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My World Tour:  Taj Mahal - Agra, India

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bj_taj_low.jpg (65196 bytes)Described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, this poignant Mughal mausoleum has become the de facto tourist emblem of India.  Many have tried to sum up its beauty, but even the poets of the time were unable to do this magnificent building justice.  the spectacular white marble mausoleum seems as immaculate today as when it was first constructed.  The Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his send wife, 181-8169_IMG.JPG (35322 bytes)Mumtas Hahal, who did in childbirth in 1631.  The death of Mumtaz left the emperor so heartbroken that his hair is said to have turned grew overnight.  Construction of the Taj began in the same year and was not completed until 1653 (that's 22 years if you're counting). 

In total, 20,000 people from India and Central Asia worked on the building (some later had their hands or thumbs amputated to ensure that the perfection of the Taj could never be repeated).  The main architect is believed to have been 181-8161_IMG.JPG (30273 bytes)Isa Khan, who was from Shiraz in Iran, but other  specialist were brought in from as far as Europe to produce the exquisite marble screens and inlay work (made of thousands of semiprecious stones).  The construction bill is believed to have run to 3 million rupees, equivalent to about USD $ 60 million today.

Below the main dome is the Cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal, an elaborate false tomb surrounded by an exquisite perforated screen inlaid with some 43 different types of semiprecious stones.  181-8179_IMG.JPG (40043 bytes)The physical tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are in a locked basement room below the main chamber.

The red sandstone mosque to the west of the main structure is an important gathering place for Agra Muslims.  The identical building to the east is purely for symmetry (it can't be used as a mosque because it faces the wrong direction, not towards Mecca).  The central Taj structure is constructed of a semitranslucent white marble, carved with flowers and inlaid with thousands of semiprecious stones in a beautiful pattern. 

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Bruce and Julia, World Travelers and Adventure Seekers Extraordinaire.
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Revised: 05 Feb 2007 20:21:26 -0600 .