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
"KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!!
Anu Ranasinghe, Qatar
"Absolutely awestruck ...amazing scenery and to have kept it so white...amazing thank you"
Jan Donoghue, Australia
"Gracias por llevarme a este lugar maravilloso que quisiera visitar."
Tibisay Acevedo, Venezuela
"I have visited The Taj Mahal but the aerial view is awesome it is really wonderful thanks"
John Seesahai, United Kingdom
"Fantastic Project excellent panoramic Views it bring back flood of Memories of our visit.
May God Bless you and all the exhibit the courage to take the Project on
Thank you ....Brilliant"
Doug Gittens, Canada
"AS INDIA DOES NOT PERMIT ANY PAKISTANI, EVEN IF THEY HAVE ANY OTHER NATIONALITY TO GO AND VISIT THEIR BIRTH PLACES, IT IS FOR THE FIRST TIME I AM VIEWING THE MY BIRTH PLACE THAT IS THE CITY AGRA, AND FROM THE AIR, THANK YOU TO THE PERSON WHO DEGIGNED IT."
USMAN MUHAMMED, Canada
"You have demonstrated a commitment to show the world. But the Indian Bureaucrats played to the hilt about their power to say "NO". I hope you did not bribe anybody. The sad story of India is this lack of honesty or rule of law. Tajmahal is a symbol of narcissistic mastery in beauty. History is more interesting. I have visited this place. What does the son do to the creator of this monument? We live with that today. VP"
V. Velu MD, USA
"See Taj Mahal and die."
Azeem Farooki, USA
Love, the supreme gift of the Spirit, and its governing power over other gifts. without love, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Amazing Taj Mahal_India_temple of love together with the music is remarkable
Great work of love. Thanks for that"
Nikky Craciun, Romania
"Mamma mia !!! Your pure intent and purpose in honest pursuit of this exercise has reaped for you success and garlands of merit also from all these others who have seen and commented on your work to make the Taj Mahal a more endearing and invigorating masterpiece for mankind to marvel upon ! God bless you all."
Alex. Lily VAN ARKADIE, Italy
"I rellllllllll like,,,,,,,,,lajavb,khubsurat
Kismat wale hai Hum,,,,,,,,,"
nancy thakur, India
"Beautiful, very much surprising.Amazing, no words . to praise"
Vakade Prakash, India
alireza emrah, Iran
Tashir Ansari, India
"Thanq for making us to view "THE BEAUTY OF LOVE""
ashajyoti kattamanchi, India
"no words to say about your workmanship and the pain you took to make this.excellant and thanks"
Venkatesalu Duraisamy, India
"AMAZING! I real must come and see this beautiful place"
Terry Fong, New Zealand
"Unimaginable Photography and a new look to the World Famous monument of India."
Satyanarayana Jatla, India
"Very well done! Sights that are impossible to conceive from the ground. Really good!"
Salman Ansari, Pakistan
"EVERYTHING IS OK. THANKS FOR THE NICE, VERY GOOD AND HARD JOB WHICH IS DONE. WISHING YOU ALL THE BEST AND MORE SUCCESS. G.A. 2012"
Genia Avanessian, Iran
"WOW! - what stunning photography, my hats off to all people involved in this project. May God Bless you for your hardwork and sharing with all of us. Keep these type pics coming.
M. Jawiad, USA
"Superb presentation of a fabulous monument"
Dayal Nandwani, Nigeria
"trying to find words to express the beauty your camera has captured"
Ali Ansari, Canada
"I have never visit taj mahal. This show make me more curious to visit Taj"
khandker mahmud mahmud, Bangladesh
"I am very grateful for the opportunity to enjoy a job beyond excellence. Thanks"
Maritza Olmos, Venezuela
"Simply Amazing! hats of to you guys!""
sara azam, India
"THIS IS THE GLORY OF INDIA.
MUDUMBAI SRINIVAS, India
"i born in india 40 years in canada india run by allah not men jinda bad."
fatheali lalani, Canada
"Marveleous presentation. I visited Taj Dec 2011.It revived memorable memories."
Mohamed Kassam BAGHA, Kenya
"Excellent. not seen such a 3D picture earlier. excellent soothing music, excellent photography. keep it up. thanks for sending this n all those who r involved in its production. Sunki Laxminarayana, Hyderabad, A P , India"
Sunki Laxminarayana, India
"awesome keep up the good work"
SHWETA SHARDA, India
"nice picture beautiful music, can you please let me know who are the artists and the name of the track. thanks! well done"
Varvara, AirPano: Hello! Thanks for for visiting us! Please follow this link http://www.airpano.com/FAQ.php and read paragraph "How can I find the author of music and the title of melody?"
"I really liked all the pictures. I thought they were all beautiful. Thank you for sending me this e-mail dad. I love you dad! Have a nice and a fantastic day! Write back very soon! Later!!
Nisha Kohli, India
"fantastic presentation, welldone."
Nagesh Karumanchi, India
"It's wonderful.The full view is really breathtaking and marvellous..Well done.You feel everything is in front of you. Thanks for your presentation."
Ramachandra Aiyar, India
"I have no words to express my admiration for your patience,perseverance,skill and artistry. Yes, I have seen the Taj years ago, but your gift to all of us enables to experience it so much more.Even the brutality that followed and plagues India to this day,puts no blemish on this wonder.A million thanks."
Mukunda Rao, USA
Varvara, AirPano: We do appreciate your attention and interest both in our project in general and in this pano in particular. Thanks a lot for all these warm words and have a nice coming weekend!
"mazing and Awsomece masterpiece of animation and combined art of music and photography , not less than Taj itself. Thanks for this hard job"
M H Akbar, Iran
"THANK YOU for all your hard work and trouble putting this aerial tour of the Taj Mahal . It is mesmerising , I wish we can see the full moon light photoes of the Taj , that would be breath taking . Excellent Work !!! Shireen from Markham Canada."
Shireen Fatima Khan, Canada
KAzim Agha, USA
"I can only say it is breath taking...very beautiful!! Job well done"
Gracia Wong, USA
"Awesome.....Gorgeous.....Beautiful monument of love! I love it.
Magnificient photography. Job well done."
Promila Singh, Guam
"Brilliant. slaute to your fantastic idea. Show us more historic places."
Mohamed Ali, Canada
"Thank you..... Wonderful photography. Magnificent!"
"So amazingly the TajMahal and its surroundings has been mopped up into these photographs and videos. Gorgeous work guys. Thanks a lot!!!"
hashim arakagath, United Arab Emirates
"ASSALAMUALAIKUM INDIA...........FROM PAKISTAN !!!"
lubna khan, Pakistan
"simply ... incredible !! waaaouh !!!"
Eve Nandan, France
"You have made an already beautiful creation more beautiful"
madhvi singh, India
"Truly awesome & may I add - a zillion times more beautiful than the real. I have lived in Agra a couple of years & cycled down to the Taj ever so often in rain & shine / morning,evening,noon.Have seen it by moonlight too BUT never like this. Congratulations! Your presentation is super"
Sudha Singh, India
"For any successful venture in India you need a lot of patience. And the Taj Mahal is not the only example. Hats off to you guys for the persistence in getting the permissions and bringing the world these absolutely breathtaking views of the Taj!"
Austine Crasta, India