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Taj Mahal – A Mughal Love Story

When you are asked about travelling to a place which symbolizes love, your mind drifts to Paris which is officially tagged as City of Love. Some people may disagree and say its Rome or Venice where you share an intimate evening with a Gondola ride sitting next to the person you love.  India is never considered an option when you get to the countdown of romantic cities in the world.  For years before it was considered as the land of snake charmers and now it is rather considered an over crowded, polluted place with a cultural charm of its own when you traverse across each regions.  There are several adjectives or emotions that comes to your mind when you travel this mighty land from north to south and west to east, but romance isn’t one of them. However there is one wonder that breaks all the perceptions of this land. The wonder, which symbolizes and represents love and passion like no other country in the world. The wonder is none other than the Taj Mahal built by Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Every country has its own identification.  When I think about China, I visualize Great Wall of China, Paris is represented by Eiffel Tower,Brazil is represented by Christ the redeemer, Singapore is represented by the statue of Merlion throwing water, similarly the only monument which represents India is Taj Mahal. No matter how less you have traveled, if you know India, you are aware of Taj Mahal.

When I visited Taj Mahal, I entered with a perception of it being an over hyped tourist attraction.  The place is located in Agra which was earlier the capital during Mughal reign. No Taxis and buses are allowed within a radius of 1 km of the monument to curtail the pollution levels.  There are tuk tuk (electric vehicle) which can take you to the monument. I preferred horse driven carriages to give it a romantic feel while visiting the symbol of love. I walked in through the main gate. Slowly as I walked towards the building I could see a white piece of marble unfolding itself in front of me. I stood there looking at the building from a distance. The monument stood on the banks of the river Yamuna in the vast Mughal gardens shining with brilliance.

The Taj Mahal is actually a tomb built by Shah Jahan for his favorite wife Mumtaz who died giving birth to his 14th child.  Before her death, she made her wish to build a mausoleum where she could rest in peace. The mausoleum should be unrivaled and never built before. It took nearly 22 years to built this fascinating architecture.  When you notice the Taj Mahal, you see similarities in design with other Mughal buildings like Humayun’s tomb. It seems that the architects took the best of all and put it in one building.  The beauty of this building is in its symmetry. If you chop it down in between it will look perfectly symmetrical.  The queen’s tomb rests in the middle. However speaking of the symmetry of the design, there is one thing that is quite out of the place. The only thing which breaks the symmetry is the Emperor Shah Jahan’s tomb where you can actually notice the pattern of the florals broken by his tomb.  It almost looks like an after thought of him resting with his wife after his death.  Indians often say a proverb “Chand main bhi daag hota hain” meaning “Even the moon has blots“. It is said metaphorically to address that even the most beautiful person has faults. When I saw the break in a perfectly symmetrical building, I could not help myself remembering the proverb. I first thought that the whole building was made of white marble, but I was quickly corrected.  The structure was made in bricks and then was merely clad in white marble. What is more fascinating was that the minarets of Taj Mahal is deliberately angled outwards so that during earthquakes they don’t fall inwards and crush the dome and tombs.  The tombs for display is actually false and the actual graves are underneath inside the chambers. The cenotaphs were decorated with floral patterns of flowers like lilies and poppies.  Poppy floral patterns symbolizes the Emperor’s addiction for opium.  An interesting part of the building is the way it was built. In order to protect from the currents of the Yamuna river, they dug deep wells to build the water table. They fill them up with rocks and mortar and on this they erected massive stone columns  united by massive arches. A solid mountain of stone is developed to support the foundation slab of the building. This seemed a very revolutionary idea during the Mughal reign.  Another interesting feature I noticed is when you enter to see the Taj Mahal from the main gate, as you walk towards the gate, the Taj Mahal appears far but when you walk away, the Taj Mahal comes closer to you and appears even bigger.  The locals say that when you leave, you take the Taj with you in your heart. Its a masterpiece of a brilliant optical illusion. The white marbles of Taj Mahal comes from the quarries of Makrana in Rajasthan.  The entire interiors are covered with semi precious stones and motifs.  Pietra dura from Italy was used to decorate the interiors of Taj Mahal.  The calligraphy done on the surface of the Taj Mahal adds to the beauty of the decoration. Passages from the holy Quran are inscribed on it.  Again an example of great architecture is displayed when you are able to read the passages clearly from the bottom to the very top. This is created by increasing the size of the letters as the height increases thereby retaining a consistent reading experience.

I went to see a building known for its beauty but what caught my attention was its architecture and design.  I stood there basking under the sun admiring the big glowing white dome. People were fighting for their perfect selfie poses on Lady Diana’s bench.  It is difficult to get yourself alone with Taj Mahal.  I laughed at a couple of cliche poses they made like picking the Taj by their finger tips or Taj Mahal resting on one’s palm. I visited the building at noon but it would be interesting to see the crown of India resting in peace when the sun dawns the city of Agra. A visit to Taj Mahal can give you a moonstruck romantic feeling even in the middle of the day.  I looked back one more time before taking the image of Taj with me in my heart and walked away.

Copyright ©2009, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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