Taj Mahal India Essential Travel Guide

The history of Taj Mahal dates back to the Mughal Era in India between 16th & 19th. The construction of this masterpiece is credited to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who erected this mausoleum in the memory of his beloved mistress, Arjumand Bano Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1630 AD.

Mumtaz Mahal's last wish to her husband was "to build a tomb in her memory such as the world had never seen before". Thus emperor Shah Jahan set about building this fairytale like marvel. Mumtaz Mahal died, after delivering her fourteenth child "Gauharar". While Mumtaz was on her deathbed Shahjahan had promised her, never to remarry and to build the richest mausoleum over her grave. The body was temporarily buried in the Zainabadi Garden in Burhanpur and in six months time removed to Agra. He decided to build the mausoleum in a plot on the riverside. The work on the tomb started with thousands of artisans and labourers.

Tajmahal Location

Located to the north of India, Agra is the historic land of Taj. Agra reached the heights of development during the Mughal era. Tourists from far flung areas come to Agra to see the most spectacular monument of the world. But tourists to Agra, do see the whole of Agra, before moving out of Agra. And along with the monuments, they also relish the flavoursome cuisine of Agra.

Being close to Delhi, the capital city of India, Agra is easily accessible from all the parts of the world. Agra is also accessible by the Palace on Wheels, one of the ten most luxurious trains of the world.

Distance from most populous cities in India Agra is 1858 km from Bangalore, 1258 km from Calcutta, 232 km from Jaipur, 1197 km from Mumbai.

Some attractions in Agra You 'll never like to missed any

Apart from Taj Mahal, Agra also displays some of the magnificent forts and monuments of the Mughal Era. All the monuments are exclusive on their own. All of them have something different to offer to its tourist from all over the world. Some of them are :

1. Fatehpur Sikri - Fatehpur Sikri was founded by Akbar, who did not have heir at 26. Regarding this, he visited a saint, Shaikh Salim Chishti who lived in a city called Sikri. His blessing gave Akbar 3 sons. As a gesture, Akbar built a whole new city in Sikri - city dominated by Red Sandstone buildings - the Fatehpur Sikri.

Fatehpur Sikri was built during late 16th century by the Emperor Akbar. Fatehpur Sikri or the City of Victory was the capital of the Mughal Empire for period of 10 years. The complex houses excellent monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style - an amalgamation of Hindu and Central Asian Architecture. The complex also includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid.

Built between 1569 and 1585 and was intended to be the joint capital with Agra, but was soon abandoned because of the critical water system. It remained deserted for over 400 years now and its palaces are a reminder of the extravagance of the Mughals. But the efforts of the Archaeological department has retained many of the old structures of this deserted city.

Fatehpur Sikri is the best example of the pinnacle of Hindu and Muslim architecture. The Mosque at Fatehpur Sikri is said to be the replica of the mosque in Mecca and has designs, derived from the Persian & Hindu architecture. Though the city is in ruins, it is a place to see during one's visit to Agra. But in real terms Fatehpur Sikri is a place where one should spend some time. The sunset over the ruins is a glorious site. Fatehpur Sikri is now a World Heritage site. The finest monuments within this area are the Diwan - i - Am, Diwan - i - Khas, Panch Mahal, Jama Masjid, Panch Mahal, Buland Darwaza and the tomb of Saint Sheikh Salim Chisti are among the finest specimens of Mughal architecture.

2. Agra Fort - Agra, the city of Taj has lots more to offer to its tourists other than just Taj Mahal. The historic city of Agra is visited by most of the tourists to see Taj Mahal. But, none of the visitors leave Agra without visiting its other historic monuments.

Agra Fort is one of the monuments built in the Mughal era. Less than 2 kilometers from the Taj Mahal, on the same river bank is situated majestic Agra Fort with all its magnificence. It was the Emperor Akbar, who laid the foundation of the majestic Agra Fort. Construction of the fort started in 1565 and was finished in 1571. Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor of the Mughal era, raised most of the buildings inside the fortress.

