Wondrous Taj Mahal at Agra
A blue sky cuddled the cloudlike Taj Mahal. Smartly turned out guides led tourists around Emperor Shah Jahan’s success in immortalizing his love for his queen Mumtaz Mahal.
The morning sun seemed to salute and polish the marble marvel. In the Taj Mahal lies a tribute to Makarana marble. It has stood the test of time (over 350 years). Fine artisanship of over 20,000 people from India and abroad who laboured to create this world wonder is evident in the Taj.
Well of course, the edifice commemorates love. It is also a synonym of Indian architecture to the world. Beauty, passion, engineering skills and optical tricks make it the wonder that it is.
Agra has the distinction of the only city in the world which has three of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Its Charminar style Mughal gardens symbolises paradise. The mausoleum itself is towards North in this verdant paradise. Architectural technique makes it look much smaller than it is. As you move towards it, it seems to grow… until you reach the base of the grand structure, when it seems to live and breathe!
Optical illusions and architecture
Visual illusions in its design are the watermark of Taj Mahal. It looks identical from all four sides except that the River Yamuna flows placidly behind it and the garden, mosque, rest house and main gate are in front. Koranic writings on its four entrances are carved in such subtle increase in size that they appear to be of the same size from top to bottom!
A hundred shades colour the Taj as the sun plays with psychedelic lights on it. And, now that it is open on full moon nights, the railway bridge or Hotel Taj Khema are no longer the only places it can be seen from.
A bouquet of World Heritage Sites!
Agra has a cluster of world heritage sites-- Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Itmad Ud Daula’s tomb, Chini Rauza and Akbar’s tomb at Sikandara are added attractions. In fact, Agra has the distinction of the only city in the world which has three of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Agra Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Agra’s Agra Fort railway station is right by the side of this monument. It is about 2.5 km to the Taj Mahal from here.
The fort is a walled city, in all reality. Since the first Mughal emperor started base at Agra, successive Mughal emperors Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb have all been associated with this place.
Agra fort’s Mussaman Burz is a tragic witness of the aged Shah Jahan’s confinement by son Aurangzeb as he looked longing towards Taj Mahal and his love Mumtaz Mahal buried therein. In fact, if Shah Jahan had his way he would have built a similar mausoleum for himself in black stone across the Yamuna with a bridge connecting the two in death and immortality.
Fatehpur Sikri – Ode to a faqir
Sufi saint Salim Chishti’s tomb at Fatehpur Sikri is another edifice of love albeit a shade different. The saint was intoxicated by divine love and prophesied that Akbar would father three sons. In gratitude for this blessing, Akbar built a mosque and then a whole city in his honour! Salim Chishti’s Dargah vibrates with mystic Sufiyana Qalaam as invocation to God, the beloved and master.
Agra, sure is a place worth exploring, not only for its Taj Mahal, but a living culture emanating from history itself…