Prince Khurram ascended the throne of the Mughal Empire, in 1627, at the age of 35. In 1607, he was engaged to Arjunamand Bano Begum, and married her in 1612. She died in 1631, giving birth to their 14th child. She was temporarily buried in two locations, before she was finally shifted to her final burial spot at the Taj Mahal.
Prince Khurram is known to the world as Shah Jahan, or King of the World. The lady is known as Mumtaz Mahal, or Jewel of the Palace.
The Taj was constructed between 1631 and 1635. It is said that 22,000 worked on it, and the sum spent on it was 22 crores.
It is built, using the Mughal octagonal design, representing the 8 divisions of the Koran. Shah Jahan was an able ruler, and a builder of great buildings, gardens and palaces. His legacy has been left behind largely in Agra, Delhi and Lahore.
Yet, for all his great accomplishments, somehow, he could not resolve life between his four sons. Ultimately, his younger son, Aurangzeb prevailed. He had his elder brothers killed, and ascended the throne. In 1657, he declared his father incompetent to rule, and had him imprisoned in the Red Fort at Agra.
In 1666, Shah Jahan fell ill, and died. His son refused to see his father, and to have him properly taken care of. The body of Shah Jahan was quietly buried in the Taj, next to his beloved wife. The stories we have heard, is that as he died, he looked across the river Yamuna, from his room in the Red Fort, to the Taj, where his wife was buried. He was to join her soon.
The Taj itself, is sublime. I have been there some 50 times, and whenever I go there, my breath stops for a few minutes. Getting into the Taj is anything but sublime, especially in the peak tourist season. On the occasion that I took the above pictures, there was a line of people about 1 kilometer long, or so it seems. The place was crawling with touts, and we were soon directed to a short cut, at a fee. The line there was half a kilometer long. Bags, as we discovered, are not allowed inside. Neither are you allowed to take drinks or food. To this, I agree. However, your bags are just dumped carelessly in heaps, and I was carrying my camera bag, with all the assorted lenses. I managed to stuff my lenses into the various pockets of my jacket, and in I went.
The Taj was teeming with people, and to take the shots above, I had to stand on my toes, on a platform. The light was waning, so the white marble acquired a yellowish hue, to reflect the sun that was about to rest for the night.
Going up the narrow steps to the main platform of the Taj is nightmarish, as there are people going up and down, and there was a high possibility of falling over backwards, and getting crushed.
Despite the incompetence of the authorities (though, I must say, we Indians are not the most disciplined of tourists, and this makes their job hard), nothing can take away from the absolute feeling of peace and awe when you see the Taj.
There is something truly timeless about this. Whether it is the design, the love between the King and Queen, and his own sad end; or whether it is a combination of the above, there is something that is timelessly peaceful and spiritual about the Taj. It transcends everything – religion, caste, creed, ethnicity.
I have been there about 50 times, yet every time I see it, it is as if I see it for the first time. There is always something more to discover about the Taj.
One regret that I have, is that due to Hindu-Muslim tensions, and assorted reasons of security, you are not allowed to visit the Taj at night.
I have been told that the Taj in the moonlight is ethereal.
Maybe, someday, when the War of The Worlds end, it will be possible to visit the Taj and see it under the light of the full moon.