Taj Mahal, India • 360° Aerial Panoramas
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In The New Seven Wonders Of The World list Taj Mahal, a mosque-mausoleum located in Indian city of Agra, takes a very important place.
In spite of its Muslim origin this white marble necropolis became an actual symbol of India. Serious security measures are taken to protect it. There is a special 500-meter security zone established around the complex. Cars are to be parked 2 kilometers away, and the rest of the way tourists have to travel by rickshas, carriages, or electromobiles, because it's believed that car exhaust fumes cause yellowing of the marble facing. There is even a barbed wire fence on the opposite shore of Jamuna River, which runs beside Taj Mahal. Security personnel totals hundreds of men.
In January 2012 Dima Moiseenko, our photographer, went to Agra to meet the Superintending Archaeologist in charge of Taj Mahal and asked him how to get a permit to photograph Taj Mahal from air. Security is so tight in Taj Mahal that one cannot even enter with a tripod. But that wasn't the only issue: Dima was asked to hand over his lighter and cigarettes.
The Archaeologist listened to the request of his guest from remote Russia and replied, "I'll allow you to shoot with a tripod, but you can forget about aerial photographs". Last time someone took pictures of Taj Mahal from air was 10 or 15 years ago. And as long as I've been here, no one else has been able to do that. A few years ago some foreigners tried to launch a radio-controlled helicopter from a boat on the river, but the police immediately arrested them. I strongly advice you against this trick."
We were curious who managed to take an aerial photograph of Taj Mahal. After searching the Internet we found out that it was Yan Artus Bertran, a famous Frenchman, who took pictures of Taj Mahal from a helicopter in 1997.
15 years have passed and no one else was able to get a permission to shoot the monument from air. Mr. Bertran had a full support of UNESCO and French government, so one can imagine the resources he had available for this project. Unfortunately, the only resource AirPano had was a group panoramic photography enthusiasts from Moscow.
And so we decided to visit the Embassy of India in Moscow. Dima went to the Embassy and made a presentation about AirPano project. He told them about our non-for-profit work focused on showing people the most interesting places of our planet from a bird's eye view.
They expressed an interest in our work and asked us to prepare all the necessary documents about the planned photo shoot. The paperwork took almost 2 months, we went back and forth, correcting documents and providing comments when necessary. Finally, when we were shooting in Cambodia, good news came from the Embassy: we were given the permission to shoot in March.
I will let Stas tell you the rest of the story.
Although we had a trip to Jordan planed in March, we canceled it and went to India. Dima Moiseyenko and I arrived to Agra, India, the home of Taj Mahal, in March 2012.
First of all we went to visit the Superintendant Archaeologist, with whom Dima met in January. Only this time we had the papers. At first, very unwillingly, the Superintendant Archaeologist allowed us to fly over Agra, except for Taj Mahal. But then, referring to a phone call from Dehli, he denied us entirely. He said that we had to go to the capital and gain a permit from the Ministry of Civil Aviation (yes, for a 100-meter height launch of a small manually controlled helicopter). As if to make us feel better, he allowed us to shoot inside Taj Mahal with a tripod.
To say that we were frustrated after that conversation is to say nothing. Our entire trip was falling apart right in front of our eyes, because Taj Mahal was our main goal.
We spent the following day knocking on every door we knew, from police to other local authorities, trying to get the permit. But all our efforts were in vain. After listening to our story, every single bureaucrat sent us back to the Superintendant Archaeologist.
As a last resort, Dima called the Embassy of India in Moscow and told them that despite of all the papers from Delhi, we were being denied to photograph Taj Mahal. They said they would look into it, but it could take a lot of time. And we had only 3 days left.
The same night we held "a council of war" in our hotel room. We declared that, using the papers from the Embassy as a backup, we would launch the helicopter from under the wall by the riverside.
The take-off should be done in the open, in the sight of the security guards, so that we wouldn't be shot as terrorists. It was clear that we had only one chance to shoot, and that they wouldn't allow us to do it again.
