Taj Mahal and the history of the temple in India

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, the mausoleum mosque in Agra, is one of the masterpieces of world architecture, located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Shah Jahan, the ruler of the area, ordered the Taj Mahal to be built in honor of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, thus commemorating 18 years of a happy marriage and her demise at the birth of their fourteenth child. As a token of his love and in memory of his beautiful wife, the Shah ordered the construction of the most magnificent mausoleum in the world.

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Video: Taj Mahal


Rabindranath Tagore described the Taj Mahal as “a tear on the cheek of immortality,” Rudyard Kipling as “the embodiment of all that is pure,” and its creator Emperor Shah Jahan said that “the sun and moon dropped tears from their eyes.” Every year, tourists numbering twice the population of Agra pass through the city’s gates to see, for once in their lives, the building rightly called by many the most beautiful in the world. Few leave disappointed.

It is truly a monument, beautiful in all seasons. There are those who love the view of the Taj Mahal on Sharad Purnima, the first full moon after the monsoons, on a cloudless evening in October, when the light is at its clearest and most romantic. Others like to look at it in the midst of the heaviest rains, when the marble becomes translucent and its reflection in the canals of the gardens surrounding the mausoleum blurs in the rippled water. But it makes a fascinating impression at any time of the year and at any moment of the day. At dawn its color varies from milky to silvery to pink, and at sunset it looks as if it were made of gold. Look at it also in the glow of noon, when it is blindingly white.

Dawn over the Taj Mahal


The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to his 14th child in 1631. It is said that he turned gray overnight. Construction of the Taj Mahal began the following year. It is said that the main building was built in eight years, but the whole complex was finished only in 1653. Shortly before the construction was finished, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb and imprisoned in the Agra fort, where he spent his remaining days looking at his creation through the window of the prison. After his death, in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried here, next to Mumtaz.

View from the Yamuna River

A total of about 20,000 people from India and Central Asia were employed in the construction. Specialists were brought in from Europe to make the most beautifully carved marble panels and decorated them in the style of pietra dura (inlaying using thousands of semi-precious stones) .

In 1983, the Taj Mahal was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and today looks as impeccable as it did after its completion, although an extensive restoration was carried out at the beginning of the 20th century. In 2002, due to the fact that the building gradually lost its color due to heavy pollution of the city, it was refreshed by applying an ancient recipe for a facial mask used by Indian women to preserve the beauty of their skin. This mask is called multani mitti, a mixture of earth, cereal grains, milk and lemon. Now only eco-friendly vehicles are allowed to drive within a few hundred meters around the building.


It is not known exactly who the architect of the Taj Mahal was, but the honor of its creation is often attributed to an Indian architect of Persian origin named Ustad Ahmad Lahori. Construction began in 1630. The best masons, craftsmen, sculptors and calligraphers were invited from Persia, the Ottoman Empire and European countries. The complex, situated on the southwest bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, consists of five main structures: the darwaza, or main gate; the bagecha, or garden; the mastjid, or mosque; the naqar zana, or rest house; and the rauza, the mausoleum itself, which contains the tomb.

Flowers carved in marble

The unique style of the Taj Mahal combines elements of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architecture. Highlights of the complex include a marble floor in black and white checkerboard, four 40-foot minarets at the corners of the mausoleum, and a majestic dome in the center.

Surahs from the Koran written around the arched openings appear to be the same size regardless of how far from the floor they are, an optical illusion created by the larger typeface and the distance between the letters as the inscription increases in height. There are other optical illusions in the Taj Mahal mausoleum. The imposing pietra dura decorations include geometric elements as well as images of plants and flowers, traditional in Islamic architecture. The level of craftsmanship and the complexity of the work on the monument become clear when you begin to look at the small details: for example, in some places, more than 50 precious inlays are used on a single decorative element measuring 3 cm.

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The gateway to the gardens of the mausoleum can be admired as a separate masterpiece, with its graceful marble arches, domed chambers on the four corner towers, and two rows of 11 small chattri (umbrella domes) above the very entrance. They are the perfect frame for a first look at the entire ensemble.

