Sunrise at the Taj

“The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Taj Mahal photo

It is sunrise at the Taj Mahal.

I stand in wonder and awe.

The scene before me literally takes my breath away even though I know what to expect. I know its history

As visitors from all over the world begin gathering in front of the reflecting pools, taking it all in, there seems to be a collective silence. It is this silence that leaves a tingly feeling running through my veins and reminds me I am actually here. I want to linger.

Taj Mahal photo

Now we are home, sifting through our memories and pictures of our incredible trip to India, and I am relieved that travel experiences haven’t jaded me to where everything is just a check list.

While our pictures of the Taj, one of the best known buildings in the world, document the splendor and glory of another era, the image stirs up feelings and emotions and our capacity to feel. This is what makes travelers human, keeps us appreciative and humble.

Taj Mahal photo

This exquisite marble structure, an iconic example of Mughal architecture, is not a palace, but a mausoleum, an enduring monument to the love of a husband, Shah Jahan, for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal or “Jewel of the Palace.” The poets at Agra’s Mughal court said her beauty was such that the moon hid its face in shame before her.

Mumtaz Mahal’s death, in 1631, following the birth of her 14th child, inspired the legend that she bound Shah Jahan with a deathbed promise to build her the most beautiful tomb ever known. Promise or no, Shah Jahan poured his passion and wealth into the creation of just such a monument. It is said that 20,000 stone carvers, masons, and artists from across India and as far as Turkey and Iraq were employed under a team of architects to build the Taj Mahal in the lush gardens on the banks of Agra’s Jamuna River. They completed the epic task between 1631 and 1648, whereas, the outlying buildings and gardens were finished five years later in 1653 AD.

The English meaning of Taj Mahal is “Crown of the Palace”.

The Taj Mahal’s familiar marble domes feature four minarets, a traditional element of mosques, used by the muezzin to call the Islamic faithful to prayer. Each is designed with a slight outward lean; presumably to protect the main mausoleum in case one of them should collapse.

Taj Mahal photo

The calligraphy of the Taj Mahal mainly consists of the verses and passages from the holy book of Quran. Instead of painted on, it was painstakingly created by inlaying jasper in the white marble panels.

Taj Mahal photo

Most Taj Mahal postcards just focus on the white marble domed mausoleum and fail to include the other magnificent structures sharing the plinth.

Two red sandstone buildings flank the main mausoleum. One, to the west, is a mosque which is open only for Friday prayers while the Taj is closed that day to tourists. This mosque is made of red sand stone and has a similar design to the Jama Masjid in Delhi. Another red sandstone building – a replica of the mosque – was constructed on the east side just to balance the overall symmetry of the architecture. This building houses a guest house and is called the Jawab, meaning ‘response’ since its purpose is to harmonise the scenery.

Taj Mahal photo Taj Mahal photo

The Mughals were at the peak of their power and wealth during Shah Jahan’s reign, and India’s rich lode of precious gems yielded him much wealth and power. He spared no expense in using these gems in the design and building of the mausoleum.

The interior of the Taj is beautiful but unfortunately no photography is allowed. The octagonal marble screen or jali which borders the cenotaphs is made from eight marble panels which have been carved through with intricate pierce work. The remaining surfaces have been inlaid in extremely delicate detail with semi-precious stones forming twining vines, fruits and flowers.

Taj Mahal photo Taj Mahal photo

Muslim tradition forbids elaborate decoration of graves. Hence, the bodies of Mumtaz and later, Shah Jahan were put in a relatively plain crypt beneath the inner chamber with their faces turned right and towards Mecca.

Standing on the plinth and looking back toward the public entrance is the Great Gate to the Taj Mahal. Also made of red sandstone, it has a grandeur and beauty of its own.

Taj Mahal photo

Later in the day, we photographed the magnificent Taj from across the Jamuna River.

Taj Mahal photo

And it is from this window in Agra’s Red Fort that Shah Jahan sadly gazed upon that splendid monument for his beloved wife. Ironically, he spent the rest of his days imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb, who seized his father’s throne.

Taj Mahal photo

The complex fell into a state of disrepair by the 19th century, but was eventually restored, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Proof that we were there. Our 50th wedding anniversary. The best kind of memories.

