Tomb of a beloved wife

How big is the Taj Mahal? Would you believe that it took 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants to complete it? Or that the construction took workers twenty years to finish? (I wonder how much was left of Mumtaz Mahal by the time her tomb was finished.) Well, believe it or not, that is all true. Although, once you hear how intricate  the mausoleum was, you will probably understand.

Built for Shah Jahan’s beloved wife, Arjumand Banu, the Taj is a beautiful building meant to represent paradise. The name might have come from Arjumand Banu’s name, Mumtaz Mahal, or it might have come from the meaning in Hindi, Crown Palace. It is made entirely out of white marble because, in India, white not only stands for purity, it also stands for mourning. However, the workers also put designs in the marble to give the white marble a little beauty.

From far away, it looks like the designs were painted on, but once you get close, you can see that the designs were actually set in the marble. The flowers, Arabic letters, and other designs were actually made of other stones, such as lapis lazuli, agate, jasper, and turquoise, to name a few. There are four water channels leading from the gate entrance to the Taj Mahal with a fountain sitting half way between. The water channels were supposed to represent the Islamic paradise. Also on the grounds of the Taj Mahal are two other buildings, a guesthouse and a masjid (mosque in Hindi). A cool fact about this beautiful building is that it is symmetric. All the sides are exactly the same.

To enter the area where the Taj Mahal is in, there are three different gates you can go through. All of these entrances lead into one courtyard where there is another larger gate that leads into the area with the Taj Mahal. The railing right after this gate is one of the most popular places to take pictures of the Taj Mahal. In order to get to the front of the crowd, you have to push your way through or people will take advantage of the empty space and push ahead. I was only able to take a few photos before I was shoved out of the way.

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This is the gate where you first see the Taj Mahal.

Being one of the most famous historical buildings in the world, the Taj Mahal was incredibly busy. My dad, my dad’s friend, and I went to the Taj Mahal at about six in the morning to get some good photos of the Taj and it wasn’t really busy, but it certainly wasn’t empty.

Later when we went back in the afternoon with the rest of our families, it was much busier than before. Inside, where the tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife are (not the real tombs, the real tombs are in a underground burial chamber beneath the Taj Mahal), we had to push and shove just to stay together.

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This is the line onto the platform where the entrance to the tombs is. When my dad, his friend and i went in the morning, there wasn’t even a line.

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This is the line stretching around the building to enter the Taj Mahal.

When we went inside where the tombs were, the noise everybody was making echoed and made the large room seem almost sacred, or holy. It might have been the tombs too that made it feel that way. One of the tombs was larger than the other. The larger one was the king’s tomb, and the smaller tomb was the queen’s tomb. At first we thought the larger tomb was for the queen since the Taj was built for her, but then again, the king was the most important person in the kingdom.

Destined to become one of the king’s favorite companions, Arjumand Banu (She was renamed Mumtaz Mahal later after her marriage) was only a teenager, when she was married to Shah Jahan in 1612. (Shah Jahan himself was only fifteen!) Imagine, you are only about thirteen or fourteen years old and your father tells you that you are to be married to the most powerful person in the kingdom. The person who could order you killed if he is not pleased with you, or could make you the most envied person in the kingdom. You are probably a daughter of one of the noblemen, but still, being married to the king is kind of intimidating.

The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and for good reason. The construction took massive numbers of workers, and many years to finish, and is one of very few wonders still standing today.

A lot of the information in this post comes from interactions with a tour guide we hired. However, here are additional sources I used as well. 

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Shah Jahan’s Prison

Agra has a lot of history. For example, it was once the capital of the vast Mughal empire. It is a very old and fascinating place. But most importantly, Agra Fort had a huge part in that history.

While Shah Jahan did build many beautiful buildings, he didn’t actually build Agra Fort. His grandfather, Emperor Akbar the Great was the emperor who originally started building it. However, several emperors after Akbar did add onto the fort, including Emperor Shah Jahan.

Emperor Shah Jahan did have another part in the Agra Fort’s history besides just building part of it. Thirty years after Shah Jahan inherited the throne, his third son ended Shah Jahan’s reign. In 1658, Shah Jahan’s third son, Aurangzeb, captured his father and locked him up in the Agra Fort in the beautiful Jasmine Tower. But why was he imprisoned in the Agra Fort?

During his father’s reign, Aurangzeb had been growing angry over the huge amount of money being spent on buildings such as the Taj Mahal. Buildings that were quite beautiful, but also quite expensive. One such example is the Taj Mahal, or the mausoleum that Shah Jahan had planned for himself. This mausoleum was to be across the river from the Taj Mahal, and very similar to the Taj’s design. However, it was to be black. But Aurangzeb captured Shah Jahan before this mausoleum could be built.

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This is Jasmine Tower from the outside. We did not get to see the inside, but it is rumored to be very beautiful.

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This is the view Shah Jahan saw from his tower. Maybe seeing his wife’s tomb was some comfort to him during his eight long years of imprisonment.

The Agra Fort is massive, perhaps even bigger than the Red Fort in Delhi. However, only a part of it is open to the public. The section of the fort that is blocked off is currently being used as a military fort. A funny fact about this fort is that though it’s many rooms are no longer occupied by people, they are full with families of monkeys.
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We saw this monkey hanging out on the fence as we left. Not very pretty, are they?

The section open to the public consists mainly of three courts. The first court was for Shah Jahan and his harem, the second court is where he met his court, and the third court was where the royals, upper class, and lower class could shop for goods that merchants had to sell.

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This is the garden for Shah Jahan and his harem. This picture also gives you a view of the balconies.

The first court is a garden for him and his harem that consists of flower beds separated into puzzle piece like shapes, and a fountain. The entire gardens are surrounded two levels of rooms, and the rooms on the top level have balconies that look out over the garden.

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This is the pavilion where Shah Jahan sat when he made his royal decisions.

The second court is, as I mentioned, where Shah Jahan met his court and made his royal decisions. His chair was set upon a large white pavilion that was in the center of more gardens. However, these gardens are much smaller than the gardens for him and his harem.
In front of the pavilion, there are two things that are slightly out of place. One is a cannon (which, along with the tomb was probably put there when the British occupied India), and the other is a tomb. The tomb is the grave of a British man named John Russel Colvin who was lieutenant-governor during the change of power in India from the hands of the East India Company to the hands of the crown.
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This is the tomb of John Russel Colvin.

The third court, which is reached by stairs at the back of the white pavilion in the second court, was where the upper class and lower class could shop. Merchants were allowed to set up stalls so that the people could look at or buy the goods they had to sell. However, as the upper class would not mix or interact with commoners, they shopped upstairs on the second floor and yelled down to the merchants what they wanted. Behind this court is the Jasmine Tower where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by Aurangzeb.

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This is the court where the upper and lower classes shopped.

I thought it was cool to be walking the same halls that Shah Jahan, his huge family (meaning that he had a lot of wives and children, not that they were really fat), and their descendants had walked hundreds of years ago. A lot of times, just knowing stuff about people that isn’t always true can give you a bad impression of what they might have been like. But I think that sometimes just knowing how they lived or what their life was like makes you kind of respect or understand them more than you might have before.

I got my information from: