See the Taj Mahal through the gateway to heaven, India

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There are two groups of people: the ones that have seen the Taj Mahal, and the ones that haven’t. A popular statement among tour guides in the area, as the Indians are known to be very proud of their cultural heritage, specifically, the Taj Mahal. With right, as the Taj Mahal officially has a place on the list of the new world wonders.

History of the Taj Mahal

Picture: Looking through the gateway to heaven arch to the Taj Mahal

The first arch you will pass is called: “the gateway to heaven”, this title is even written on the arch in Arabic. When you stand before the arch and look through the entrance, you will have an immediate clear view of the Taj Mahal. Take some time and let the environment sink in.

The build of the Taj Mahal was initiated by the emperor: Shah Jahan in 1631. When the emperors wife, Mumtaz Mahal, had their 14 th child, she passed away. It is said that on her death-bed she has requested the emperor 2 things. The first one was not to re-marry, and the second one was to build her a structure that was so unique, that people would not forget about her. In the end, the emperor has made sure both wishes came through. He started the built of the Taj Mahal in 1632 and finished the mausoleum in 1643, however, the built of the remaining parts lasted for another 10 years. The body of the emperors wife was mummified and temporarily buried nearby. When the center building was finished after 3 years, which was the most important part, the remains (what was left of them) of the emperors wife were relocated and placed in exactly the middle of the Taj Mahal.

You will notice when inside that, although the premises of the Taj Mahal is enormous, all angles are perfectly symmetrical and aligned. In the built, enormous amounts of marble, gold, gems and other valuable stones have been used. The costs of the built of the entire structure is estimated to be around USD 827 million. A gigantic group of people were set to work by the emperor to build the structure. These workers lived on the Taj Mahal premises throughout the whole built, just outside the south gate. Enormous amounts of food was required and maintained by the emperor, to feed the workers. This caused serious difficulties for the families living in the surrounding areas, as consequently, there was a lack of food outside of the Taj Mahal.

Picture: Taj Mahal Picture: Taj Mahal

When building the Taj Mahal, the emperor also had gardens made in the surrounding area across the river, so that no large buildings would be built behind the Taj Mahal, ruining the idea on having one enormous and impressive building towering from the landscape. When you take a minute to really look at the structure, you will notice that the 4 towers are leaning out. It is said that this was a deliberate act so that, when you would look at the Taj Mahal from a distance, the towers would appear straight (a correction to an optical illusion). Others say that the slight ‘lean’ was built as such to make sure that in the event of an earthquake, the towers would fall outwards, and not inwards towards the center of the Taj Mahal.

At a certain point, the son of the emperor threw his father into confinement. It is said that he was angry about his father spending the family fortune on the Taj Mahal. The confinement space where the emperor was locked up, was located in Fort Agra, a small distance away from the Taj Mahal. They say the emperor would sit and watch the Taj Mahal for the most part of his time left and just linger away. For our blog on Fort Agra, click here.

The Center of the Taj Mahal

Upon the emperors death, his remains were laid to rest next to the emperors wife, though in a separate coffin. The coffin of the emperor was placed on a slightly higher level in comparison with the coffin of his wife, however, his wife’s coffin was, is and will be the center of the complex. When entering the Taj Mahal, take a good look at the amount of details used in the decoration. The marble ‘fences’ have all been cut out of one block of marble, and the flower-decoration on the marble are (hand-) made out of different kinds of valuable stones.

Picture: Picture: The graves of the Emperor and his wife in the center of the Taj Mahal Picture: Notice the great detail in the decoration of the outer wall of the Taj Mahal

The surrounding hallways are perfect for meditation and yoga. At the moment it is however forbidden to vocalize the meditation “ohm”, as, given the amount of people, different ohm’s sounding through each other may be confusing and does not benefit meditation.

Practical information

The Taj Mahal is located on an approximately 4 hour drive from Delhi international airport in the Agra region. An entry ticket for foreigners (different prices for Indian residents apply) is 10,500 Rupee (about 15 EURO/ 17 USD) and is accompanied by a bottle of water and a set of shoe-covers. You will need to wrap the shoe-covers around your shoes before entering the Taj Mahal (or enter bare-foot). Note that the Taj Mahal premises is typically closed for tourists on Friday. The Friday is reserved for the direct descendants of the actual builders of the Taj Mahal, for them to pray and work on restorations.

When you have bought a ticket, electrical cars, busses or other transportation can take you to the entrance. You can also walk if the weather conditions are good, the entrance is at about a 15 minutes’ walk. Note that there is a separate entree for Men and Woman, and in India, Woman always have to be searched by another woman in a private room, meaning; behind a curtain. On Saturday’s, Sunday’s and national holiday-days, it can be very crowded on the Taj Mahal Premises. If you have an option to choose, Monday’s and Tuesday’s are preferred as there are usually less tourists these days.

An impression