Taj Mahal photo

“Did you ever build a castle in the Air? Here is one, brought down to earth and fixed for the wonder of ages”. ~ American novelist, Bayard Taylor


About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
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51 Responses to Sunrise at the Taj

  1. restlessjo says:

    Fantastic, Lynne! Many congratulations on your 50 years together. That’s quite something, and what a place to spend it. Romance is alive and well 🙂
    The lighting in the skies is lovely and you have created some memorable photos. Long may you continue!

    • Thanks, Jo for the well wishes. It was such a lovely place to visit, especially early in the morning. I don’t know what I would rather do than travel. If I can’t get there then I can read about them….like your wonderful trip to Poland. 🙂

  2. lynnsarda says:

    What a fine piece of writing/photography. I so appreciate your sharing your impressions, sights, and feelings.

  3. Is it because we’re romantics that the beauty of the Taj can take our breath away, when we emerge through that gate – even though what we see is as familiar to us as our own homes? That its mystique is magnified the longer we linger to absorb its symmetry, the profligacy and craftsmanship of its exquisite decoration … the tragic end of Shah Jehan himself? Love it – what a place to celebrate such a milestone! 🙂

    • Well said, Meredith. Only a romantic like us would want to linger, marveling at this wonder of the world and celebrate a Mayhew milestone at the same time. 🙂 It was good to see so many others there appreciating the moment.

  4. Tahira says:

    Takes one breath away, indeed. Lynne, I don’t have the proper adjectives to describe these amazing shots. I can only begin to imagine what it was like in person. Thank you for sharing.

    And you & Ron look smashing and so happy! Put a smile on my face 😉

    • Well, you’ve been to some pretty “take your breath away” kinds of places, so you know what I mean. Thanks ever for your comment and I particularly like the “smashing” part. My nicely ironed tunic looks like a wet towel. It was getting quite warm even at that hour. 🙂

  5. These are by far the most beautiful shots I’ve ever seen of the Taj Mahal. It would truly be something to experience the quiet of sunrise in a place like this… and good to know its still possible to be awed by ‘tourist’ sites! 🙂

  6. Lynne, you take us on wonderful adventures! You pictures go way beyond the standard post-card shots, and the Taj Mahal is amazing.
    What perfect travel for a 50th Anniversary!

  7. Such stunning images of this magnificent structure, Lynne! Your first pic is just perfect, and the height of that archway in the third photo, really dwarfs the people below. I think I would be rendered speechless if I should ever be fortunate to see it in person. What a sad and tragic ending for the Shah.
    Congrats to you both on your 50th anniversary. You both look well on it. 🙂

    • The enormity of this building is hard to capture. Ron was using wide angle and I was using regular. It does take having people in the picture to get a sense of proportion. Sunrise was a good time to be there and we were the 4th in line. Worth the early morning wake up call. By the time this photo was taken, I was a limp rag. 🙂 A lot of ruler’s reigns did not end blissfully, but at least his view from his prison was of the Taj.

  8. this is such a beautiful post,
    and if possible, you’ve managed to place us there in person – well in spirit at least!

    it’s stunning.. absolutely stunning to the point of tears.

    thanks, dear amiga!


    • One never is quite sure how a post will come out because this is such an iconic place, one we’re all familiar with on some level. Am glad you enjoyed the tour along with us, Lisa. It was a special place.

  9. It always irritates me when you are not allowed to take photographs and for no specific reason!

    • Hi Andrew,
      I believe our guide said for “preservation reasons” we couldn’t take interior photos;however, it didn’t stop all the mobile device users from taking pictures on the sly when security wasn’t watching. Thanks for commenting and raising the question.

  10. Really stunning photo Lynne – I have yet to visit. The place looks truly majestic.

  11. Congrats on ur 50th anniversary…and a beautiful spot to celebrate it… tajmahal is indeed beautiful and leaves one speechless.. although i dint like agra as a city … but tajmahal surely is worth a visit.

    • Thanks for your visit and comment. Agra and its poverty is a noticeable contrast to the Taj Mahal. With all the money that tourism generates from the Taj, I would think that the city and its inhabitants would benefit.

