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The Taj Mahal

Built by Shah Jahan between 1632 and 1649

Afternoon      Sunset      Sunrise


Link to India's Mughal Emperors



Shah Jahan ("Ruler of the World") inherited a near bankrupt empire from his father Jahangir.  He turned this around, in the process becoming the best remembered of the Mughal builders, largely because of the Taj Mahal.


Shah Jahan initially chose to rule, like his predecessors, from the Red Fort at Agra, and it was just a few miles away from here that he built the Taj Mahal as a monument to his wife, known as Mumtaz Mahal ("Ornament of the Palace" or "Exalted of the Palace" depending on the translator), who died in 1631 after the birth of their 14th child. The construction of the Taj Mahal was begun in 1632 and it took 20,000 labourers 17 years to complete the job.   Several of the stonemasons involved had earlier been part of the construction team for the Blue Mosque in Instanbul, designed and built by the Ottoman Imperial Architect Mehmet Aga in 1609 -16.  The Taj Mahal , a much much more ambitious work, was built on two platforms - sandstone then marble - and  constructed in white marble with inlaid semi precious stones (see them glinting in the early morning sun!).  Believe it or not, the original idea was to have a similar structure in black marble as Shah Jahan's tomb on the other side of the river.


In 1638 Shah Jahan moved his capital to the Red Fort at Delhi, though it took a further 9 years for the palace complex there to be completed.  He ruled from here until he became very sick in 1658, precipitating a succession battle amongst his sons which was won by Aurangzeb his third son (who became first by killing his brothers). 


Poor old Shah Jahan recovered, but too late to keep his throne, and he spent the last eight years of his life locked up in the Red Fort at Agra, only being able to glimpse the Taj Mahal in the distance through the river mists.  His tomb is there, however, unsymmetrically placed next to that of the his wife - the great love of his life - because his own black marble Taj was never built! 


For our visit to Agra and the Taj Mahal we set off early from Delhi's bustling railway station, where swirling fog gave the same atmospheric effect as the steam of earlier years.  In Agra we visited the market and Red Fort, then indulged in some rug and artefact buying, before setting off on the short ride to the Taj to catch the late afternoon and sunset light.  The most important thing however is to get back before dawn to see the sunrise, a truly truly unforgettable experience.  







Taj Mahal




Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal






If Shah Jahan's plans had been realized, there would have been a second (black marble) Taj on the other side of the river for him!


Mumtaz Mahal's tomb is on the right (in the centre of the downstairs area), whilst Shah Jahan has an offset add-on position on the left. 



Back in 1919


29 year old Capt Rex Fletcher RAMC (the Dom's paternal grandfather) nipped across India from Bombay to see the Taj before nipping back and up to Rawalpindi to take up a posting in the British Military Hospital at Murree (Rawalpindi).  In those days everything was a bit cleaner and free of tourists, and you could climb the minarets.







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