So we saw the Taj Mahal in India. Yes it is amazing. I don’t have any good photos to show you, but here are three things I took away from the experience:
The four minarets on the side are the genius of the Taj Mahal. Without them the building would look much smaller. They create a sense of proportion and perspective. Interestingly, the minarets are angled three degrees away from the center of the building, in case of earthquake.
Everyone knows that the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum for a Mughal emperor’s dead wife. The story goes that she saw the building in a dream, described it to her husband, and he built it for her after her death.
What I didn’t know is that the Taj Mahal is situated next to a river, and the emperor’s original plan was to build his own tomb on the other side of the river, in black marble, with a bridge spanning the river, linking the two tombs together. That would have been spectacular.
But his building spree came to an end when he was deposed by his son, who put his father’s coffin inside the Taj Mahal, to the side of his wife’s, destroying the symmetry of the building.
The designers intended you to approach the Taj head on, walking slowly along the center line toward the entrance gate, seeing the building open up through the door in front of you. The effect of this is amazing. First you see the central building, perfectly inscribed within the doorway. Then two of the minarets appear in perfect symmetry, then all four, and then the entire building is in front of you. At points, the building seems to be magnified by the entrance door, and then to recede, and then to grow again in front of you. It is an incredible revelation.
For some awful reason the Indian government has placed the tourist entrance to the SIDE of the building, completely ruining the effect. Everyone catches a glimpse of the building partly obscured by the outer wall, gasps, and then rushes through the door from the side, completely missing the geometry of the central approach. Don’t miss it.
I was also surprised that the Taj Mahal is only 350 years old. I thought it was older. The year construction started, Galileo was beginning his house arrest in Italy.
As a friend said, the Taj Mahal is one of the few legendary world sights that lives up to its reputation.