  12. Madhu says:

    You capture the beauty of the Taj well Lynne, Those clouds add an ethereal quality to your photos. How perfectly appropriate to celebrate 50 years together at this most romantic of icons of everlasting love!! Congratulations again! And wish you and Ron, many many more anniversaries in even more amazing destinations 🙂

    • You are so kind, Madhu. I hope for many more exciting destinations and excursions with Ron, but I have to admit, it took me three weeks to recover from India. Came back with bronchitis, but there is more of India I would love to see. Calcutta and Chennai. 🙂

  13. Lynne, I love that you have portrayed the Taj from a very personal and emotional angle. I can’t think of a better place to celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary! It’s all in the details and you captured them magnificently. Thanks for sharing this post with us. It was captured tenderly and brought tears to my eyes.

    • I had a lot of highlights in India and this is just one of them. I truly feel blessed to be a able to travel and then be able to write about those experiences and then share them through blogging. I didn’t mean to emotionalize the experience, but sunrise was special and so is 50 years. Thanks, Debbie for your sweet comment.

  14. Letizia says:

    What a lovely place to visit for your 50 years together. I loved reading about all of the details, the calligraphy, the architecture, the history of the building.

  15. Thank you Letizia.To see the details up close and learn its history from an Indian guide, who is thrilled when his audience is as interested as he, made for a worthwhile experience. The pollution is quite bad and getting there early helps with the views.

  16. ilargia64 says:

    Good morning here Lynne!!!
    Thanks a lot for those wonderful photographies!!! And for the info you added!!!
    That is a wonderful place for a 50th anniversary!!!!! My congratulations!!! From the bottom of my heart!!!!

  17. You are so kind,Ilargia. Thank you so much for your lovely comments.It was a special trip filled with wonderful memories. 🙂

  18. equinoxio21 says:

    Lovely trip you invited us to. On more than one level. Many, many happy returns of the day!

  19. Nina says:

    Beautiful picture of the Taj, I guess it’s better to go there at sunrise, as I went there at sunset, and there was no cloud anymore to make the picture more interesting. Congrats you capture the beauty of Taj Mahal.

  20. Gigi Galore says:

    What a beautiful post, poetically written with so much of the feeling you experienced! Thankyou! It was a joy to read! And Bonne Anniversaire! 🙂

  21. Thanks, GiGi. Just one of those special times.

  22. i*Kan says:

    Congratulations on your 50th anniversary. What a place to celebrate it at! I visited recently too and was mesmerized like you. I’ve seen it before and of course seen countless pictures. But the place still takes your breath away and no matter how much you look, it doesn’t seem enough to absorb the beauty of the place.

  23. Tina Schell says:

    Well first Lynne, congrats on your 50th! Amazing. Second, beautifully done post. That first capture is amazing. How on earth did you get it with no people?!? Great job!

  24. Thanks, Tina. Beating the crowds by being 4th in line gave us an advantage for photography. It was worth the early morning wake up call.

  25. What a perfect vacation spot to celebrate 50 years together! Congratulations:)

    I completely agree with your description of the silence that falls over people when they see the Taj for the first time. Two years back, I saw that same wonder on my little kids faces as they looked at the splendor…they were totally mesmerized!

    • It was a memorable trip for us, Peri.I’m sure your children get inspired to talk about their trip when they see pictures of where they’ve been. Thank you so much for your well wishes…and delicious Indian recipes. 🙂

  26. Kamila Pala says:

    Great post and congratulations! I love sunrise anywhere…very inspiring.

  27. vbholmes says:

    First things first: “Happy 50th, Lynne and Ron! A monumental milestone–with your trip to India being an appropriate memorial. Secondly, Happy Belated Birthdays to both of you (you didn’t mention any important numbers so am assuming they were overshadowed by your definitely-important 50th anniversary).
    Starting with your “Bags Packed” post, I’ve just experienced a delightful interlude exploring all the entries for your Indian odyssey. What a treat: the havelis, frescoes, gorgeous fabrics, dear children with their gigantic eyes, the size and opulence of the Taj (and unbelievable skies). I enjoyed Ron’s photos and your informative copy, Lynne, and of course, the great picture of you and Ron on the actual day of your anniversary. I wish you Much Happiness and Many More Exciting Adventures in the years to come!

  28. I’m impressed, VB. You have just covered the Mayhew Indian odyssey and reminded me, once again what a special trip this was. Lots more stories to write about the most diverse place I have ever visited. Thanks, too for your well wishes and compliments to my favorite photographer. We look forward to many more trips in the future.

  29. What an amazing experience!!

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