to one of the SAARC or BIMSTEC countries, it will be INR 535 (6€). Separate tickets are available for travellers hoping to visit the Taj Mahal at night on full moon days with tours that last 30 minutes.
Best time to visit the Taj Mahal
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is between October and March when the weather is favorable. However, it’s also the tourist season, and the site will be crowded most of the time. In other months, it can either be too cold or too warm to explore it with ease. But, you might get entrance tickets at discounted rates.
Taj Mahal is a breathtaking beauty with a romantic atmosphere during sunrise and sunset. It’s also the best time to take attractive photos of the mausoleum.
What You Need to Know Before Visiting the Taj Mahal
Agra is usually warm, so it’s best to wear light clothes and take a water bottle with you. There’s no particular dress code, but it’s advisable to dress modestly.
However, you will have to cover your head (for women) and wear long clothing when entering the mosque. You can take a camera along with you to snap pictures, but taking photographs inside the Taj Mahal is prohibited.