The Char Bagh (four gardens) are an integral part of the Taj Mahal, symbolizing in a spiritual sense the paradise to which Mumtaz Mahal ascended, and in an artistic sense emphasizing the color and texture of the mausoleum. The dark cypress trees enhance the luster of the marble, and the canals (on those rare occasions when they are full) that converge on the broad central viewing platform not only provide a beautiful second image of the monument, but, because they reflect the sky, add soft illumination from below at dawn and sunset.

Gate to the Taj Mahal Char Bagh Garden View of the Taj Mahal through the arch

Unfortunately, vandals stole all the treasures of the tomb, but still the delicate beauty of roses and poppies in richly inlaid slabs of onyx, green chrysolite, carnelian and agate in various colors survives.

On either side of the mausoleum are two almost identical buildings: to the west is the mosque, to the east is a building which may have served as a pavilion for guests, although its main purpose was to ensure complete symmetry of the whole architectural ensemble. Each looks beautiful – try looking at the pavilion at sunrise and the mosque at sunset. Walk out also to the back of the Taj Mahal, to the terrace overlooking the Jamna River all the way to Agra Fort. At dawn, the best (and cheapest) vantage point is on the opposite bank of the river, where, according to popular (but probably inaccurate) legend, Shah Jahan planned to install a mirror of perfectly black marble reflecting the Taj Mahal. A line of boats lined up near the shore, ready to carry tourists across the river.

The Taj Mahal itself stands on an elevated marble platform at the north end of the ornamental gardens, with its back side facing the Yamuna River. The elevated location means that “only the sky is higher,” a graceful move by the designers. Decorative 40-foot white minarets adorn the building from all four corners of the platform. After more than three centuries they have tilted slightly, but perhaps that was the intent (mounting at a slight angle to the building), so that in the event of an earthquake they would not fall on the Taj Mahal, but away from it. The red sandstone mosque on the west side is an important temple for the Muslims of Agra.

The Taj Mahal mausoleum is built of translucent white marble blocks on which are carved flowers and a mosaic of thousands of semi-precious stones. It is a perfect example of symmetry – four equal sides of the Taj with magnificent arches decorated with carved pietra-dura scroll ornament and quotations from the Koran, carved in calligraphic script and decorated with jasper. The entire structure is crowned by four small domes surrounding the famous central onion dome.

Immediately below the main dome is the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal, a (false) tombstone of fine work surrounded by perforated marble slabs decorated with dozens of different semi-precious stones. Here is also installed, breaking the symmetry, the cenotaph of Shah Jahan, buried his deposed son Aurangzeb in 1666. Light penetrates the central room through the carved marble screens. The actual tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are in a closed room on the basement below the main hall. They cannot be seen.

Requiem in Marble

Mahal means “palace,” but in this case the Taj Mahal is a diminutive name for Mumtaz Mahal (“palace jewel”), which was given to Shah Jahan’s cousin when she married him. The daughter of his mother’s brother, she was his constant companion long before he gained the throne, and later she was the first lady among hundreds of others in his harem. During his 19 years of marriage she bore him 14 children and died giving birth to his last child in 1631.

Legend has it that Shah Jahan’s beard – he was 39 years old, only a year older than his wife – turned white virtually overnight after her death, and he continued to mourn for several years, dressing in white on each anniversary of her death. It took twelve years of his tireless work with a Persian architect and craftsmen brought in from Baghdad, Italy, and France to build the Taj Mahal-a period that can be considered the ultimate expression of his grief. “The empire has no sweetness for me now,” he wrote. – Life itself has lost all taste for me.”

Myths about the Taj Mahal

The Taj is a Hindu temple.

