The Taj

The Taj mahal is so majestic that it deserves its own post, so here we go!

We arrived in Agra on a Thursday morning, our original plan was to visit a few sights that day and visit the Taj during sunrise on Friday. We were told that Fridays is only prayer days at the Taj Mahal so it is only open for Muslims for about 2 hours in the afternoon. We adapted the plan and went  around 3:00 pm.

The Taj mahal complex has 3 entry doors, our hotel was close to the east gate which requires purchasing the tickets ot a building 1 km away. The tickets are 1000 Rupees ($15 US) and include a bottle of water and 2 shoe covers, they then charge you for extras, lockers, camera, video, etc… We were very pleased with the shoe covers and wished this was a possibility all the times we had to walk barefoot on burning hot and dirty floors.

We walked to the parking lot to try to find the free bus that will take us to the gate, first a guy tried to charge us (you cannot trust anyone here, as you may know from reading our previous posts about India), we got off the bus and another guy reassured us that it was free so we jumped in again.

They don’t let you take anything inside, including selfie sticks, tripods, extra batteries, more than 500 ml waters, etc… We left everything at the hotel so we were fine.

The first look of the Taj Mahal is breathtaking, it was not that crowded when we got there as the weather was really hot. I played a little with the HDR settings of my camera and the results were impressive:

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The moment you get in you will have 100 photographers asking you if you want some “professional” photos. It cost 50 Rupees per big printed photo (less than $1, Disney should learn from them). We agreed to get one photo but accepting that led to 30 min of a photo shoot with very awkward positions all around the main garden. When they finished with the awkwardness they show you and they start locking all the pics they think are good to print, most people will fall for it and purchase many unwanted photos. The photos where actually pretty terrible, all crooked, blurry and not in frame. But Eitan negotiated to get all the digital photos in a CD for about $5.

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The Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–1658), to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 42-acre complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenelated wall.

Indian families were more interested in taking photos with us than with the Taj Mahal, for that reason and the authority that the United Nations gives me, I declare the “White Tourist” as the 8th wonder of the world. (They Still don’t smile in the pictures)

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After our romantic photo shoot we walked around the grounds and took some more photos on our own, no tripods are allowed so taking photos of both of us prove to be difficult.

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The Taj Mahal complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653 at a cost estimated at the time to be around 32 million rupees, which in 2015 would be approximately 52.8 billion rupees (US$827 million). The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans.

This is the main gateway (darwaza), is a monumental structure built primarily of marble, and reminiscent of the Mughal architecture of earlier emperors. This gate is on the other side of the Taj, usually from where all the famous pictures are taken (my back is facing the Taj). The Taj Mahal garden is unusual in that the main element, the tomb, is located at the end of the garden.

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In order to get inside the Taj, you need to wear these funny shoe covers to protect the marble floors.

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Every step you get closer to this architectural masterpiece you can see more and more details. The most spectacular feature is the marble dome that surmounts the tomb. The dome is nearly 35 meters (115 ft) high which is close in measurement to the length of the base.

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The decorative elements were created by applying paint, stucco, stone inlays or carvings. In line with the Islamic prohibition against the use of anthropomorphic forms, the decorative elements can be grouped into either calligraphy, abstract forms or motifs. Throughout the complex are passages from the Qur’an that comprise some of the decorative elements.

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The Taj is a double dome structure, the dome that you see inside is just the first one and it is lower than what you expect from seeing the building from the outside. In the middle there are 2 fake tombs (the real ones are below the building but the entrance is prohibited for tourists). Photos were not really allowed so I was only able to take this one for the sake of journalism. The walls are inlaid in delicate detail with semi-precious stones forming twining vines, fruits and flowers. If you put a flashlight into the colorful flowers it will illuminate very nicely.

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The 4 minarets were constructed with a 93 degree angle so that in the event of collapse, a typical occurrence with many tall constructions of the period, the material from the towers would tend to fall away from the tomb. We were sad that 3 of them were having some restoration work, but not a big deal. This is the back wall minaret, the Yamuna river is opposite the back of the Taj.

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At the far end of the complex are two grand red sandstone buildings that mirror each other, and face the sides of the tomb. The western building is a mosque and the other is the jawab (answer), thought to have been constructed for architectural balance although it may have been used as a guesthouse.

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There was nobody visiting these buildings beside us and maybe 3 more people. It was so calm and the view of the Taj from there was beautiful (the Taj is symmetrical in 4 sides)

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We waited until sunset before leaving and had the chance to take a few more photos.

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After our visit we still wanted to view the incredible site more so ate at a restaurant with a rooftop (with a sort of view of the Taj), I guess when you pay about 4 bucks for your meal you can’t expect a perfect view.  Sitting outside above the city was very noisy, we could hear the sound of prayer from the mosques, loud music playing potentially from Indian weddings, car horns honking….it was more peaceful inside the Taj Mahal.

Bonus Pic Of The Day: In India you are not disabled, not even handicapped… you are just differently abled. I think I like that term more!

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