Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Taj Mahal

It's just a building, right? And it looks just like it does in the postcards. So why is it a wonder of the world, and why does it take your breath away when you stand in front of it?
The Taj Mahal

Perfectly framed

It was raining when we arrived in Agra, raining when we had lunch, and still raining when we set out to see the Taj Mahal. We were rather concerned, since it was our only day in Agra, and it looked pretty gray and bleak. But as we got to the site, the rain stopped, the sky cleared up, and the sun came out to light up the white marble of the Taj. It was simply magical...

Taj Mahal, the classic view
The Taj Mahal was commissioned by Shah Jahan, son (correction: grandson) of the emperor Akbar, as a monument to his love for his wife Mumtaz, who died in childbirth. The inconsolable emperor directed vast resources to the construction of the monument, which blends Hindu, Islamic, Turkish and Persian influences in a uniquely Indian fashion. It is probably the finest example of Mughal architecture, and certainly the best known.

The first thing one notices is the symmetry: an octagonal base, perfectively framed in perspective by four towers, lined up perfectly with the reflecting pool and the ornamental gardens. When you get closer, you realize that the scale of the building is huge. It is hard to reconcile how delicate it looks with the massive size of the structure.

Crowds at the Taj
Up close, for scale

Examining fine details
The other astonishing aspect is the detail in the work. Almost every surface and corner at eye level is painstakingly embellished with carvings, calligraphy, inscriptions, and inlay work in precious materials. It is easy to get caught up in admiring a tiny section of inlay, glittering on the softly luminous white marble. And then you step back and realize that sections are covered in similar detail all over the huge structure. It takes the breath away.

At the Taj
Last year, apparently, upwards of three million people visited the Taj Mahal, making it one of the most visited sites anywhere on Earth. And even with the crowds, even after all the pictures and photographs, it is still an amazing thing to behold. Worth the trip? Most certainly!


The Roth Family said...

That one Taj Mahal picture is one of those once-in-a-lifetime pictures every photographer dreams of taking. The rest of your photos are just excellent. Really enjoying the pictures and words.

(Sean's wife's cousin's husband)

shaon said...

Nice photos of the Taj and nice descriptions too. Thanks. One small correction if I may. It was commissioned by Shah Jahan, the grandson of Akbar not the son (jahangir).

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