Category: Agra


Agra – The Taj Mahal

State: Uttar Pradesh
Population: 4,380,793

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

Perhaps the most beloved site in all of India is the Taj Mahal. Built in only eight years by Shah Jahan during the 17th century from 1632, it was a mausoleum for Shah Jahan’s third wife, Mumtaz, who had died while giving birth to their 14th child. Sadly, when it was finished, Shah Jahan was then overthrown by his own son, Aurangzeb, and was subsequently imprisoned in the Agra Fort, which overlooked the Yamuna river and the Taj Mahal. When Shah Jahan died, his body was buried beside Mumtaz deep within the Taj Mahal. When you enter into the main structure of the Taj Mahal, you can see the replicas of their resting place in the entrance way while their real tombs lie down below, cordoned off to the public.

The amazing art of pieta dura work

The amazing art of pieta dura work

This beautiful structure is one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World and is built of marble and inlayed with malachite, lapis, jade, carnelian and obsidian. The main tomb area is structured with one main dome in the center topped with a lotus motif; traditional Hindustani designs and four smaller domes open up into the tomb area to provide light. Each corner of the 30 meter high base the Taj Mahal sits on, has a minaret which stands about 40meters in height and are slightly tilted away from the main mausoleum so that if there is any potential destruction, such as an earthquake, the minarets will fall outwards away from center. Their traditional use was for the call to prayer but the minarets are now closed off for safety reasons.

There are quotes from the Qur’an written on the main entrance to the tomb, the main entrance area, the mosque and the guest house. The quotes, stretching from the bottom to the top of each structure, are designed uniquely by the widening the writing so that as you look up at, it appears as the same size all the way up. Flanking the Taj Mahal are two identical buildings made from red sandstone – to the left (or west) is the mosque and to the right (east) is the guest house. To the north lies the Yamuna River venerated as a holy river in Hinduism and referred to in the Rig Veda dated back to 1100 BC. The beauty of this structure is awe inspiring. It simply takes your breath away.

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Agra: Soundscapes

The Taj Mahal: From the Western side

Main Entrance to the Taj Mahal

Main Entrance to the Taj Mahal

We had rented a SUV to take us to Agra for the day from Delhi. We got on the expressway and found ourselves there within about three hours. A guide was there to meet us and give us a tour. We entered through the East gate and passed through security. I was stopped because of my recording device but our guide helped me negotiate getting through. We walked toward the main entrance gate and stopped under a tree to hear the history of the Taj Mahal and then proceeded into the main entrance way.

When we first entered it was dark and cool inside compared to the heat of the day. As we walked forward, the Taj slowly came into focus -a glowing white brilliance before us. I distinctly remember the first time I visited the Taj, I saw her beauty and immediately thought, “I can go home now. I’ve seen India.” Now almost a decade later, I know how naive that thought was because over four visits India’s many facets have slowly unfolded before me.

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

Once you’re out of the main entrance foyer there were a thousand people trying to get their picture taken with the Taj as a backdrop. We patiently waited and did the same before proceeding down the right side. Our guide pointed out how the fountains in the pools of water were the original fountains. I am not sure if that is true but I would like to believe that back then they made things to last.

I was quite ill this day so as we approached the Taj I elected to not go in. I had been there 3 other trips and knew how crowded it could be inside. The sun shone brightly and seemed to beam down on us with its penetrating heat so I chose to sit in the shade on a bench to the left of the mausoleum with a clear view and few people. Birds zipped along from tree to tree as children ran past me. Looking back over the garden area, people moved in crowds it seemed, stopping to take pictures every few feet. It was a new experience for me to be inactive at this amazing wonder of the world. I clicked on my recording device and closed my eyes to hear the expression of the Taj.
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The Taj Mahal: From inside the guest house (Eastern side)

View of the Taj from the guest house

View of the Taj from the guest house

I did not see my friends come out of the Taj Mahal after completing my soundscape recording, so I walked over to the eastern side to the guest house building. On my way there, there were hundreds of shoes piled high around signs asking people to place them on the racks—clearly there was no order to this chaos…and yet, I’ve never had my shoes stolen in India…not so far, anyway! I walked up the red steps and into the guest house. Immediately the temperature dropped about 10 degrees inside and I enjoyed watching and listening to tourists call out to hear the echo of their own voices. The structure of the building is such that there are repeated arches the length of the interior of the building and facing outwards, framed in multiple arches is the mausoleum in all its glory. I decided to record here in hope that I could capture the contrast of the red sandstone against the brilliance that bounces off the white marble stonework; the difference in quality sound and the potential absence of a guide talking. This point of view of the Taj Mahal and the calmness of the guest house is my favorite location within the whole complex.
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Map of Agra Soundscapes

Here is a map that shows the two locations soundscapes were conducted in the Taj Mahal Complex. I hope that you have enjoyed listening and sharing in my experience.
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