The popular theory that the Taj was actually a temple of Shiva, built in the 12th century and later transformed into the Mumtaz Mahal mausoleum known to all, belongs to Purushottam Nagesh Oak. He asked to open the sealed basement chambers of the Taj to prove his theory, but in 2000. The Supreme Court of India rejected his petition. Purushottam Nagesh also claims that the Kaaba, Stonehenge, and the papacy are also of Hindu origin.

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The Black Taj Mahal

It is the story that Shah Jahan planned to build a black marble Taj Mahal double on the opposite side of the river as his own mausoleum, a work that was begun by his son Aurangzeb after he imprisoned his father in the fortress of Agra. Intensive excavations in the Mehtab Bagh area have not confirmed this assumption. No traces of construction were found.

The dismemberment of the masters

Legend says that after the Taj was finished, Shah Jahan ordered the hands and eyes of the craftsmen to be cut off so that they could never repeat it again. Fortunately, this story has not found any historical confirmation.

The settling Taj Mahal

Some experts claim that, according to some reports, the Taj Mahal is slowly tilting towards the river bed and this is caused by changes in the soil due to the gradual drying up of the Yamuna River. The Archaeological Survey of India has declared the existing changes in the height of the building insignificant, adding that no structural changes or damage have been found in the 70 years since the Taj Mahal was first scientifically surveyed in 1941.

View of the wall and minaret Museum

Taj Mahal Museum

The Taj Mahal complex includes the small but wonderful Taj Museum (admission Rs. 5; 10:00-17:00 Saturday-Thursday) . It is located in the western part of the gardens. The museum contains original Mughal miniatures, a couple of portraits of Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal in ivory (17th century) . There are also several well-preserved gold and silver coins of the same period, architectural drawings of the Taj and several fine plates made of celadon, which are rumored to break into pieces or change color if the food on the plate contains poison.

The best views of the Taj Mahal

Inside the Taj.

You’ll have to shell out 750 rupees for the treat, but only inside the complex around the Taj Mahal can you fully experience the beauty and power of the most beautiful building on earth. Be sure to pay attention to the mosaics (pietra dura) inside the niches with arches (pishtaks) on the four outer walls. Don’t forget to take a flashlight to get a better look at the similar ornaments inside the mausoleum’s dark central hall. Note the white marble and semi-precious stones embedded in it.

Tourists love to take such photos More original option The main thing is to “get

From Mehtab Bagh.

Tourists are no longer allowed to walk freely along the waterfront on the opposite side of the Yamuna River, but it is still possible to admire the Taj Mahal from behind, from the 16th century Mehtab Bagha Park across the river. A trail leading down to the river will take you to a place where the same views can be enjoyed for free, albeit from a limited angle.

View from the south bank of the river

This is a great place to watch the sunset. Follow the trail that runs along the east wall of the Taj Mahal down to the small temple by the river. There you’ll find boats to ride along the river and enjoy even more romantic views. Prepare to pay about 100 rupees for the boat. For safety reasons, it is best not to go here alone at sunset.

Mesmerizing night views of the Taj Mahal

From the roof of the cafe at the Taj Ganj.

A great option for taking photos at sunrise is from the rooftops of the cafe at the Taj Ganja. The pictures come out very beautiful. We think the rooftop cafe at the Saniya Palace Hotel is the best place. The location is great and there is a lot of greenery around. But in principle there are many such good places, and they all offer as a bonus the view of the Taj Mahal, which you can admire with a cup of morning coffee.

From Agra Fort

If you have a camera with a decent lens, you can take gorgeous pictures of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort, especially if you are prepared to get up at dawn and catch the sun rising from behind its walls. Perhaps the best places to take pictures are Musamman Burj and Khas Mahal, the octagonal tower and palace where Shah Jahan was put and where he spent the last eight years of his life.

Information for visitors

The Taj Mahal’s opening hours.

The mausoleum is open daily from 6am to 7pm, except on Friday (On that day, it is only open to those attending Friday service at the mosque on the Taj Mahal grounds).

You can also admire the Taj Mahal in the moonlight – two days before and two days after the full moon, the mausoleum is open in the evening hours – from 8:30 pm to midnight.

