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    Taj Mahal - A Monument to Everlasting Love

    The Taj Mahal, the 'crown of palaces', is considered by many to be one of the present day wonders of the world. The large complex, encompassing a number of buildings, immaculate gardens, and the renowned white marble mausoleum, is located in Agra, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The wondrous building and its surroundings have astounded visitors for centuries, and continue to draw millions of visitors today. The site is not only a symbol of human creativity and ingenuity, but also the product of an epic story of love and devotion.

    The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who from 1628 to 1658 was the ruler of India. The domed white marble tomb of the Taj Mahal was built for the emperor's third and favourite wife, empress Mumtaz Mahal. It is said that the two shared a deep love and strong companionship - she accompanied him on many of his travels and he considered her a trusted adviser. The empress gave birth to fourteen children, but sadly died during the final childbirth. The year following her death, construction on the Taj Mahal commenced.

    Soon after the completion of the construction, the emperor's son deposed him, and imprisoned him at Agra Fort, close to the Taj Mahal. However, following the emperor's death, his son buried him in the mausoleum next to his beloved empress. The Taj Mahal is not only the well-known domed white mausoleum, but a group of buildings and nearly 17 hectares of spellbinding gardens. Construction of the whole complex took place from about 1632 to 1653 with the hard work of about 20,000 Indian workers, as well as an artistic team of sculptors, calligraphers, and stone cutters of various nationalities. What resulted was a structure that is widely considered as one of the most refined examples of Mughal architecture, incorporating elements of Persian, Indian, and Islamic traditions.

    The mausoleum or tomb of white marble is the focal point of the complex of buildings, and it is no wonder that it draws one's attention: the building shows beautiful attention to symmetry in its layout and proportions, and the 35-metre tall dome is an incredible architectural achievement for its time. Inside, the false sarcophagi of the emperor and empress reside in the main chamber, while the lower level houses the real tomb. Intricate geometric patterns and calligraphy are found on both the inner and outer walls.

    The Taj Mahal was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.To visit this wonder of the world, you can board a flight from London-Heathrow or Birmingham Airport to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. You can then pick up a car hire from the airport. The drive from New Delhi to the Taj Mahal takes about 3 hours when you drive via the Taj Express Highway/Yamuna Express Highway. Please note that cars are not allowed within 500 metres of the Taj Mahal, so it is advised that you leave your car at one of the dedicated car parks - Shilpgram for access to the Eastern Gate, or Amrood-Ka-Teela from where you can access the Western Gate.

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