Sprawling in an area of 2.5 km on the bank of the river Yamuna. The red sandstone structure consists of a wall built in red sandstone and several buildings inside the wall. The wall has 2 gates, the Delhi Gate and the Amar Singh Gate. One can enter the fort only via the Amar Singh Gate. This fort is one of the must see tourist destinations of Agra in India.

3. Sikandra - Sikandra - a structure with a perfect blending of Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Jain motifs, is named after the Afghan ruler Sikander Lodi. Sikandra is the final resting place of Emperor Akbar.

Akbar started constructing this mausoleum within his lifetime, but the construction was completed by his son Jahangir in 1613. The tomb in pyramidical shape consists of five storeys. The tomb has three-storey-minarets on its four corners. These minarets are built in red sandstone with beautiful inlay work of marble. On top is an open courtyard surrounded by a marble screen enclosing the tomb itself. The building is unique in its architecture. It has no domed roof, a complete departure from Islamic architectural tradition.

Set amidst a beautiful garden, the mausoleum is one of its kind in architecture. Jehangir made lots of modifications in the original plan of the building. The structure is perfect example of the the development in the Mughal art & architecture. From the Humayun's tomb in Delhi to Akbar's Tomb in Sikandra finally to the Taj Mahal. The Baradi palace in the gardens was built by Sikander Lodhi. On the road from Sikandra to Agra are several tombs and two 'Kos Minars' or mile stones.

The tomb in elevation has a pyramid style construction and consists of five floors:

Ground Floor
The ground floor has spacious cells on all the four sides except in the middle of the southern side. The cells are divided by numerous bays by massive piers and arches. The vestibule is ornamented very abundantly with beautiful carvings, which occupies the centre of the southern side. Artistic paintings and inlay work in geometric and floral motifs dominates the surroundings. The tombstone of Akbar is placed in the middle of this room. Akbar's daughters, Shakrul Nisha Begum and Aram Bano are also entombed in this floor.

Second Floor
The second storey is composed of 23 bays. The use of an ornamental arch and square pillar in the second floor has brought about a unique composition.

Third And Fourth Floors These storeys are smaller in size than the ones below it. They have an similar arrangement of arches supported on pillars and chhatris attached on the exterior to each facade.

Fifth Floor
The fifth storey is entirely in white marble as compared to the lower storeys, which are finished in red sand stone.

4. Itmad-ud-Daulah - The Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah is situated at Agra in Uttar Pradesh, India. 6 years before the Taj Mahal was built, the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah was already standing majestically to inspire Shahjahan in building the most splendid tomb of the world - the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal or Taj Mahal. This mausoleum in a shape of silver jewel box in marble houses the body of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the father of the Mughal Empress Noor Jahan. After Noor Jahan married the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, Mirza Ghiyas Beg was appointed the Lord Treasurer of the Empire or Itimad-ud-Daulah.

Noor Jehan built this mausoleum between 1622-1625 A.D. This was the first tomb to be built on a riverbank in India. Itimad-ud-Daulah's tomb situated on the banks of the river Yamuna, has many exquisite designs that were later copied in the Taj Mahal. Itimad-ud-Daulah's tomb marks a serious change from the tombs of the Mughal dynasty built earlier. This tomb follows the central Asian pattern of a domed structure, set in a formal garden, with waterways and paths laid out in a geometrical pattern, something followed while constructing the Taj Mahal.

It was this tomb in India, were the marble inlay work or pietra dura style was first used and later in the Taj Mahal. The inlaid designs on the wall of the tomb include flowers, trees, fruit, animals and birds as well as wine jars and even people, which is astonishing, since Islam does not allow the use of human images as decorative forms.

The richness and variety of artwork on the walls of the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah are truly inspiring and well worth seeing when you are on trip to the charming city of Agra.

Even after more than three centuries have passed, the Taj is seen by millions of tourists every year. Taj Mahal is best described by the English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, as "Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones."