The mention of Taj Mahal brings out conflicting emotions in me. While it certainly makes me very proud that an Indian monument finds place among the Wonders of the World, there is also the fact that Taj Mahal probably wouldn’t make it to my “top five monuments of India” list (and I have yet to explore so much of India). Maybe it is the story behind the construction of Taj Mahal that tugs on the heartstrings of the visitors or the grandeur and hues of its white marble that so enamours them, but one thing is unquestionable – if you are looking to have a memorable wedding anniversary then there are few better locations than this monument of love.
We started early on our anniversary day to avoid the crowds that can ruin your experience of visiting Taj. We entered from the eastern gate and after a quick security check made our way to a large forecourt. This area, known as Jilaukhana, was a medieval era parking lot. This was where all the nobles and eminent people arriving on their elephants and horses stopped and dismounted from their rides.
On three sides of Jilaukhana were the three entry gates while on the fourth side was the magnificent Darwaza-i-Rauza which is ‘the gateway to Taj’. This enormous gate, made of red sandstone and white marble, is decorated with calligraphy and stone inlay work and has the potential to be a monument in itself. It is certainly a worthy structure that shields Taj Mahal before allowing one to finally witness the wonder of the world.
We passed under the gate and finally the visual that most of us must have seen in pictures appeared before us – the mesmeric white structure of Taj Mahal flanked by two identical red sandstone and marble buildings with lush green gardens leading to it and the image of the mausoleum being reflected in a pool. The only dampener (apart from the crowd of tourists, guides and photographers) was the scaffolding covering the three minarets of Taj.
We decided to take a stroll through the complex and see the gardens and outlying buildings first. These buildings included southern galleries – a pillared hall which contained a small photo-exhibition on Indian history, Jal Mahal – a red sandstone building which houses a museum of Mughal artefacts now (closed at that time of the morning), a mosque flanking one side of the Taj and its twin known as Mehman Khana (guest house) flanking the other side.
When we see Taj Mahal from a distance then everything is dominated by that gleaming white facade but from up close the decorations on it start becoming apparent. Taj Mahal is not excessively decorated but it does have some exquisite carvings, flower motifs, calligraphy, stone inlay work and latticed windows with symmetry being the primary theme of the entire construction.
After admiring Taj from outside we went inside. The central chamber was an octagonal room which contained the replica tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan surrounded by an intricately carved marble screen. The room was quite dimly lit and stuffed with tourists hence we quickly moved on to the adjoining chambers which also contained some beautiful decorations.
By the time we emerged from inside Taj, the sun was out in full glory and the white marble of the structure was positively glowing so we took some more photos of the glorious structure and finally exited the complex.