Thousands of Indians handed out sweets and set off fireworks on July 7, 2007 to celebrate the inclusion of Taj Mahal in the list of the 7 ‘new’ world wonders, as recently reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP) from Lisbon, Portugal. The AFP-Lisbon report says that "Hundreds (of Indians) thronged the 17th-century monument built by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal."
Historical records paint the Taj Mahal, thus: "A vision of symmetry and delicacy, like a perfect pearl set against an azure sky, it is the world’s best known mausoleum and one of the most exquisite buildings ever designed."
The Taj Mahal, arguably the most famous building in the world, is situated on the southern bank of the River Yamuna (Jumna) at Agra in India. Its silhouette is instantly recognizable and has become, for many, the unofficial symbol of India. The fame of the Taj Mahal rests not only on its architectural beauty – in which grandeur and delicacy are miraculously balanced – but also on its romantic associations. Records indicate that the Taj Mahal was built by the 17th-century Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, whose death plunged him into unshakeable grief. As a physical symbol of the devotion of a man to a woman, the Taj Mahal is unsurpassed. Tradition has it that when a couple goes there, the woman should ask her partner: "If I were to die, do you love me so much that you would build me a memorial like this?"
Historical facts point out that work began at Agra, capital of the Mogul Empire, in 1632 and the central building of the Taj Mahal – the mausoleum – was completed in 1643. The mausoleum, however, is only one part of a large complex that includes a formal garden, two flanking mosques, and a stately entrance gateway which is an important building in itself. An inscription records the official date of completion as 1648, but work evidently continued for a few more years.
The Taj Mahal and the two sandstone mosques that flank it stand in marble-paved gardens. The visitor’s eye is led to the great horizontal plinth that supports the mausoleum along a straight, narrow watercourse, lined with dark green cypresses, in which the shimmering mirror-image of the Taj is perfectly reflected. The bud-shaped dome soars upwards in visual harmony with arches, cupolas, and four minarets, built leaning slightly outwards so that if there were an earthquake they would topple away from the building. Visitors are awed by the splendor of the Taj Mahal which is further enhanced by the play of light, particularly at dawn and at dusk when subtle shades of violet, rose pink, and muted gold – in varying degrees of softness and intensity – are reflected in the contours of the monument. And in the early morning mist, the building seems to float ethereally in the sky.
While the outside of the Taj Mahal is unique in its perfect symmetry, the inside, with its elaborate mosaic work, is also unrivalled. Records indicate that the interior is organized around a central octagonal chamber containing the cenotaphs of the emperor and his wife, enclosed by a perforated marble screen studded with gemstones. Here, in contrast to the glare outside, soft light filters through the latticed windows and filigree mesh of the intricate marble screen and plays on every surface, illuminating and then gradually concealing in shadow the bejewelled inlay work all around.
Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotel and Restaurant Association, described the selection of the Taj Mahal as one of the seven ‘new’ world wonders as "a victory of love, the message which the Taj stands for." The AFP-Lisbon report says that Chauhan announced a 20-percent cut in room rates in the town’s budget hotels for the next year.