In the morning we packed our equipment and went to our photo shoot, preparing ourselves to spend some time in a local jail. However, we received a phone call on our way to Taj Mahal. It was an employee of the Embassy in Moscow. He said that we had to go to the Superintendant Archaeologist's office and get our photo permit. He managed to resolve all the issues for us. Still in doubt, we entered the office. The Superintendant Archaeologist didn't grace us with his presence; a small clerk handed us the paper.
And that was it! The permit to fly over Agra Fatehpur Sikri Fort and, more importantly, a permission to photograph Taj Mahal from air for 2 days straight!
To be honest, I didn't believe my own eyes at first, but the sight of Dima dancing in the street dust finally convinced me.
We photographed Taj Mahal twice in the morning and one time in the evening. That was one of the most challenging and thorough work we'd done so far. We had to carry our helicopter on the premises 3 times. And each time it was a nightmare. Every local security guard had to stop us and ask — with huge surprise in his eyes — how exactly did we manage to sneak in our gear. Routinely we would show him our papers, which he would study for 10 or 15 minutes, only to say that we couldn't shoot here.
But yes, we did it! We were the first ones in 15 years to fly over Taj Mahal and photograph it. We were the first to make a virtual aerial tour around Taj Mahal, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. And now you can admire the beauty of the symbol of India in a way only birds could do before.
After this we shot in many other places in India, such as Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort, Varanasi, Jaipur, and Delhi. Fortunately, we didn't have any difficulties there. On our last day in India we also received a permission to photograph at the territory of unique Akshardhama (New Delhi).We will publish these materials on AirPano.com as they go through post processing.
Taj Mahal was built by order of Shah Jahan, a Great Mughal emperor and the descendant of Tamerlan, in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. In our cynical times it's hard to believe in feelings strong enough to withstand 17 years of marriage and 13 children. But it's a fact — all legends and stories of that time tell us one thing: when they first met, Shah Jahan was enchanted by his chosen one, so from that moment on he didn't pay attention to his other wives. When Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth of their fourteenth baby in 1631, Shah aborted his war campaign, returned home and dedicated the rest of his life to building the mausoleum.
Twenty thousand workers had been building the monument for more than twenty years. Beside local experts, foreign architects — Venetian and Frenchman — were invited to participate in the development. Combined efforts gave birth to five-dome building, which was 74 meters high on the platform with 4 minarets in the corners. The walls are faced with polished semitransparent marble, brought to the site from a 300 kilometers distance. It looks white in the bright daylight, pink during sunset, and silver in the moonlight. Furthermore, walls are decorated with turquoise, agate, malachite, carnelian and other gemstones delivered from many countries including Russia.
The grand building of Taj Mahal is surrounded by park. Water canals divide the park into square sections. The wide canal with fountains runs from the main gate. When the fountains are silent one can see a magic reflection of Taj Mahal in the water...
While the construction was in progress, Shah Jahan had an idea to create the same monument for himself on the opposite shore of Jamuna River that runs right behind the mausoleum. It would be made of black marble and connected with his wife's mausoleum by an openwork bridge. Unfortunately, this beautiful dream did not come true. In order to maintain a clear view of the most spectacular mausoleum in the world, it was prohibited to erect more than 4-storey buildings in 3 kilometers radius.
However, many years of grief and obsession with building the mausoleum prevented Shah Jahan from attending to his country's needs. As a result, he was overthrown by his own son (son of the woman to whom he dedicated the mausoleum) and spent the rest of his days in jail. The legend says that, as some cruel joke, his jail windows were facing Taj Mahal, the monument to his loved one whose untimely death led to his demise.
Taj Mahal is not just one of the most famous India landmarks. It is a rare monument, which needs to be seen and also to be felt. This is a story of love artistically preserved in stone, and it affects everyone who sees it.
You can also watch the short video from the above of Taj Mahal.