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The queue at the Taj Mahal The most colorful photos are obtained at dawn and dusk

Entrance to the Taj Mahal costs 750 INR (about $12), children under 15 years old are free.

The best time to visit the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is magnificent at sunrise. This is definitely the best time to visit, and there are fewer people during these hours. Sunset is another magical time when you can enjoy wonderful views. You can view the Taj for five nights during the full moon. The number of entrances is limited. Tickets must be purchased the day before your visit from the Office of Archaeological Survey of India (12227263; www.asi.nic.in; 22 Mall; Indians/foreigners 510/750 INR) . Read the details on their website. Keep in mind that among rickshaw drivers, this office is known as the Taj Mahal Office.

Photography and Videography

Taking photos and videos with professional equipment is forbidden (SLR cameras don’t usually count as professional equipment due to their popularity among tourists, but there may be some problems if you have a very big lens). Permission to take pictures with an ordinary camera will cost an extra 25 INR.

Sun-drenched Taj Mahal

How to get there

The Taj Mahal is located in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in the city of Agra, about 200 km from Delhi.

The following trains run from Delhi to Agra:

  • Shatabdi Express – departs from New Delhi Station at 6:00 am, back at 8:40 pm (travel time 2 hours).
  • “Taj-Express” – departs from Nizamuddin Station at 7:15 am, back at 6:50 pm (travel time 3 hours).
  • Besides these, all the trains to Kolkata, Mumbai and Gwalior pass through Agra.

You can also get to Agra by bus (express from 3 hours), cab (2000 INR) or by booking a group tour (from 1500 INR including entrance tickets).

Why is the Taj Mahal the greatest monument of love?

The Taj Mahal in India is one of the calling cards of this country. Many have seen pictures of the majestic white marble mausoleum, but not everyone knows that it is a symbol of love beyond time and circumstance.

Taj Mahal India at sunset

The extraordinary and sad story of the appearance of one of the seven new wonders of the world can touch even a cynic. Let’s find out what the Taj Mahal is, in what city is this construction and in honor of whom it was erected.

A brief description

Agra is a city in India, known for its unusual mosque, the color of the walls of which changes at different times of the day. Taj Mahal Mausoleum is built on the banks of the Jamna River. The mosque was built in memory of Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved wife of ruler Shah Jahan, according to Wikipedia.

The structure was one of the finest examples of architecture that used Arabic, Persian, and Indian styles. The complex, sometimes mistakenly referred to in search queries as “Touch Mahal,” consists of:

A love story without which there would be no Taj Mahal

Since 1983, the grandiose mausoleum located in the Indian city of Agra is protected by UNESCO. This unique tomb is a true masterpiece of architectural art, which appeared during the reign of Shah Jahan. The history of the Taj Mahal is tragic. Shah suffered a bereavement when his beloved wife, whom he affectionately called “Taj Mahal”, which translates as “the pride of the palace”, passed away while giving birth.

The love story, of which legends are told today, began suddenly. The future ruler once met a girl from a poor family at the market, who shocked him with her beauty. He decided not to part with the beautiful stranger anymore and took her as his wife. So the 19-year-old Mumtaz-Mahal became the second wife of Prince Guram, who went down in history as Shah Jahan. The ruler had many concubines, but it was this girl who won his heart. He consulted with her in all matters and invited her to important ceremonies. But happiness was not long.

There are two versions of how the life of the beloved of the emperor ended . If to tell briefly, according to one of them, the wife of Shah Jahan suddenly fell ill, according to the other – she died during childbirth. The data on how many children they had in common also varies. Some sources say there were nine, others say thirteen.

Retro photos of the Taj Mahal

Retro photos of the Taj Mahal.

After the unexpected death of his beloved during childbirth the ruler did not leave his chambers for a week. The subjects noted that during these seven days he turned gray and several years older. Normally in Muslim culture it is not accepted to show ardent feelings for a woman – above all there should be love for God. But the emperor did not intend to hide his melancholy after the sudden death of his beloved.

Initially, Shah Jahan’s wife was buried in the place where she died, Burhan Nur. Later the remains were transported to Agra. Shah Jahan decided to immortalize the name of his beloved by building a mausoleum of incredible beauty in her honor. The ruler decided that he would build such a tomb, which would not be equal in the world. No money was spared for the grandiose construction, which became one of the most expensive in history.

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The tomb today

The tomb today

There are two versions of what happened next to the ruler :

  1. To many things that used to be important to the ruler after the tragic event, he lost all interest and independently decided to give up the throne:
  2. Another version is more prosaic. Shah Jahan was forced to end his rule of the country because of his own son, who overthrew him and sent him to prison, where he died in 1666. It is believed that the heir was not happy with his father’s projects and his profligacy.

See with their own eyes the world-famous Taj Mahal Palace in India, tourists from different countries, and they are under great impression when this dream comes true. The city with the unusual construction does not lose its popularity among travelers for many years.

Taj Mahal Palace

Construction of the Taj Mahal.

The land on which the tomb appeared, the emperor acquired from one of his subjects. The grandiose construction began in 1632. Built the Taj Mahal mosque for more than 20 thousand people who had come from different parts of the country. For the palace to be safe, the workers had to work tirelessly. First, they prepared the ground – the huge area was carefully dug over, and it was decided to replace the ground on it, so the building would be strong.

The marble for the mausoleum was transported by elephants from a distant location. They even invented special wagons and ramps to transport it quickly. It was forbidden to build other structures with this marble. If you admire the building at different times of day, you can see that its color varies. During the day it looks white, during sunset it is slightly pinkish, and at night it looks silvery.

The color of the palace changes at different times of day

The color of the palace changes at different times of day

Tense work was in full swing, day and night. To feed those who worked on the construction of the Taj Mahal, had to use the grain intended for the inhabitants of the province. Financial problems and a terrible famine began in the country. The mausoleum was erected by 1643, and all the accompanying work could not be completed until 10 years later.

Disputes about how long the ruler built the mosque last to this day. Also, historians have not come to a consensus on what happened after the completion of the work with the builders. Three versions are popular:

  1. They were executed so that no one would give away the secrets of the majestic tomb.
  2. The eyes and hands of those who built the mausoleum were put out and cut off, so that later they could not take part in the creation of such a masterpiece.
  3. Some historians are convinced that the only thing that awaited the workers after the construction was a written assurance that they would not take part in the construction of a similar tomb.

One of the main mysteries of the Taj Mahal

The history of the creation of the mausoleum is shrouded in many mysteries and riddles. So for certain it is not known who built the tomb – the name of the architect, intentionally or accidentally nowhere is listed. According to one version, the author of an architectural masterpiece was the governor himself, who had excellent taste. According to another version, the project of creation of a complex belonged to Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Some sources mention also the name of the Turkish subject Muhammed Efendi.

Features of the building

The photos on the Internet do not convey even a hundredth of the beauty that enthusiastic tourists see. This wonder of the world one wants to look at endlessly, as if the pictures from fairy tales came to life. The entrance to the palace is hidden under an arch, which is located in a special way. When you approach it, it seems that the tomb moves away from you. Many are surprised by this unusual optical effect.

Guests of India noted another feature – there is a feeling that the minarets, located next to each other, are parallel to each other. But they are not; they are slightly tilted to the sides. It was not the architect’s fancy, but a necessity. If there had been an earthquake, the towers would not have caused any damage to the mausoleum, but would have fallen away from it. Nevertheless, there have been no serious natural disasters since the construction, and the minarets are still positioned as originally conceived.

Minarets slightly tilted

The minarets are slightly inclined.

The Taj Mahal Palace from the inside

Before entering the palace, you need to wear shoe covers. Locals simply take off their shoes and walk inside barefoot. Inside the Taj Mahal Palace is no less beautiful than the outside. The ledges on the walls are decorated with delicate lotus buds.

