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The Taj Mahal – the wonder of wonders

It was a full moon night and I found myself on the banks of the River Yamuna – in front of the awesome Taj Mahal – even my wildest dreams did not prepare me for what I saw. Bathed in moon-light it gleamed like a jewel made of pearls, how Shah Jahan must have loved his Queen Mumtaz Mahal to build a monument of this magnitude.

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   View from the river Yamuna

As if in a stupor I traced my steps towards the entrance, recollecting what I had read about Shah Jahan and his beloved Queen.

Shah Jahan, then Prince Kuram, was just 14 when he saw Arjumand Banu Begum, a Muslim Persian Princess, and fell in love with her at first sight. After 5 years, Shah Jahan, the Moghul Emperor, took her as his third wife and called her Mumtaz Mahal the ‘chosen one’ - the jewel of the palace.

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Suddenly I was at the Octagonal Central chamber which housed the twin tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. The tombs are enclosed within a carved ‘jalli’ enclosure as if giving them the privacy even in death. I slowly retraced my steps out of the Taj. What a monument, what a labour of love   ………..……….. 22 years; 22,000 labourers, 1,000 elephants; 32 million rupees, tons of white marble and semi-precious stones.

As I stepped out of the Taj I walked across the Taj Gardens, set in     Shah Jahan was not as fortunate as me; legend has it that Shah Jahan did not enter the Taj once it was completed. Shah Jahan's son, Emperor Aurangzeb, seized power from Shah Jahan, and locked him in a cell in the Red Fort, from where he could see the Taj Mahal for the rest of his life. Shah Jahan gazed at the Taj every day, weeping for his lost wife. When his eyesight failed him, he gazed into the facets of his huge diamond ring to cry over the reflection of the Taj. Grooves on the sand-stone floor of the prison cell seem whittled by the Shah’s tears. The Taj

 The Entrance

I was at the imposing entrance now, the arched doorway dwarfing me with its sheer magnitude. I felt like walking on my toes in order not to disturb the Emperor and his Queen. Their presence seemed to fill the monument.

  Shah Jahan

 Mumtaz Mahal

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Mumtaz Mahal who was an inseparable companion for Shah Jahan and even accompanied him during his military expeditions. She died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631.  It is believed that during her last moments, Mumtaz Mahal obtained a promise from Shah Jahan that he will build world's most beautiful monument in her memory …... and the most beautiful Monument build, he did – the Taj Mahal.

I slowly made my way through the out chambers towards the centre of the monument.

…. the awesome inlay work

I walked, taking in the marble structure and the jewelled in-lay work and something I had read disturbed me. Shah Jahan was supposed to have blinded and cut-off the fingers of the main architect who built the Taj so that he would not be able to build another Taj. Such was the fanatic love Shah Jahan had for Mumtaz.

Octagonal central chamber

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 Persian style – a riot of colours set in geometric lay-outs. I turned to drink in the image of the Taj on again, reluctant to leave.

Shah Jahan’s prison cell with the view of the Taj at a distance

A poignant tale, a symbol of eternal love, an architectural marvel, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal – the Taj has stood proud for more than 400 years in all its glory.

Visit the Taj you must – by moon-light, by day light; the choice is yours – its magnificence remains intact. There are 2 places you have to visit in India – the Taj Mahal and the Goan Beaches – if it is one for the other I suggest you choose the Taj.

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The Taj Mahal in Agra is approximately 200 km. south of New Delhi, India’s capital. It can be reached by air, rail or road. Any time during the year is the right time to visit the Taj, but October to March is the peak season. Make sure you make time to spend a whole day at the Taj to see the changing shades of the monument as the sun travels across the sky and hides in the west to let the moon shed it pearly light on it.

Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:

Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory.

……………….. how true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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