Taj Mahal, India. Part I • 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
"Incredible... Unique view of Taj Mahal....
Pankaj Kumar, India
"Hello from INDIA! It is WONDERFUL! I will visit it every day, as it enables me to "travel" around the world and see such magnificent places. Therefore, I do congratulate you on your excellent website.I Appricieate the effort OF DIMA in takeing permission to shoot TAJ MAHAL By Chopper, That's GREAT!!!" Really applozige to on Behalf of INDIA Beaucrates... ( But Belive Me it happened all because of Security involved in this High Profile Monumenet)"
Khem Raj, India
"Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is truly informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I'll appreciate if you continue this in future. A lot of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!"
Vada Batiste, Bahamas
"very very beautiful!! Thanks a lot for your effort to take these photos and sharing along with the story. I am very happy to see this as I have dreamed to visit it one day."
Trang Mai, Vietnam
"An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been doing a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me breakfast due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this topic here on your site."
Penny Henderson, Hong Kong
"I was fortunate to live in New Delhi for 3 years back in the 1960s; and made three trips to Agra in those years. The historical facts and the beauty of the place make your heart happy and the first time I was there I could only pinch myself to make sure it was "me" that was seeing this marvel. Your pictures are suburb and I am so happy that you told the history too. We can only be amazed that this was completed so long ago. Thank you very much for bringing back a beautiful time for me."
Louisa Kushner, USA
"It is truly a nice and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you simply shared this useful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing."
Mahalia Hadley, Vanuatu
sanjay b, India
"Ahaa, its good discussion regarding this article here at this weblog, I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting at this place."
Lena Eaton, Fiji
"AMAZING,WONDERFUL,FANTASTIC,MIND BLOWING I DON'T KNOW WHAT WORDS TO USE THOES WHO HAVE DID NOT SEE WILL SEE HERE."
swati gupta, India
swati gupta, India
"very noiyce....different...yes very different Kimi."
Kath & Kim, Australia
"Subhaanal'lah! The Taj is one of the wonders of the world and so are the cameras that brings it so close to the rest of the world. Your Project is one of a kind! bravo!"
jawad maltiba rabiu, Ghana
""GREAT, EXCELLENT, FANTASTIC, WONDERFUL & AMAZING. CONGRATULATION.
THIS IS THE REAL HAPPINESS IN THE WONDERFUL LIFE.
THANKS TO ALL FOR ALL THIS GREAT WORK."
KAMLAKAR PATIL, India
From this creativity, one can enjoy natural beauty of the place ......!!!!"
Pinal Thumbar, India
"Really good blog. Must be bookmarked:)"
Kazuko Holder, Syrian Arab Republic
"thank you again,is a beautiful place and i visit it in 2007 .hoping i will see it again sometimes...you are doing great things!"
alexandrina manole, Romania
"Hi mates, its wonderful piece of writing about tutoringand completely defined, keep it up all the time."
Carla Edmond, Gabon
"It might loose the attractions of the people after building Dubai Taj, as planned, because Dubai Taj can be more buitified using the latest and advance technologies and more attractive decoration pieces."
KhanChangez Khan, Pakistan
"Awesome,Just Immensely Awesome.
Appreciations with best wishes for Awesomely Presentation For All To View Share......"
Raj Chandarana, United Kingdom
"Hello from Italy! I was so pleased when my US American friend sent me your website, which I greatly appreciated. It is WONDERFUL! I will visit it every day, as it enables me to "travel" around the world and see such magnificent places. Therefore, I do congratulate you on your excellent website. That's GREAT!!!"
ENRICO COBIANCHI, Italy
"Greetings from California! I'm bored to death at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break. I love the knowledge you present here and can't wait to take a look when I get home. I'm shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my phone .. I'm not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, great site!"
Luisa Lebron, Burundi
"Sos cul amateur design"
Verla Hobbs, Panama
"A akadam bhangar tajmahel 6. Khali khoti jagya j roki 6. Ane kok to yamuna nadi ne kinare bhikhario mate raheva ghare bnave. Pn a doba to khali kabar j bnavi.ane ginis book of world record apyo. A loko pn doba. K ava ne world record apay? A to ak kacharo nakhavanu place 6.
Really i dont like it."
Kalu Bhikhari., Cape Verde
Haresh Solanki, India
chirag panchal, India
"Beautiful work,amazing landscapes.I'm spechless.It is something so beautiful that is hard to describe in words,I just can enjoy the views!!!!!!"
Catalina Oyarzún, Chile
"something superhuman... resulting from the love for a woman!!"
mushtaq shaikh, Pakistan
"VERY VERY BEAUTIFUL PICS, U DID GREAT JOB GUYS"
SREENIVAS JINDAM, India
"THER ARE WUNDER FOUL PLACE IN ESFHAN AND SHIRAN AND..."
reza s, Iran
"thanks to all who worked this file"
mahir david, Iraq
"Very nice work.Very very veryFuntastic"
Rajesh Kumar Sharma, India
razu ahmed, Bangladesh
"A beautiful mail. I have seen Akshardam and enjoyed the scenic beauty of the place more particularly in the winter. It is a grand grand scene. Our sincere thanks to the team members who have labored their best .
Doraiswamy Visvanathan, India
"wonderful work done seeing this has made me plan and come visit taj mahal appreciated so much good work
siangoi Taj and family"
JOEL SIAMBE, Kenya
"Truly a labor of your love for us and the world to enjoy. Thank you for giving us a desktop tour!"
Hormazd Irani, India
Arlindo Lapolla, Brazil
adriana zamacona, Mexico
"Thank you, You are beautiful beyong descriptions."
Wee Kah Lee, Singapore
Piyush Patel, India
"I visited the Taj last year and was amazed by it. I was surprised by the beauty of the mosque on the grounds, it was beautiful as well. Thanks for letting everyone get a chance to see this!"
Lisa Epstein, USA
"I will always love to see the Taj Mahal, thank you for allowing so many people to see this wonderful monument through your persistence
I've been there 3 times, so lucky I am indeed!"
Maria Colaço, Portugal
"love cant be ever expreesed better"
mahendra mehta, India
"This is wonderful place in India."
amin abda, India
"thank you,thats so beautiful"
akbar karami, Iran
"CONGRATULATIONS FOR YOUR GREAT WORK AND THANK YOU"
jaime reinstein, Peru
BERRIS TURNBULL, USA
"Aren't several images stitched? How come people don't seem to move when we pan right or left?"
Abhijeet Vaidya, India
AirPano: Of course there are several stitched images
"It is probably the most emotion I have ever felt visiting this beautiful architectural master piece.It took my breath a way as it is so amazing to see and so unusual from most historical places. Would love to see it again."
Mary Sorensen, USA
"Job well done! Probably the best job done by TEAM AP....Salute..hope you had your best time in India shooting Akshardham..."
Nirmita Vora, India