Frankly, I had never seen this view of Taj Mahal in any photograph. No one had told me about the view from across the Jamuna. While the normal visitor goes to Taj Mahal and returns after seeing the breathtaking [but basic] view, he doesn’t often realize that there is another site from where you can see Taj in its complete glory—on a vast canvas, without any interruption or building in between.
|Ruins in Mahtab Bagh have nothing to do with foundation of 'Black Taj'|
‘Aap Mehtab Bagh nahi chalenge’ [Won’t you visit Mehtab Bagh], he asked in Urdu.
Soon we were on way to the other side of the river. We entered the old city, crossed the bridge, and in no time, reached the vast garden.
Though it was noon, still, the weather wasn’t as harsh. [Do visit early in the morning if its summer]. But once inside, we saw the most spectacular sight. This view we hadn’t seen before and it was indescribable feeling. Our Agra visit was now complete.
We felt that now we had seen the Taj. The only wish was to see it in moonlight. So what is Mehtab Bagh? Babar had come to Agra, soon after his victory in the battle of Panipat in 1526. To him, the weather in Agra was extremely hot and harsh. He recalled the greenery, the cascades and fountains.
So the ruins of this 'baagh' existed for long. Akbar had later given the large site on both sides of Joon [now Jamuna] to Raja Man Singh. Shah Jehan had later bought the land here from Man Singh's descendant Raja Jai Singh. Four havelis were given to him and in lieu of that the land was obtained.
Almost at the same site where Bagh-i-Hasht Bihisht once existed, the Mehtab Bagh or Chandni Bagh was now built. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) board here says that the Mahtab Bagh is laid out in perfect symmetry and alignment with the Taj Mahal.
There were barahdaris [open, arcaded pavilions] and 'banglas' [pavilions] interconnected with corridors, made of sandstone, in this vast garden. They later fell. There were 25 fountains here. The large pond here sent water to these fountains through pipes.
The waterworks were amazing but were destroyed over the years. It was built as part of the original plan of the entire mausoleum complex. Perhaps, it was named Mehtab Bagh [Mehtab in Urdu means moon] because it is the ideal place to see Taj in moonlight.
The Chini-khana had candles and flowers to create a magical environment. Over the years the structure crumbled. The flood and the sand that came with the flow of water in Jamuna [Yamuna] covered this site. People forgot this place.
The story about the ‘Black Taj Mahal’
That canards and conspiracy theories are enjoyed and believed by a large setion [because they want to believe something astounding] is well known. It's an interesting thought. In fact, imaginary photographs or models of black Taj on the other side of Yamuna river, as created by artists or through photo editing softwares, looks scary.
When the forgotten Mahtab Bagh [there will be a separate post in the next part on it], was redisovered and people began visiting it, the remnants of the structure gave people a hint that perhaps it was the foundation of the black mausoleum. The excavation at the site of Mahtab Bagh also showed no such plan or foundation.
Anyway, Shah Jahan had almost emptied his treasury in building the Taj Mahal. There was no further plan. He spent last years of his life, imprisoned in the Red Fort, after Aurangzeb acquired the throne. The story of the second Taj is a mere fantasy.
Isn't it now among the longest running travel series account that centres on Taj Mahal, at least, among online travelogues!
The earlier parts of this travelogue can be read here:
Part 1 [Travel guide, tip, suggestions for foreign and domestic visitors]
Part 2 [Mysteries & Secrets of Taj Mahal]
Part 3 [Have you seen finial of Taj, do you know its taller than Qutab Minar?]
Part 4 [Inside Taj: Seeing replicas of graves, entry to original graves now blocked]