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Floral ornaments on the walls

Floral ornaments on the walls

In addition, here you can see the incredible beauty of the patterns of semi-precious stones. The stones were brought from all over India and from other countries. So for malachite ambassadors went even to Russia. The inner hall is made in the form of an octagon, the entrances to which are located on all sides. Usually the southern door, located on the garden side, is open.

Inside pictures of the Taj Mahal

The walls are 25 meters high. The interior space is symmetrically divided by large arches. It is forbidden to take photos and videos inside, so there are not many pictures of the interior. The surfaces are decorated with bas-reliefs and inlays.

Luxurious palace interiors

The luxurious interiors of the palace

The tomb of the Shah and his wife

Inside the tomb is divided into two parts. One is dedicated to the earthly journey and the other to the afterlife. The first includes the bazaar streets and courtyards, the second the mausoleum and the garden. In between is a special arch and pond that symbolize the transitional state.

Shah Jahan decided to go for a trick so that the ashes of his beloved wife would be securely protected. Therefore, an empty tomb was placed under the main dome, and the body of the emperor’s wife was hidden in a secret hall. The remains of the ruler after his death were buried next to his beloved .Tourists visit the place where copies of the tombstones are made. False tombs are placed behind a carved screen of marble. There is only one small lamp in the room, but the natural light is enough to see all the decorations.

Marble screen

Marble screen

The garden is one of the favourite places of tourists. The length of the garden is about 300 metres. Canals of marble adorn the fountains of extraordinary beauty. Paths divide it visually into four parts, in each of which there are 16 flowerbeds.

It is believed that 400 plants are planted in each flowerbed in this paradise – “4” is particularly significant for Muslims, so the design used numbers in multiples of it. The trees are also arranged here according to the rules of symmetry. The artificial reservoir, paved with marble, is made in the form of a lotus. If you look into it, you can see in a shaky reflection of the majestic Taj Mahal mosque, looking like a picture of a dream realized in reality. It looks especially incredible during the full moon.



The complex also includes watchtowers. From them rang out before the start of the prayers. The Taj Mahal Mosque is the jewel of the place. On the side of the mausoleum are two similar structures that are made of pressed sand.

The entire complex is surrounded by red sandstone walls. Nearby is also the Music House, which houses the museum. Tourists notice that the decorations on the main marble gate repeat the patterns on the tombs inside the mausoleum.

The complex is surrounded by red walls

The complex is surrounded by red walls

Taj Mahal today

Over time, the structure has become dilapidated – the tomb has settled and become cracked. The environmental situation in the city of Agra, where the mausoleum is located, leaves much to be desired. Because of the dirty air marble rapidly turns yellow, so from time to time to maintain a presentable appearance, it rubbed with white clay. A lot of pigeons that take a fancy to the place spoil the veneer.

Taj Mahal today

Recommendations for tourists

Taj Mahal in India is a special place, which the whole country is proud of. There are a number of rules on the territory of the construction. You can not take not only lighters and food, but also professional cameras. Foreigners are surprised that chewing gum is also prohibited here . Visiting the Taj Mahal Mosque is not allowed on Fridays, as Muslims gather for prayers on that day.

The Taj Mahal is closed to tourists on Fridays

During the tour, the history of the Taj Mahal will come alive before your eyes. You will visit a place where time seems to stop. You will see the Taj Mahal on the map immediately. Note that it is usually marked next to which side is the active entrance to the complex . Outside of it, you can also take vivid pictures to remember – for this, it is better to visit the observation deck, which offers a stunning view of the entire structure. You can also see information about tourist cities in India.


YouTube video

Every year thousands of tourists come to the city of Agra, with which many people associate India, to see with their own eyes this extraordinary temple of love, especially beautiful at sunset. The Taj Mahal is a sight to behold indefinitely. Despite the fact that there is a sad story connected with this construction, the thoughts at the sight of it appear the warmest, because even time has no power over the power of love.

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