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The Taj Mahal, the most outstanding work of Indo-Islamic architecture, is a mausoleum covered with white marble slabs, standing on a square platform about 5 m high on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra (India). The mausoleum was built by the Muslim Grand Mogul Shah Jahan for his deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal. She died in 1631 after the birth of her 14th child. Her last wish was that her husband would build her the most beautiful of all tombs. The Grand Mogul, whose great love was Mumtaz Mahal, started the construction of the mausoleum in the same year, which was completed in 1648 with immense financial and logistical effort. More than 20,000 craftsmen and several architects were involved. From India and other Asian countries came the building materials, which were transported by more than 1,000 elephants.
In the last years before his death, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son, who had taken power in the meantime. From the window of his room in the Red Fort of Agra, Jahan was able/ had to see the mausoleum of his dearest wife every day. He was finally buried next to her. Inside the Taj Mahal are the cenotaphs (mock graves) of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, surrounded by an octagonal barrier. The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is exactly in the middle, in accordance with the symmetry of the room, while the only slightly larger tomb of her husband is shifted to the side (no photography permitted, see photo in Wikipedia ). The real graves are in the crypt, which is not accessible.
The outer facades and also the tombs inside are decorated with finely chiselled reliefs. There are colorful floral motifs, such as lilies, roses and other flowers, but also inscriptions with passages from the Koran.
I visited the Tadj Mahal on the last day of my round trip through Rajasthan in January 2016. By then I had already been able to see the extremely magnificent palaces of Mughal architecture and desert fortresses that began to glow in the evening light, among others in Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur and Jaipur. On my itinerary I had visited Hindu and Buddhist temples (partly inhabited by rats and monkeys !). And I would have admired the fine sculptures in the Jain temples for hours if I had enough time. In short, I was already saturated with numerous very beautiful impressions.
The Taj Mahal, which belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and to the 7 New Wonders of the World, was a sight I could not leave out during a trip to India, but I had not expected much from the visit. I had already seen countless photos of the world famous sight. The Indian tourist office advertised with photos of the Taj Mahal. Often the building was shown in bright orange before a sunset and in front of a purple sky. Also I knew rather kitschy looking photo wallpapers and a long time ago I had even put together a puzzle with the Taj Mahal. Was it really worth looking at the real thing ?
Early in the morning, when it was not yet so crowded, I stepped through the gate in the wall surrounding the Taj Mahal. And then, the unexpected happened! A miracle of white marble spread out before me, magically beautiful as in a fairy tale. Where did this beauty come from? Was it the perfect symmetry, the masterly aesthetics, the realization of the Golden Section in which the parts of the building stood in relation to each other, the morning sun that made the mausoleum shine in white light (although the cloudless sky seemed rather grey because of the air pollution)? I did not know. Never before had I been so moved by the sight of architecture. My feelings reminded me of unique landscape experiences, for example when hiking in Patagonia Topreiseerlebnis : Wandern in Patagonien
My faszination is almost imposssible to describe. Even photos can only give an approximate impression.
In any case, I could hardly get enough and was once again glad that I was not travelling with a group. When it got busier, I broke away and continued my journey to Delhi to fly back home. The visit of the Taj Mal was the perfect final highlight of my Rajastan tour.
There would be much more to report about my trip to India, but this is to be reserved for a further posting.
Have you ever been to the Taj Mahal or any other world famous sight and how did you experience it ?
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