The Taj Mahal and its Environs

I recently came across a piece about how the Taj Mahal was constructed on the remains of an old temple. This could very well be true because after all, this area was heavily dotted with temples before the Islamic invasions. Even today, the ruins of the Kailash temple still survive at Sikandara.

Here’s a little tour guide of the environs.

Taj Mahal: This glorious monument is one of the “Nine Wonders of the World” and people from the four corners of the world come to Agra to see it. It is a masterpiece of Indian architecture, built by Shah Jahan the Moghul Emperor in 1648, as a mausoleum of his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal, The Taj Mahal has been drawn, photographed and described more often than any other monument No description of it is exhaustive and perfect and it must be seen to be believed. It stands to the east of the city, near the Jumna river, and presents a breath-taking sight.

The Taj is built of purest Makrana marble and with its light minars, its huge gateways and mosque, forms an ideal group. Beneath the large dome, are the richly inlaid tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, enclosed within a most delicately carved marble fretwork. It stands on a raised platform and has tall graceful minarets at each corner with a fine garden around it. The marble work is so beautifully finished that it appears as if the building was completed only yesterday. To see the Taj in the moonlight from the Yamuna is a sight which is never forgotten. The immortal Taj stands unrivalled for its architecture and beauty.

(2) The Mosque and Jamat Khana stand to the east and west of the Taj. (3) The Red Fort, this remarkable stronghold, is well perserved and was built by Akbar. It has lofty walls and four imposing gateways. It contains many fine buildings and is worth a visit. Among the notable buildings here are Moti Masjid, Diwan-i-Khas, Palaces of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan, Shish Mahal, Jasmine Tower, Khas Mahal, Angur Bagh, Fish Palace and Nagina Masjid. Embedded m one of the balconies in the fort is the famous green stone which gives a perfect reflection of the Taj Mahal. (4) Tomb of Itmad- ud-Doula, the Prime Minister of Jehangir, situated on the left bank of the Jumna, It is a fine specimen of marble and inlaid work and is enclosed m a beautiful spacious garden. (5) Chinika Rauza, or The Tiled Tomb, with a small garden. (6) Tomb of Akbar is five miles away at Sikandra, It is a five-storeyed building constructed of red sandstone and white marble with a garden of rare beauty. The other places of interest in Agra are:

(1) Ram Bagh. (2) Hewett Park. (3) MacDonnell Park (4) Government Gardens. (5) Kailash Temple at Sikandra (6) Soami Bagh and Dayal Bagh: About four miles irom Agra city are two colonics of the Radha Soami faith known as Soami Bagh and Dayal Bagh. The latter is a neat little colony of about 2,000 residents having intermediate colleges for boys and girls, a technical college, a tannery and leather works, a modern dairy and a hospital of their own.

The Soami Bagh sect, true to the traditions of the parent body, confines itself solely to things spiritual. They are constructing a magnificent mausoleum (Samadh) to repose the holy remains of the august founder of the Radha Soami faith. The building when completed promises to vie with the Taj. The structure has an oriental setting but the architectural style is cosmopolitan—a happy blend of the oriental and the occidental. The marble monolith pillars with exquisitely chiselled bases and caps carved in deep relief are simply superb. The marble used is of different colours, white, pink, green, yellow and mosaic procured from Makarana in Jaipur, Baroda State, and Nowshera in the Frontier Provinces. The estimated cost of the building is over 50 lakhs and even partly constructed as it is, it is a regular place of pilgrimage for the American and foreign tourist and is much sought after by the sightseers.

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