A Love Poem Written in Marble

Truly, a modern wonder of the world, the very recognizable Taj Mahal (in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India) is the legacy of man's love for his wife.


In 1627, Shah Jahan became the 5th in the dynasty of Moghul Emperors to rule India. Befitting a man of his status and wealth, he married three wives. But his favorite was his queen, Arjumand Banu. She was crowned with the title Mumtaz Mahal or "Chosen One of the Palace." Shah Jahan so loved Mumtaz Mahal, that he pledged that he would forever honor her with the greatest monument ever seen by the world.


But Shah Jahan never imagined that he would need to fulfill his promise so soon after their marriage. Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to her fourteenth (...yes fourteenth) child at the tender age of 39.


    Building the monument required the labor of more than 20,000 laborers and artisans for nearly 22 years. In addition to the towering white marble mausoleum with four magnificent minarets, the grounds also include a red sandstone gatehouse, two side gates, a mosque and guesthouse. The gatehouse is shown below. Notice the perfectly aligned doorway of the mausoleum through the open doors of the gateway. There is an exacting symmetry in all the buildings and the grounds.

    Taj Gateway - Agra

    Proceeding through the gateway, one enters the 300 square meter gardens, complete with fountains, reflecting pool, and marble benches.

    Moghul Taj

    The buildings are adorned with inlaid black marble calligraphy, inlaid semi-precious stones of malachite, lapis, red coral, carnelian, and turquoise, as well as intricately carved relief work. There are 500 kg of gold in the Taj Mahal.

    Taj - Black Script - Agra Taj Marble Relief - Agra Taj - Inlaid Stones - Agra

    The mosque, shown below, and the matching guesthouse (required to balance the stone foundation) are decorated with as much detail as the mausoleum.

    Taj Mahal Mosque - Agra

    Behind the Taj, the sacred Yamuna river flows. Shah Jahan planned to build a nearly identical black mausoleum for himself on the other side of the Yamuna, but these plans were never to be realized...

    Yamuna River from the Taj

    ... just before the Taj Mahal was completed, Shah Jahan's third son Aurangzeb defeated the crown prince Dara Shukoh's army and usurped Shah Jahan's throne (1658). The deposed emperor was imprisoned in Mumtaz Mahal's old living quarters at Agra Fort. The prominent tower in the photo below shows where the imprisoned Shah Jahan was forced to live the rest of his life.

    The Red Fort - Agra

    Shah Jahan's only consolation was that, during his imprisonment, he was able to view the grandest monument ever built to a queen. This is how the Taj looks from the avenue in front of the Agra Fort.

    Distant Taj from Red Fort - Arga

    Following his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried next to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal in the white mausoleum of the Taj Mahal.

    Since this place of burial was never planned during the construction of the tomb, in a kind of fitting symbolism, his sarcophagus is the only significant feature of the Taj Mahal to break with exacting symmetry of the monument. When viewed from the front, Mumtaz Mahal's tomb is exactly centered behind the arched entry, but Shah Jahan rests just left-of-center.

    That's a rare photo of me below, taken by my tour guide. The marble bench I'm sitting on is nicknamed the "Princess Diana Bench" because of a famous photo that was taken of her at the Taj.

    Taj Laz
  • diane m. dobson 7y

    wow. thank you for taking me on this grand adventure! ... beautiful photos. I hope you are having great fun! ...waving back atcha' on that bench.
  • Vasi Vasut 7y

    very nice post and story!
  • cowgirlrightup 7y

    Interesting series...my favorite easily is the last photo. Looking fit and happy Laz. Good to see you : )

    Have a great weekend.
  • Steve Vetter 7y

    Great set Laz !
    Good to see you
  • Roger Johnson 7y

    Awesome series !!
  • Anna Theodora 7y

    I always get so emotive when I see the taj mahal...
    and did you know, the christ was chosen one of the modern wonders, but there are actually lots of people who hate it, because it's no artistic value and they want to explode the statue :P
  • Janice LeBlanc 7y

    Beautifully photographed. It's great to see these photo as I don't think I will ever get there.

    Have a great weekend!
  • Arne Kuilman 7y

    Still the most beautiful building I've ever seen.
  • B Smith 7y

    how lucky that you got to visit it!
  • Gabriele Parafioriti 6y

    Seen this picture in:

    Dance Around the World - only geotagged picture!

    Post 1 & Award 3
  • J. Stephen Conn 6y

    Beautiful photo and story!
  • mehmehyimei 3y

    Hello. Thank you for the wonder story and photographs. Would like to request for permission to use this splendid shot of yours (the first one) in a Singaporean travel agency website. I will link the photo to your photo stream and include credits wherever it's due. Hope to hear from you soon!
  • mehmehyimei 3y

    Hello. This is the link to where I used your image, with all credits given. Thank
    you for the wonderful image once again! :)

  • Rudy Ricaurte 1y

33 faves
Taken on June 10, 2008
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