Taj Mahal: Access to mausoleum is 'tightly controlled' says expert

The Taj Mahal is one of the world’s most iconic superstructures. One of the new seven wonders of the world, its construction began in 1632 by the great Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan. He pledged his life’s work to building the mausoleum following the death of his favourite and closest wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Her tomb is the centrepiece of a grand 17-hectare complex.

The Taj Mahal’s status as an Indian icon has made it vulnerable in times of international and domestic hostility.

Such is its significance to India and the world, the mausoleum is placed under strict military supervision in the case of an extremist attack.

National Geographic, during its documentary, ‘Secrets of the Taj Mahal’, revealed the extent to which the landmark must now be protected as it is “under threat”.

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It said: “Now, his (Shah Jahan) greatest legacy, symbol of the Indian nation, is under threat.

“It has been a high security zone since 2006.

“After bomb threats from terrorists and religious fundamentalists, it is guarded round the clock.”

In 2017, the so-called Islamic State threatened to attack the iconic monument after two bombs exploded and a train nearly derailed at Agra’s central train station – a tourist hot-spot.

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Later on, an image circulated among pro-ISIS channels on encrypted social media application Telegram of what appeared to be a militant armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and rocket-propelled grenade launcher digitally imposed over a stylised background of the Taj Mahal.

Above was a smaller picture of the monument in crosshairs bearing the words “New Target,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group at the time.

The area around the monument has also been declared a no-fly zone.

Filming in the mausoleum is strictly forbidden for security reasons.

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No one currently knows when these security protocols will be lifted with precious secrets still hidden deep in the Palace.

Art historian Professor Ebba Koch was lucky enough to gain uninhibited access to the Taj and decode many of its mysteries years before the restrictions were put into place.

Translating the religious symbolism of the Taj and the surrounding building, she explained: “The Taj Mahal is the architectural embodiment of this life and of the next according to Islamic belief.

“The ground plans show this duality.

“The complex is split between the tomb garden with its mausoleum and a worldly side meant for bazaars and markets.

“What’s interesting is that the worldly side is the mirror image of the mausoleum side.

“The connecting square with the great main gate marks the transition to the tomb garden and opens up the view to the mausoleum.”

At the centre of the mausoleum is what has been described as the most “holy and holies”, the most splendid room in the Taj Mahal – the final resting place of Mumtaz Mahal.

Prof Koch later unravelled the deeply symbolic colour scheme of the Taj.

She said: “The worldly elements and other buildings are all clad in red sandstone.

“White is reserved for the mausoleum: this is to be a building of enlightenment and Earthly representation of the heavenly house where Mumtaz Mahal will live for eternity.

“The pure white stands for the spirituality and faith of the person buried here.”

She continued: “The garden is the heart of the Taj Mahal, it’s an Earthly picture of the paradise of the Koran: two paths divide the terrain into four squares.

“The channels along the path representative the rivers of paradise in the Koran; where the channels meet there’s a pool.

“This is symbolic of the celestial pool where the faithful quench their first when they arrive in paradise.”

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