The Taj Mahal, a 'teardrop on the cheek of time'

The most important tourist destination in India, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the Taj Mahal continues to fascinate us with its beauty, serenity and magnificence.

Women  in bright saris, half-naked holy men, and camel trains... the setting of this splendid mausoleum has changed little down through the centuries, and the Taj Mahal is surrounded by a timeless aura of magic. The monument was built by the Muslim Emperor Shah Jahan, of the Mughal dynasty, in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who gave him fourteen children, but died in the last childbirth. Disconsolate at her death, the shah ordered construction of the Taj Mahal as a posthumous gift and lasting monument to his love. Begun in 1631, it is set on the banks of the Yamuna, in the city of Agra, and the complex of buildings and surrounding gardens were not finished until 1654. The architectural style is a combination of Persian, Islamic and Indian; the white marble walls are decorated with calligraphy and carvings and set with jewels. It is said that 20,000 workers toiled for over 20 years on this monument to love, to fulfil the promise of a bereaved husband and the obsession of a powerful ruler. As the sun sinks and twilight clothes the unmistakable silhouette of columns and domes, no better phrase comes to mind than that of Rabindranath Tagore, who described the Taj Mahal as: "A teardrop on the cheek of time."

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Women in saris in front of the Taj Mahal
The vivid colours of the women's saris contrast with the serene white marble of the Taj Mahal / © Indian Tourist Board 

Women in saris in front of the Taj Mahal
The lengths of multi-coloured fabric are spread to dry in the sun  / © Indian Tourist Board 

Taj Mahal
Rituals of yoga and prayer on the banks of the river / © Indian Tourist Board 

River Yamuna and Taj Mahal
Small fishing boats still sail on the Yamuna / © Indian Tourist Board 

Pot seller and Taj Mahal
The curves of the potter's wares echo the unmistakable dome of Shah Jahan's monument to love / © Indian Tourist Board 

Women in saris in front of the Taj Mahal
Rabindranath Tagore described the Taj Mahal as: "A teardrop on the cheek of time."  / © Indian Tourist Board 

Rickshaw and Taj Mahal
Bicycle rickshaws are a familiar sight in India / © Indian Tourist Board 

Indians in native dress in front of Taj Mahal
Twenty thousand workers toiled for 20 years to fulfil the promise of the bereaved shah / © Indian Tourist Board 

Bead and bangle stall and Taj Mahal
Bright beads and bangles frame the monument to Shah Jahan's great love / © Indian Tourist Board 

Camels in front of Taj Mahal
Little in the surroundings seems to have changed in the three and a half centuries the mausoleum has stood / © Indian Tourist Board