Bill and Sue-On Hillman: A 50-Year Musical Odyssey

North India: Gallery 21
Arrival ~ Grand Gate ~ First Views of the Taj

01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20
21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 |

Photos 1 | Photos 2 | Photos 3 | Photos 4 | Alt 1 | Alt 2
Vertical Aerial ID Photo of Taj Mahal
We were and out onto the bus by 5:00 am for the 20 minute drive (2 kms) to the East Gate entrance to the Taj Mahal grounds. The security was very tight, and the bus had to stop at the first entrance, still a km away from the actual entrance (no gas burning vehicles allowed). Fortunately, our CEO caught an empty "battery bus" that took us to the queue. We were the first in line in the semi-darkness before sunrise. Women had to queue up in one line and the men in another. The entrance is closed by two huge studded wooden gates. There is a small gate opening for the security and staff to duck and enter. 

Just before 6 am the big gates swung open and we were allowed in. We were told to not bring backpacks or other big bags to enable us to get thruough security faster. There was a female guard frisking the women and a male guard for the men. Just past the security portal, the bags were closely examined for any sharp objects which might be used to marr the beautiful marble walls. 

As soon as we entered, we could see the beautiful white marble monument. We then walked a long way up to Grand Gate a red sandstone archway and "first platform. "There we got our first "gasp" sight of the Taj Mahal. As we walked around this platform, we were assailed by many "photographers. Even though we both had cameras, they who insisted that they take our picture professionally in special poses, with the Taj as a background. There were also many other "guides" who latched onto us, promising to take us to the best view points, etc. Of course, a big tip was expected. We just did our own pictures.

There is a central path that leads the visitors to the main monument. Along side are gardens, reflection pools and many trees. As we walked toward the second platform, of marble, we saw the main attraction there -- Princess Di's bench where she posed for her iconic picture during her visit there.  Coincidentally, Diana's son, Prince William and his wife, Kate, the Dutchess of Cambridge were expected to visit the Taj in a few hours. Not long after we left the grounds were vacated and closed for this royal visit. Probably the most impressive sight of the Taj Mahal was the view from this mid-way second platform.

We walked around -- and eventually to the Rest/Guest House on the east side of the main dome. Since there is a Muslim mosque on the west side, this matching structure was built on the opposite side for balance. The sun was just coming up behind us in the east, making the white marble sparkle -- a perfect spot from which to take photos in the morning light. 

Our next destination was the on the plinth of the main structure. Then we were given shoe covers and walked into the Taj Mahal mausoleum under the main "onion" dome. No photography was allowed, but we could see the coffins of the Raj and his favourite wife in the centre - Bill took a few hurried clandestine shots. Visitors were asked to be quiet, but that's almost impossible. 

Since the Raj who built this monument was a mathematician and architect, the building is symmetrical -- all sides of the monument look the same. On the four corners are minarets that are built on a slant, not perpendicular. They were designed this way. In the event of an earthquake, they would not fall on the monument. 

The Taj Mahal took 22 years to build -- 17 years for the dome and five years for the rest. This was a show of the enduring love between the Raj and his favourite wife. While on her death bed, she made three requests: to never marry again as that would destroy the love they had, to look after their children, and to let the world know of their great love. This monument was the Raj's way of letting the world know of that love. 

With shimmering marble domes and towers reflecting in landscaped pools, the Taj Mahal is Agra's highlight and the world's greatest monument to love. The Taj is inlaid with black marble and semi precious stones, on both the inside and the outside, while the entire Koran is inscribed on the exterior of the main dome. Thousands upon thousands of flowers constructed in inlaid mosaics of varied stones decorate the floors and interior walls, along with an incredible finely carved screen. 

When his wife died, the Raj did not come out of his chamber for eight days. When he did, his hair had turned pure white. He had also spent 75% of his wealth to build this monument. One of his sons, who wanted power, imprisoned the Raj for spending all this money. He also killed off several of his brothers so he could be Raj. Later, we were to see where the father was imprisoned over in Fort Agra.

By the time we finished touring the site, there was a huge crowd. We made the long walk from the Taj to the parking lot from where we drove back to the hotel for breakfast before heading out again to Fort Agra and Baby Taj. We've included some research on this UNESCO World Heritage Site in the following photo journal pages.

More About Taj Mahal
Ref One

Click for larger images

Arrival at the Outer Gate before Sunrise
The Canon camera takes good photos in the dark.

Outer Gates opened by security
Followed by a long walk to the Main Gate.

Passing through the Grand Gate
Our first full view of Taj Mahal with the gardens and reflective pools.

Exploring the arched walkways flanking the Grand Gate

Telephoto shot of the Mosque to the left of the Taj Mausoleum

About to enter the gardens on our way to the Taj Mahal  Mausoleum


Photos 1 | Photos 2 | Photos 3 | Photos 4 | Alt 1 | Alt 2




Web Design:  Bill Hillman:
Bill and Sue-On Hillman Eclectic Studio