Taj Mahal By Marc O’Bryan and Stephen Allison

Our visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra was undoubtedly one of the biggest highlights of the trip. This wonder of the world, which attracts over one million visitors per year, was truly a magnificent sight that not many Americans get to experience. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and shed light on some very interesting facts about the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal’s history entails a love story, which seems to fit well with India’s love of emotional expression. This beautiful structure was in fact a mausoleum built by a grieving husband after the loss of his beloved wife, who passed away after experiencing complications during the delivery of her fourteenth child. It was surprising to find out that this grand palace-like structure, made entirely of white marble, was built for the sole purpose of enabling a powerful 17th century emperor to honor his late wife. We learned that he built the Taj Mahal after promising his wife on her death bed that he would build a memorial to remember her. The reason why it is called the “Taj Mahal” is because the wife’s name was Mumtaz Mahal, which was interesting to learn. The magnificence of the Taj Mahal is enriched by its physical embodiment of this love story between a powerful emperor and the wife he loved dearly.

The architecture of the Taj Mahal is amazing and is said to be one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture. The incredibly ornate detail that is incorporated into virtually every square inch of the Taj Mahal makes one appreciate the painstaking work that it took to construct it. The fact that such a complex structure was able to be conceived and constructed with such perfection is truly remarkable, considering it took place mid-17th century. One fact about the architecture that we found particularly interesting and clever was that the four columns surrounding the main dome structure were intentionally built to slant outward by four degrees. This was to ensure that in the event that these columns were to fall over, they would fall away from the main dome structure. Another interesting fact we learned was that the real graves of the emperor, Shah Jahal, and his wife, Mumtaz Jahal, are located in the basement of the Taj Mahal. What tourists see in the main chamber house are actually false graves.

Our appreciation of the Taj Mahal grew tremendously during or subsequent visit to the nearby Marble Inlay Factory. We were given the opportunity to actually see the enormous amount of work it requires to cut and shape the marble, embed the semi-precious stones in the marble, and finally polish it to give it a pristine look. It was amazing to see these craftsmen working on the marble in the same way that it was done almost 400 years ago during the construction of the Taj Mahal. Seeing how much work went into creating just a small marble table top really gave us some perspective on how much labor it must have taken to complete the Taj Mahal.

Overall, our visit to the Taj Mahal was a great experience that deepened our understanding and appreciation of India’s fascinating history and culture. If visiting India, experiencing the Taj Mahal is a must if one wants to truly get a sense of this country’s unique culture and what it has to offer the rest of the world.

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