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Taj Mahal - Peep beyond the Taj Mahal, and capture some glorious sights studded to the vibrant topography of India.
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TAJ MAHAL

Being crowned as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal, which means 'the crown palace', is truly an illustrious piece of architecture and craftsmanship. It is one of the most visited Man Made Travel Wonders of the World and can be considered best World Heritage Sites of India.

LOCATION
Taj Mahal Taj Mahal is located in the city of Agra, situated in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in India, at a distance of 204 km from Delhi. The border of Agra touches Rajasthan to its west and south, the district of Firozabad to its east and districts of Mathura and Etah to its North.

HISTORY
Taj Mahal, a master piece constructed by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1648 A.D. in the memory of his beloved wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal to fulfil her dying wish for a tomb in her memory.

It is the result of around 20,000 workmen working day and night for around 22 years. The material used was mainly white marble brought from the quarries of Rajasthan. Apart from that red sandstone was brought in from Fatehpur Sikri and 28 types of precious and semi-precious stones that were embedded in the interiors of the monument, like Jade, Crystal, Sapphire, Diamonds were brought in from other parts of Asia.

ARCHITECTURE
The Taj Mahal is the finest piece of Architecture by the Mughals. Its design has more Persian styles and elements.

The Taj complex can be divided into four distinctive parts to understand its architectural finesse.

The Taj Gateway: Facing the Taj Mahal is the massive red sandstone Gateway. Its symbolic of the divide between the material and the spiritual. It is decorated with verses from the holy Koran. It stands 30mts high and has small cupolas or chhatris on top. From a distance the Taj seems to hide behind the giant Gateway, but as you approach, it appears to grow!

The Magnificent Gateway was mainly designed to prevent people from getting a glimpse of the tomb until they are inside the Gateway itself. The stunning view of dwarfing images of people as you stroll around the tomb are really unique.

Taj Mahal  GardenThe Taj Garden: On entering the Gateway, one is welcomed by the breath-taking view of lush-green flora going all the way up to the plinth of the Taj. The Taj Garden illustrates the Islamic style of architecture and symbolizes spirituality. According to the holy Koran, a garden symbolizes paradise. The guiding principle in creating this garden is the sculpted symmetry which can be experienced everywhere.

In Islam it is believed, that there are four rivers in paradise made of water,milk,wine and honey. This formed the root of char bagh style of planning the garden.

The Mausoleum: The mighty structure of the Taj is placed on a 6.7m high plinth that presents the best view of of the surroundings and an unmatched feeling of closeness to the epitome of love. Four minarets, each of 41.6m height flank the four corners of the plinth to balance the tomb, so spectacularly designed that in case of any mishap, the pillars would not fall on the tomb. Each minaret has an Arabic letter written on it which when put together means ar-rahman that is one of the names of Allah.

The Tomb: From outside the tomb is square-shaped having beveled-corners. Smaller domes rise at corners while the main Dome erects at the center. The main dome follows the double dome style of The Mughals' another brilliant architectural master-piece-The Humayun's Tomb. The double dome style is Central Asian in origin and its purpose is to raise the height of the tomb.

The tomb is equally panoramic from inside consisting of a huge hall-like chamber in the center, a crypt or maqbara below it and on the corners are four octangular rooms that were erected to bear the graves of the royal mughal family members. In the center lies the gravestones of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz mahal, Shah Jahan's grave is kept a little higher to that of his wife bearing the year 1660 AD. Above the two cenotaphs is a lamp made in Cairo, the flame of which is always blazing which again is a symbol of being eternal. The steles have an inlay of many precious and semi-precious stones and the ceilings are strategically constructed to echo voices and melodies.

VARIOUS EVENTS IN AGRA
Taj Mahotsav
A blooming spring welcomes a vibrant and colourful 10-day festival in Shilp Gram, at a stone's throw away from Taj Mahal in Agra. It commences on 18th of February each year. It is reminiscent of the 350 year old golden era of the Mughals. It is the best time to visit Taj Mahal and also have the glimpse of this Annual festival. Amidst of the Camel and Elephant rally, you would fondly believe that you are a part of one of the victory procession of the Mughals.You can find and appreciate alluring Marble-works, inlays and designs, chikkan and pottery work which will tempt you to loosen your purse strings and entice you to possess one of them!

