The Taj Mahal Story part 1.

Who could ever think that an eternal love leading to the saga of infinite bondage can evolve out of a desert like land and would blossom to be the reason to gift our world a poem-in-marble, The Taj!

No image of The Taj, neither on canvass nor on celluloid, can adequately express its conceptual imaginary nor convey the legend, the poetry and the romance that shrouds what Rabindranath Tagore calls “a teardrop on the cheek of time”.

The Taj Mahal, a spectacle in white marble, unparalleled in grandeur that depicts the sheer opulence of an era. The awesome structure, the monument of love that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan gave to the world, stands as a testimony of his intense love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

It is a romance celebrated in marble and glorified with precious and semi-precious stones and that’s the way to appreciate it!

During our trip to India, myself and Pali, (my friend and partner in crime) stopped in Agra to see the top of the the worlds wonders…Unfortunately Pali fell ill, and wasn’t well enough go to see the Taj with me. 

I awoke early that day to avoid the crowd and buy my ticket, and more importantly, to make sure I had the nice morning light for my photos.

I highly recommend that you purchase your entry ticket, prior to joining the cue!

All set, my meeting with “the Miracle” can begin!

“This morning is Taj Mahal very very far away, Sir!” shouted a bicycle ricksha driver at me whilst buying my entry ticket, from a counter located a couple hundred meters from the eastern gate.

As I arrived to eastern gate there were a few tourist groups already formed in cues, so joined one..

…Low and behold, I did it agin!

“Sorry Sir, but this is lady’s cue!”

“What’s wrong with me here in India?” I though to myself.

“I always tend to enter some space “only for women,” totally by mistake!” 

It was 8am when the gate finally opened.

FYI-Be prepared for a security check, not different from one you’d receive in an airport.

After the check, you’ll enter the garden and will be overwhelmed by the magical beauty of The Taj Mahal  which is widely considered one of the most beautiful buildings ever created.

Its truly the top wonder of the world. (and as Fredy Mercury sings it, “it’s THE miracle!”). 

I was fortunate and blessed to be part of a second miracle myself when I accidentally took a detour from the tourist path and for couple of minutes, stood in front of the Grand Taj by myself.

The sun was covered by clouds but as soon as I took my camera out, the miracle happened- the sun came out and started to shine.

From one instant to the next, it become a beautiful sunny morning and I could peacefully enjoy a wonderful atmosphere and capture it with my camera.

The Taj is an experience of its own kind, while on the one hand its magnanimity is so sublime, so on the other the exquisite inlay work and detailed craftsmanship together with the calligraphy is simply amazing. The combination simply leaves one absolutely mesmerized. The sheer splendour of the mausoleum is consummate, and the vastness is simply monumental.

The tomb is at the northern end with an expanse of greenery and fountains between it and the gateways. The ceiling is adorned with floral patterns and the décor of floors with geometric designs. The inner of the main structure is in lakhauri [a kind of earthen brick], which have been carefully covered with marble, whereas the adjoining structures are covered with red sandstone.

Majestic and sensuous, glistening brightly in the afternoon sun, the bulbous dome and minarets with a slight inward tilt, have all been inscribed meticulously with the Holy Verses bringing forth the arabesque ornamentation. The white marble from Makrana in Rajasthan has added its own natural beauty to this mausoleum that attracts tourists from all over the world.

As one goes around, the most breathtaking part remains the exquisite inlay work that looks up from every nook and corner of the façade. The blooms are worked out in immense detail and every dot and alphabet of the Holy Quran is neatly etched, cut and inlaid to perfection. The flowers, chiefly lilies mirror the Mughal love for gardens. One particular flower on the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is said to have been inlaid with 35 different precious stones. The central hall is surrounded by eight rooms that have a corridor running through them. The aura of serenity is all pervading, while translucent glass separates them to let-in the dim sunlight, making the interiors look solemn and intriguing. Indeed a masterpiece that none would ever be able to replicate including the orginal craftsmen, artisans and designers themselves.
While a visitor is still managing to grasp the symmetry of the structures set across the length and breadth of the complex, the Taj Mahal appears deep in the distance, indeed a spectacular sight to behold, forever!
However, it is the dome that leaves one gasping in awe. While the outer dome rises to 44.4 metres in height, the inner is 24.35 metres an architectural and technical feat. Ismail Afandi from Turkey, who also worked for the Ottomans is said to have been its designer. Marking an amalgam of Hindu and Islamic architecture are the typically Hindu Chhatris [An umbrella like structure] at the dome base from the corners. Shah Jahan has similarly left his individual imprint in several other aspects of the architecture as well.The cenotaph over Shah Jahan’s tomb has an inkwell, while that of Mumtaz Mahal a slate over it, as it is said a man writes his desires on the woman’s heart. The epitaphs in addition to regular pronouncements about the individual have verses from the Holy Quran. The exquisite craftsmanship marks the marble lattice screens, which are elaborately worked out in oriental design enclose the cenotaphs. The tombs lie below the cenotaphs in a basement, undisturbed and in absolute quiet environs. What we do not see now are the bowls full of jewels on Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb, the Persian carpets on the floor and the silver doorways and overhanging chandeliers that once made up the inner décor.”  Don’t forget to take off your shoe covers at the end of your visit ?   After I arrived home, I instantly started working on the book of photographs from India. (You can find a link to my self-published book “From India with love”, where you’ll see various art photos, portraits and street photography After publishing the book, I still had the desire to use photographs of the Taj for some editorial and compositing work. With many thanks to the book, because of it, I actually met wonderful Manj Sehra Carthigaser, of Indian descent, who posed for me and helped me finish the compositing editorial, “Revealing the Taj,” a couple of months later.   But this is all another story… to be continued…