4 June 2012
"Aaaaaamazing!! keep the good work!!"
Mohammed Imran, India
yogesh Vithalani, India
"I am from the city of taj...agra and believe me i havn`t seen our taj so beautifully so gracious as you have shown thru your lenses of camera in such wonderful ,soothing to the eyes our Taj....Hats off to you on wonderful gift to the world...."
jitendra gupta, India
"Macca and Madina ????"
hosain masum, Bangladesh
"Excellent Thanks god very good"
Dattatray Patil, India
"Excellent and very awsome to watch fantastic"
Mahendra Mutha, India
"Great panorama view.
Would you like to creat one for Buddhist sites?
ravi medhankar, Japan
"There are thousands of photographs/videos of the Taj, but your panoramic 3D photography is at the top, very fascinating. You have captured it in a completely outstanding way, revealing its true beauty, serenity, features and surroundings; every thing is just superb. I am very pleased to see it.
Also it is nice to see 95% viewers awarding you 5*
(except a couple of them who clicked 1*. It seems to me they unintentionally clicked the wrong place, because their comments are nice)
Thank you everybody who was involved in this production. Kind regards."
Vidya Babla, United Kingdom
Varvara, AirPano: It is a pleasure to us to get your comment. It's valuable. Good luck!
"IT IS VERY NICE..............."
Niranjana Ajit Kumar, India
"All of us who visited Taj Mahal will be spellbound to discover the beauty and greatness of this majestic panoramic view of Taj Mahal......
It's beyond words!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Nozir Ahmad, Bangladesh
"Great. Just great effort to bring such virtual tours to the desk top. The hugeness of the Taj Mahal is some how lacking that we usually feel when being there in person. Can we have more close ups? Thanks anyway."
Rabinarayan Senapati, India
"its a amazing to see taj in this clear n resulation but it can be more funn n beautiful if we get mor zoom in clear pic or shot ...."
anu macwaana, India
"Pics are taken very nicely and presented in beautiful form. we all loved seeing it . we accept the strain taken by person who has done this.
Peterson varghese, India
"Awsomeand very very amazing work. Best of luck!:)"
Haroon Rasheed, Pakistan
L N V K Durga Prasad, India
Sarath Hewanayke, Sri Lanka
"i m so excited by seeing this. its amazing.thanks to this web site"
vasavi madhu, India
"Absolutely amazing, it reminds my visit here with my Mother about 20 years ago. Thank you for the splendid job."
Sunil Cabral, Sri Lanka
"Abs amazing live in the city of Taj, but had not realized till such time i saw your amazing video what a work of marvel it is.
love you tons for sharing it."
Dr. paru Bhatnagar, India
"Great Job. Taj Mahal is the Symbol of Love forever its Universal truth which everyone knows. Your Superb job given truth to that truth. I salute your team. God bless you all for making this wonderfull."
Mirza Ayaz Ahmad, India
"I haven't been lucky enough to be able to visit Taj Mahal yet. Fortunately, my friend e-mailed this to me. Excellent!"
Barid Bhattacharya, United Kingdom
"I was a young man in the mid-sixties when I first visited the Taj Mahal and promised myself if I ever had a family I would bring them to this place. That promise was fulfilled. Thank you for the magnificent re-visit to this spiritual place."
Philip Caltagirone, USA
"I cried the entire length of the scene and learned that crying is not bad thing.
thanks a million."
chacko Chacko M, USA
"Absolutely majestic ...... awesome beauty it holds."
savita laul, India
"Thanks for taking Taj Mahal
Very Very good in View , music
1 Ramesh, India
"really awesome it make a feel to me that i was really making a areial view of tajmahal"
pushpa v, India
"excellent 3D& 360 degrees coverage congrads"
kalidas narasimhan, India
"I have seen it once decades ago ,But I must see it again,splendid with enchanting flute"
prof K L Ramadas pai, India
"Marvellous!fantastic! breathtaking!no praise is less for Air Pano and its dedicated team for such out-of-this world presentation of Taj Mahal and excellent music to match as well.God bless!"
vm rao, India
"Congratulations AirPano on this magnificent panoramic presentation of the Taj Mahal. Having seen it from the ground, this arial view gives added perspective (P.S. I understand the British Raj considered recycling some of the marble but wiser heads prevailed. Thank our collective "gods" for that.)"