Bateshwar Fair and Kailash Fair
Bateshwar FairBoth Bateshwar and Kailash fair present a bouquet of the Cultural and Religious ceremonies that India is blessed with and both are celebrated in reverance of the Hindu Lord Shiva.

Bateshwar is a place situated on the banks of River Yamuna and is just 70 kms from Agra. The Bateshwar Fair,which takes place in the month of October-November, is a Shiva festival in which mass bathing in Yamuna river takes place which has religious significance for the Hindus. The place is named after the revered deity Bateshwar Mahadeo who has 108 temples all over India.

The Kailash Fair can be experienced in the month of february on the auspicious occasion of Shivratri. It is believed that Lord Shiva emerged here in the form of a stone shivling. The fairs present an enriching experience and an apportunity to learn more about the cultural endowments of India.

Ram Barat
One of the most attended fetes in India, Ram Barat is considered as the marriage of Hindu God Ram. It takes place very year at that time of Ram Navami in the month of October. It is marked by enormous processions of enthusiastic people,horses and elephants with posh decorations and floats depicting mythological events. The elaborate and magnificence of the whole event makes it the best place to eat, dance, shop and offer prayers, all at the same time.

OTHER ATTRACTIONS NEAR TAJ MAHAL
Agra Fort:
If you want to have a glimpse of Taj from the eyes of Shah Jahan, you must come to Agra Fort where the great mughal emperor died watching his colossal gem when he was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb.

This fort saw chapters of history of Mughal empire covering two generations. Though its construction was initiated by Mohammad Akbar in 1565, its figuration continued till the reigns of Shah Jahan (1627-58).

It stretches to almost 2 kms along the Yamuna river that gives it a more palatial view. A 69 ft tall wall surrounds the red-stoned fort which used to act as a barricade to protect a small city residing in the Fort area in that period. Only two gates were made which are now called Delhi gate and Amar Singh gate, which clearly reinforces the protective and inaccessible nature of the Fort. Inside the fort one can see many palaces and mosques mostly of red stone and marble that is a signature of Mughal architecture.

Akbar's Tomb
Akbar's Tomb ranks among the most magnanimous creations of the Mughals. It is Sikandra, a town 4kms away from Agra. Akbar, the 3rd Ruler of the Mughal Empire, commenced the construction of the structure which was completed by his son, Jahangir in 1614.

The monument is adorned with exquisite calligraphy and decorations with white and coloured marbles. The grand entrance towards the Char bagh and the pyramidal tomb truly transports one to the classic Mughal era.

Chini Ka Rauza
Chini Ka Rauza, is as astounding as its name. It is a rectangular tombed structure decorated with colorful tiles or chini as they are called. The coherence of this artifact with the Persian style of architecture can be easily seen and appreciated. The amazing design of the inverted lotus structured tomb and the floral designs are simply a treat for enthusiasts.

Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur SikriFatehpur City is a crowded city, today, but it houses few of the brilliant architectural gems of India like Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khaas, Buland Darwaza, Tomb of Saint Salim Chishti, Jamia Mazjid.

Its importance is known from the fact that it remained Akbar's capital for almost 12 years. The city represents an amazing confluence of Islamic and Hindu elements that mirror the secular idealism of Akbar.

Itmad-Ud-Daullah's Tomb
Another ostentatious monument of Mughal era is the tomb of Mirza Ghizas-ud-Din or Ghiyas Beg who was a trusted treasurer in Akbar's reign and Chief Minister in Akbar's son Jahangir's reign. The artifice deviates from other tombs of same era as it does not endure a proper dome atop the monument. It represents the marble work, the floral carvings, arched entrances and elaborate decorations of the Mughals.

HOW TO GET THERE
Delhi is the nearest metropolis to Agra and it being the capital city of India is connected with almost all important airports of the World.

