India’s most famous icon, known, loved and recognised the world over; the Taj Mahal is, in every way, exquisite. Built by the most famous Mughal emperor Shah Jahan after his wife died during childbirth, the construction of this seventeenth century complex, which began in 1631, took over twenty years to complete, even with artisans working day and night. Best seen at dawn before the crowds descend, the white marble of the domed mausoleum takes on a magical rosy hue in the early morning light and it is understandable why so many visitors to India wish to include it in their travel plans. The pure symmetry and beauty of the edifice can be overwhelming.
It is said that between two and three million people visit the Taj Mahal each year to experience its magnificence.
What is there to see?
Agra is the sprawling gateway to The Taj Mahal and was the capital of the Mughal Empire between 1526 and 1658. Located 200 kilometres southeast of Delhi, it offers good connections to other parts of India and is on the main railway line between Delhi and Mumbai. Agra itself, whilst far from competing with the main attraction, does have a number of interesting buildings from its former glory, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site and intricate red fortress of Fatehpur Sikri, around one hour from the centre, Itmad-ud-Daulah's tomb and Akbar's multi-layered tomb at Sikandra.
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is perhaps the finest example of Mughal architecture anywhere in the world. Marvel from afar at the sheer beauty of the main tomb, surrounded by its four minarets, identical from each of the four sides, as well as the passages from the Qur’an which are inscribed onto the outer walls. Inside the main tomb, discover the intricately decorated inner walls and ceiling, where precious and semi-precious gemstones have been painstaking inlaid into the marble. Your first glimpse of the Taj Mahal will literally take your breath away, but there is much more to explore within the complex beyond the main photographed image we all recognise. The complex houses other buildings of interest, reflecting pools and brilliantly symmetric decorative gardens that all warrant deep exploration.
The beautiful abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri is a short drive from the city of Agra and has some more examples of stunning Mughal architecture, as well as an enthralling history.