Jean Byrne, Australia
"With all my due respect, I congratulate your enterprise to bring to the World this 3-D version of TAJ MAHAL.......A UNIQUE 7. WORLD'S WONDER, despite of all the pains, frustrations,and obstacles encountered during the shooting of this wonderful TAJ MAHAL, even the background music accompanning the show is just perfect....THANK YOU and A BIG GOD BLESS.........."
Percy Dastur, Switzerland
"I have not seen Tajmahal yet, but panorama has amazingly quenched my thirst. The music is very nice and also perfect with the Taj."
Shankhadeep Roy, India
"Well done Airpano Team. The shots are beatiful and the background music is just apt to give a complete Indian experience. I have been to the Taj Mahal once and just cannot forget the experience. Its beautiful now, imagine its beauty when it was studded with jewels and specious stones."
D K, United Arab Emirates
"Awesome and really beautiful"
keerthi varma, India
"Fantastic coverage on This 'Seven Wonders Of The World'"
Pratap Ghosh, India
"Very good .....Thank you..........!!!!!"
Ashish Waghmare, India
"got the feeling as if i'm there and melody is good.
thani salan, Malaysia
"Absolutely mesmerizing photographs. More beautiful than seeing with real eyes. The background music is just so perfect. I admire your talents and thank you so much for making this site available to all to see the beautiful 3D photographs."
Sumangala Polu, USA
Varvara, AirPano: We are grateful for your attention and comment.
"Congratulations. Truly magnificient photography. A super presentation. This marvellous edifice looks better than when I saw it with my own eyes many years ago.
Send me more of your aerial photography.
Justin Drieberg, USA
Varvara, AirPano: We are grateful for your message, Justin. All our panoramas can be found here http://www.airpano.com/List-Aerial-Panoramas.php
"Thanks for creating. really beautiful. Enjoyed very much."
Lanka Siriwardana, Sri Lanka
"First of all Thank You Very Much For these efforts and showing us The greate Art work.
I Love to see this great site by my own eyes.
Hoping for loving relations of our countries like this Love Sign.
Mohammad Imran, Pakistan
I have visited this great monument at least 4-5 times and every visit is as exciting or better than the previous one...
Thanks for the beautiful photos and videos. Bravo...
"I have never been in Agra , but I think I don't have to go now !"
B Thomas, India
"So enchanting EYE-PLEASING AND EVER-CHERISHABLE VIEWS TREASUREVFOR MEMORY BANK OF HEART... Cograts and LOT OF THANKs!"
LAXMIKANT THAKKAR, India
""Beautiful PHOTOGRAPHY. I will see this again and again. TAJMAHAL is my LOVE. Please continue this great work.""
"Most amazing part is the Ariel View captured by adventurers.. INDIA has All the Love for you ..Love for this Art reciprocated..Come Home again"
RIBHU GAUR, India
"The work towards 3D Panorama is amazing. Nice to see the world in very low budget :)"
PRAMOD KATTI, India
"AIR PANO your team has put together such a magnificent piece of art that no amount of words in any language or all the languages put together can possibly express our heartfelt appreciation ! You guys have done full justice to the greatest monument of the world.Having had the great fortune of witnessing this marble wonder in full moonlight way back in 1980 you brought back beautiful memories! God bless you all for this outofthe world experience and for all future ventures!"
abha kochar, Botswana
Varvara, AirPano: Many thanks for your message and all good wishes.
IMRAN BABA, India
"I have been to the TAJ MAHAL...need to say you guys have done a great job."
Alwin Abraham, Kuwait