Friday, March 18, 2011

Agra (Uttar Pradesh) – Part 1 The Taj Mahal

Agra is 250 kilometres south of Delhi and takes around 4 hours by car. Home to the Taj Mahal it also has many other interesting sites well worth visiting.
This was my first trip in both 2001 and 2004 although in 2001 I only had time for the Taj Mahal as I foolishly “acquired” a guide which also meant spending a lot of time (and money) in various emporiums. So the traveller advice is simple – get a guide if you want to do a lot of shopping, but you won’t be able to see everything Agra has to offer in one day as a consequence!

The building of the mausoleum for Mumtaz Mahal was commenced on Shah Jahan’s instruction following her death in 1631 and took 21 years to complete.
With the setting on the banks of the Yamuna and a large walled complex you get very limited sighting of the Taj Mahal on the journey. The complex is in a “car free” zone to limit pollution levels on the site and the journey from the car parks can be completed by electric buggy.

Passing through the ticket office from either the East or West gates there is a large Outer Courtyard.

Due to the high walls there is still no proper view of the Taj.

The size of the Inner Gatehouse is such that it completely blocks the Taj from the skyline apart from fleeting glimpses through the gateway. Built in sandstone in traditional Mughal style the gateway itself is impressive with a great deal of marble inlay setting out verses from the Qur’an.

Passing through the gateway you get a first sight of the magnificent Taj Mahal

It is a fantastic sight set in a large garden with fountains and water channels, the Taj sits majestically on a raised marble platform with minarets at each corner.

The Minarets all lean slightly outwards (by design) away from the Taj due to the earthquake risk

This is to ensure that they would not fall on the mausoleum itself.

They can be climbed inside but on my visits were closed to public access as they had become a favoured spot for suicide attempts.

The Taj is flanked by two buildings, a guest house and a mosque.

These are typical Mughal red sandstone in design but both are quite large.

The marble is again inlaid with verses from the Qur’an and geometric and floral patterns. The design is continued into the chamber with the memorial tombs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan behind filagree marble screens in an octagonal chamber. The real tombs lie in a dark and cramped lower chamber to which access is strictlycontrolled and when busy is not permitted. No photography is allowed within the Taj.

Exiting you have a great view of the gardens back to the gatehouse.

The garden courtyard is flanked on the east and west walls with a Jal Mahal of "Water Palce" built in red sandstone.
The Mahal on the western wall houses a small museum about the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal photo collection:
More on the Taj Mahal:

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