Once you reach Delhi, Agra is just 204 kms away. The Delhi-Agra route is connected by road, Rail (even Shatabdi and Taj Express) as well as air modes, though people usually prefer to drive down to Agra.

BEST TIME TO VISIT
Anyday except during friday prayers. On other days it is open from 6 am to 7.30 p.m. For visitors.

Taj Mahal is a must watch on a full-moon night.

The months of October, November and February are considered the best time to visit as the whether is relatively cooler, making it pleasant to stroll around the open areas.

The months of April-Sept must be avoided due to extreme summers and rainy season.

ARCHITECTURAL BRILLIANCE OF TAJ MAHAL
The unmatchable and remarkable wonder of India was architecturally designed to embody the deftness of planners and workers of the Mughal era. The complete structure of Taj Mahal showcases flawless symmetry and ultimate detailing. The design of the monument was to give its maximum strength.

Taj Mahal Around 20,000 workmen worked for 20 years on a stretch to encase this gem in the Indian history for decades to come. The span of operations at that time can be imagined from the fact that over 1000 elephants were used to carry the raw materials like the white marble was brought from Rajasthan, jasper from Punjab, turquoise from Tibet, sapphires from Sri Lanka and crystal from China. A small town was created for the labourers called Mumtazabad which is now renamed as Taj Ganj.

The weight of the whole structure was planned and constructed to be uniformally divided and large vaults were used to support the load. The four minarets surrounding the central dome slightly tilt outwards to prevent them from falling on the central monument in the event of earthquakes.

This epitome of beauty stands on the the river bed of Yamuna so that water reflects the classic elegance of this monument of love. It spans over an area of about 300 square meters and stands on a marble plinth which is slightly lower from the northern end or towards the river side so that the higher side acts as a buttress thrusting it in the opposite direction.

Taj Mahal is a must-see piece of art which represents an amazing confluence of Islamic-Hindu-Persian and Tibetan style of Architecture and design. The prettiest of marble carvings known as 'pietra dura' , calligraphy, motifs of flowers and vines, inlay work of innate semi-precious and precious stones is simply breath-taking. Each part shows completeness but adds beauty in its entirity to the structure as a whole.

The Taj Mahal has so many astounding qualities that make it so different from other sites, one being its ever changing sight with the change in natural backdrops which is mostly compared to the variations in the mood of a woman. It is rose in early morning, glowing gold in the glaring sun of noon and turns coral during sunset. But indisputably it looks the best on a full moon night.

The gigantic main gateway , the char bagh or the four gardens with well-planned water channels,the mosque or mazjid, the minarets, the mausoleum and the tomb or the 'Rauza' all harmoniously impose an ornate beauty to the monument which cannot be appreciated in parts, it has to be lauded as a whole.

The three dimensional, illusionary, towering and light effects given by architects by using just white marbles, lime and bricks is difficult to be replicated even today and simply leave us amazed at this picturesque piece of art.

Though there has always been controversy over the name of the actual architect of the monument but the prime architects who were given the credit were Ustad Isa from Iran, Mir Abdul Haqim, Amanat Khan, Qazim Khan among others. The calligrapher was Amanat Ali Shirazi, Poet Ghiyasuddin wrote the verses that appear on the tombstone while Ismail Khan Afridi was the constructed the dome. Mohammad Hanif was the superintendent of masons.

HISTORY OF TAJ MAHAL
Taj Mahal is one of the best memoirs built by an emperor to show the immense love for his wife. Travellers cross distant sees to appreciate and take back with them the unrivaled love. The mute spectator feel the romance as the inspiration behind this flawless marvel.

Taj Mahal Khurram, who latter came to be known as Shah Jahan, won a battle in 1628 AD to become the king. He went on to marry the very charming Arjumand Bano Begum, or Mumtaz Mahal as she was called by Shah Jahan because she was as precious for him as the crown of the palace. She stayed with him in his good and bad times, be it palaces or war camps.

