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Taj Mahal: India's Most Luxurious Love Letter

Kary Kern

I passed through the elaborate gate at the main entrance – a beautiful construction unto itself – and gasped as I looked through the rounded frame.  There it was… the elaborate, dazzling white marble castle-like structure that inspires so many dreams. 

Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the purpose for the Taj Mahal was to be the mausoleum for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess who died giving birth to their 14th child.  The Taj Mahal is set on 42-acres of beautifully manicured grounds with abundant flowers and a reflecting pool leading to the ornate tomb.  There’s also a mosque and a guest house.

I had to stop just after entering the gate to reflect on and admire the beauty of India’s most famous monument.  The 115 ft. onion dome dominates the skyline, not only because of its size, but also the design elements.  Surrounding the tomb are four slender minaret towers that lean slightly outward, so as not to damage the tomb in case of an earthquake.

Perhaps the best and most iconic viewpoint is standing at the end of the reflecting pool, with a walkway on either side.

Up close, the exterior decorative features are exquisite.  The marble is intricately carved in bas-relief, some areas with delicate inlay of yellow marble, jasper and jade, and carvings of passages from the Qur'an.

I was surprised that the octagon interior of the tomb is actually quite small. The inlay work is stunning, using precious and semiprecious gemstones.  However, the ornate inlay monuments honoring Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are just for show… their actual sarcophagi are contained below.

Surrounding the tomb is a large balcony with panoramic views of Agra and the Yamuna River.

The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, and in 2007, it was declared a winner of the New 7 Wonders of the World.  It’s been called "the jewel of Muslim art in India.”

Call me sappy, but for me, the real attraction is the sentiment of eternal love.

It is estimated that the cost to build the Taj Mahal would have been equal to around US $827 million.

Close to the Taj Mahal is the Agra Fort.  Both of these a UNESCO World Heritage sites can be toured on a private day trip from Delhi with Get Your Guide.

The Agra Fort was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638 when the capital was transferred from Agra to Delhi.  One of the finest Mughal forts in India, it’s a semi-circular 94-acre walled city, constructed out of red sandstone with 74-foot walls towering over a once crocodile-infested moat and drawbridge. 

At one time, the fort contained a maze of five hundred beautifully-designed buildings within, mostly constructed of white marble. 

While the fort is also a major tourist attraction, there is more space than at the Taj Mahal and more room to explore the various palaces, halls, and elaborate courtyards.

 

Disclosure:  The author was honored to be the guest of Get Your Guide during her visit to Agra, but as always, the opinions, reviews and experiences are her own. 

Kary Kern

First view of Taj Mahal through the keyhole

Kary Kern

The sight is surreal, and worthy of reflection.

Kary Kern

Bas-relief carving (bottom) and intricate inlay (top)

Kary Kern

Agra Fort, constructed of red sandstone

Kary Kern

One of many courtyards in the Red Fort

Patti Morrow

Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer, founder of the award-winning blog Luggage & Lipstick – an adventure guide for baby boomers, and author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone.” Patti has over 100 bylines in 35 publications, including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, International Living Magazine, Travel Girl, CNN iReport, Epicure & Culture, and Ladi...(Read More)

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