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13th February 2004
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 Holiday | Programmes | 50

Taj Mahal

Best time to go: Coolest from December to February; very hot from March to May, then monsoon from June to September

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Craig Doyle
Just making it into the top 10, the monument to Love itself, the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal has to be the greatest declaration of eternal love ever built. Shah Jahan built it in the 17th Century to enshrine the body of his favourite wife, Arjumand Banu Begum. Jahan�s pet name for his wife was Mumtaz Mahal - meaning 'ornament of the palace'.

Jahan and his Mumtaz were inseparable from their marriage in 1612 until her tragic death in childbirth in 1631.

Jahan was apparently inconsolable, and wished to design as magnificent a building as possible for his beloved�s resting place.

It took more than 20 years and 20,000 men to complete the Taj Mahal, and since then, millions of people from all over the world have come to gaze in wonder.

It was rumoured that Jahan intended to build a black-marble version of the Taj Mahal for his own mausoleum, and archaeologists have recently found ruins which may lend credence to this rumour.

We're unlikely to discover why it was never completed.

The Taj Mahal is set within stunning gardens and other decorative buildings, enclosed within a sandstone turreted wall. The building is covered with pure white Makrana marble and topped with a large onion-shaped dome. Shah Jahan�s tomb now lays near that of his darling Mumtaz�s.

Only by visiting the Taj Mahal can you appreciate its awesome grandeur, both in terms of its sheer scale, and the abundance of extraordinarily finely detailed decorative carvings.


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Price: Flights about £500

Approx flight time: 10 hours to Delhi and an hour's bus/car/train ride to Taj Mahal

  • aircraft are not permitted to fly over the Taj Mahal
  • in 1968, flautist Paul Horn made a solo recording in the dome of the Taj Mahal. His best selling LP - Inside the Taj Mahal was the earliest example of new age music
  • Shah Jahan was allowed to have four wives, but Mumtaz was his favourite
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