Known as one of the seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1983), it took Mughal emperor Shah Jahan 22 years to construct it. Employing over 20,000 stone carvers, masons, and artisans from across the region – including those traveling all the way to India from Persia, the Taj Mahal is beyond exquisite.
The marble artwork covering every surface is often called “the jewel of Muslim art in India,” infusing Persian and Mongrel architecture into a beautiful transcript of Quaran scripts, poems, and pictorials.
- Rabindranath Tagore
Unique Things to See Near the Taj Mahal
- Agra Fort
- Akbar’s Tomb, Sikandra – resting spot of Akbar the Great
- Mankameshwar Temple – 2.3 km away
The Love Story Behind the Taj Mahal
Love stories are often fraught with intense feelings of devotion, attraction, longing but then the story can turn toward tragedy – leaving one with feelings of sadness and loss. It is not very often a story ends with a devotion that would last centuries though, and the lives of the Emperor Shah Jahan and his love Mumtaz Mahal (a Persian Princess) are just such a story.
The Emperor Shah Jahan fell more deeply in love with his first wife, Mumtaz Mahal, than anyone else. With a beauty so rare, it was said that all men would lose their speech in her presence. The Emperor doted on her. She had been his “first love at first sight” and he brought her everywhere with him, including military campaigns. With the arrival of their 14th baby, she fell ill due to birthing complications and subsequently died. Shah Jahan – wrecked with heartache – promised to build her a beautiful mausoleum to be remembered by, and that he did.
According to history, Shah Jahan ordered his kingdom to go into mourning for two years. Once his heart started to heal he began the construction of the Taj Mahal – where both the Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal are now entombed. Their tombs are located on the first level which is not accessible by the public, but there have been replicas created on the upper floors.
To explore more thoroughly the political and social bindings of the Emperor Shah Jahan and his multiple wives, many children, his kingdom and his military reign – we strongly recommend investing in a guided tour. The history is rich with so many veins, like the political trust and power that Mumtaz Mahal was able to establish in her 40 years, that a historical storyteller can give so much more depth to than we are able to share here.
Getting to the Taj Mahal
Once you have arrived in the city of Agra you can either hire a taxi, tempo, or rickshaw to get you close to the Taj Mahal. Motorized vehicles are not permitted near the Mausoleum due to exhaust smoke being so damaging to buildings, so you’ll have to either walk the rest of the way, take a battery-operated bus, or a human powered rickshaw. For those looking for a little more adventure you can hire horse-drawn tongas. Or lastly, if you have hired a tour guide for the whole trip – including a historical tour through the Palace, then they will typically provide the transportation for you.
Did you know…?
The flooring within the Mosque is red marble, patterned in the shape of prayer mats.
Did you ALSO know…?
The combination of stones in the inlay work include marble, slate, sandstone, as well as some precious stones like agate, jasper, malachite, lapis lazuli, and turquoise.
Ready to plan your visit to Agra? Check out these popular guides and trips.