Mumtaz Mahal died when she was just 39 years old while giving birth to their 14th child in Burhanpur.

Shah Jahan was heart-broken and the Palace went into mourning for two whole years which prohibited music and feasting in the palace. He decided to build an unparalleled tomb in her memory which would be revered and maas the beauty of Mumtaz Mahal for the times to come. He chose the garden belonging to Raja Jai Singh of Amber, Rajasthan, that was located where the river bends strategically fit to be seen from Shah Jahan's palace in Agra Fort that was upstream.

The construction of the Monument begun in the year 1631 with 20,000 labours, adept architects, stone-carvers,calligraphers and masons using raw materials brought from all over Asia. Innumerous semi-precious and precious stones were brought from Yemen, Arabia, Persia and used to bejewel the final resting place of his beloved wife like a crown.It took around 20,000 labours,,1000 elephants and approx. 32 million rupees (approx. $68,000).

Shah Jahan died in 1966 A.D. watching his creation and reminiscing his wife from Agra Fort were he was imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb who later entombed Shah Jahan near Mumtaz Mahal's tomb.

STORY OF TAJ MAHAL
It can be hailed as the most elegant and cherished love story of Indian History. It is believed that the Mughal prince Khurram fell in love with a simple girl who flewone of the two prized fantail pigeons and on being asked how she could have done such a crime she flew the second one two and said:'like this'! This naive girl went on to become his most treasured and loved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She was the daughter of Asif Khan and grand-daughter of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, both of whom held positions in the Mughal court.

His passion and love for Mumtaz grew with years as she stood firmly next to him in good and bad times. She not just stayed in the cozy palace like other empresses but also accompanied her husband on military trails.

After Mumtaz Mahal's death while giving birth to their fourteenth child, Shah Jahan secluded himself from most of the princely affairs and pleasures. He already had keen interest in architecture, and planned to start the construction of the most remarkable wonder to be appreciated for centuaries to come.

Idea of Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal When Mumtaz was dying she asked for four promises from her husband. The first was to build her a tomb, the second was to marry again after her death, the third promise was to take gentle care of their children and the last was that he visit the tomb on her death anniversary.

Shah Jahan kept the first two promises though could not keep up the latter two. Taj Mahal was constructed with full devotion which even now gives up the glimpse of passion and love of the emperor for his wife.

This monument is a real model of a man's love for a woman who was an ordinary bead seller in the bazaar. Those were the times when Kings would marry royal princesses and polygamy was prevailent. Though Shah Jahan also had many wives, he always had his heart for his most loved wife Mumtaz.

Different facets of this monument of love
In a foggy morning the Taj looks like suspended in the air, in the evening it apears glowing in lights, and in a full moon night it looks like a natural jewel. The many facets of this wonder makes it the the crowning glory absorbing the philosophy and way of life of the Mughals.

Try sparing a few moments alone in the monument just as it opens or just before being closed, you can feel the Mughal royal feel echoing in the calm environs and revive the story of love and passion.

Building Taj Mahal

Many wooden replicas of designs were prepared before the final model was approved by the emperor. The construction began in the year 1631 and the main mausoleum was completed in the year 1643. Work in the external part of the structure continued till 1653, so on the whole the structure took around twenty-two years to complete.

Workmen from both India and abroad, especially from Persia showed their craftsmanship on the mausoleum. Precious stones brought from different parts of the World were carved on the white glowing marbles from Fatehpur Sikri. Red stone and lime was also used in the construction.

The emperor was determined not to consider any financial constraints while erecting the dome and thus expenses were not limited. The total cost turned out to be roughly 411 ;lakhs, 48 thousand, 826 rupees, seven annas and six pies.

Shah Jahan's Tomb
Shah Jahan had thought of a tomb for himself exactly opposite to Taj Mahal which will be similar to it and connected by a bridge . But before anything could happen, he was removed from power by his own son Aurangzeb, who imprisoned him and tombed him next to Mumtaz Mahal's tomb in Taj Mahal itself which broke the otherwise perfected symmetricity of the entire structure.




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