New Delhi Railway Station.Too many people. Bhopal Shatabdi always leaves on time from the first platform.
India is full of contrasts. You pay 400 Rs from Delhi to Agra for one of the finest trains in India with comfortable air-conditioned seats, healthy breakfast and chai and at the same time through the window you can see people who sit almost naked near the railway having their first meal (and maybe the last on that day) – bowl of rice. Houses without roofs, people without houses, cows without owners… And then you come to Agra where thousand rikshawalas and touts are waiting for you with a thousand and one proposal.
Agra, an overcrowded, dusty, dirty and chaotic place. If you stay here for longer than two days expect your lungs to become pure black. And then in the midst of the chaos stands a jewel – the Taj Mahal. Brings you back to the past, to a entirely different world for and for a moment you can completely forget that you are actually in Agra.
The story of Taj Mahal is one of the stories which always start with the numbers: 20 years, 20000 employees, 200000 drops of sweat and all that for the love of one woman.
Somewhere in the mid-17th century, young prince Khurram fell in love with a beautiful girl Arjumand Bano Begum. Love for her grew day by day and Khurram decided to marry Arjumand and make her his third wife. Since that day, his youngest wife who was only 14 years old, was known by the name Mumtaz Mahal, “The Jewel of the Palace”. The chronicles of the young king describe her as a faithful wife and good mother. She died giving birth to the 14th child. She was only 38. If we do a little math here, it brings us to a conlcusion that Mumtaz spent 10 years of her life in pregnancy and on average she was pregnant every year and a half. Shah Jahan spent the rest of his life in battles. He died when he was 74 years old by the trick of the destiny –Aurangzeb, the 6th child of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz declared his father unfit to rule and locked him inside the palace. Whether Shah Jahan was mentally unfit to rule or was this all the Aurangzeb’s revenge for the early loss of his mother – will remain secret. Eight years of captivity in the fort resulted with Shah Jahans health deterioration, occasional madness and eventually death.His body was transported by boat in a sandalwood coffin to the Taj Mahal and was laid along the Mumtaz.
Taj Mahal – the jewel of Islamic art on the banks of the river Yamuna is a masterpiece and the best achievement of Mughal architecture. Taj was actually the idea of Shah Jahans wife Mumtaz. She asked him to build a mausoleum of unseen beauty and splendor.
Costs of construction of this magnificent building was about 10 12 $. For those not good at math – we’re talking about trillions of dollars! White marble from Rajasthan, jasper from Punjab, crystals from China, turquoise from Tibet, sapphires from Sri Lanka and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan. Golden dome top and precious stones from the mausoleum walls were stolen by the British. Gardens and parks along the river, mosques, tombs and accommodation for visitors and the Grand Bazaar.All this accompanied by the Shah Jahans obsession for the symmetry and water reflections.
Taj Mahal is one of the best examples of symmetry. Garden water channels (char bhag) are divided into 4 parts and each of them consists of 4×4 flower beds. Taj has 4 minarets, each 40 meters high. The basic form of design Taj was square (regular quadrilateral). According to some researches, the human brain likes symmetry. Probably this is one of the reasons why we take a deep sigh every time we see this incredible building. Number four is a sacred number in Islam: four sacred months, four holy books, four archangels and four caliphs. India also loves number 4: four goals of human life, four stages of life, four castes, four noble truths, 2×4 noble eightfold path…
The whole complex is build from white marble and red sandstone. Indian Puranas recommend construction of brahmanas buildings in white marble and kshatriyas building in red stone.White marble and red sandstone of the Taj Mahal are the expression of Mughal power and government and their identification with the highest cast of the Indian society.
White marble is decorated with Islamic motifs of flowers and inscriptions of Kuran verses. Popular themes are sun, dawn, morning, purity of faith, power and victory.
Legend says that Shah Jahan cut off the hands of all the workers after the completion of the Taj, so that no one would ever be able to build such a marvelous monument again.