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
"wonderful, fantastatic and the photography was superb"
Debabrata Sarkar, United Kingdom
Jairaj Bhagwan, South Africa
"prachtige, indrukwekkende fotografie.
luk marchand, Belgium
"Awesome!!! I never seen such great view of TajMahal before this!!! Thanks!!!"
Mayur P, India
"I am lost in seeing this" PANORAMIC VIEW" Of the TAJ that has been snapped by AIRPANO. Just "Incredible".In fact,my command over language limits me to comment upon WHAT I WISH TO WRITE ABOUT!!It is the "REVIST TO THE TAJ MAHAL""
PIJUSH DUTTA, India
"!!It is Fantastic!! Just outstanding, once again amazing Taj Mahal_I Love India."
Mukesh Gehalot, India
"I am an Indian/Australian. Visited Taj Mahal some 10-years ago with family. Your this 3D version and music, wonderful music, revived my memory. Thank you very much."
Gustad Kadwa, Australia
"My partner and I stumbled over here from a different web page and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so now i'm following you. Look forward to checking out your web page repeatedly."
Michel Pugh, Gambia
"my dream has been fulfilled i have never been to india but after looking at this i am in heavenly bliss , it is breathtaking, full of divinity, thank you"
laleta singh, Trinidad and Tobago
"This structure is inspired by the art of Iranian & Islamic architecture. And is very beautiful"
mahbod parsi, Iran
""Excellent effort to give an opportunity to experience this wonderful beauty and creation sitting at home. My heartfelt thanks and gratitude"
Benugopal khamrai, India
"Heartfelt thanks to your team for keeping us awake to know what great love and what magnificent monument and surroundings really means.
The way your team has portrait the beauty is far more than excellence.
zoher siraj, Malaysia
"Amazing and one of the beautiful memory by any one"
Vijay Pandit, India
"Amazing and beautiful in the whole world"
Vijay Pandit, India
"Excellent effort to give an opportunity to experience this wonderful beauty and creation sitting at home. My heartfelt thanks and gratitude. Subrato Ghosh. Kolkata. INDIA."
SUBRATO GHOSH, India
"EXCELLENT EFFORT GIVING OPPORTUNITY TO EXPERIENCE THIS WONDERFUL BEAUTY AND CREATION SEATING AT HOME."
SUBRATO GHOSH, India
""So amazingly the TajMahal and its surroundings has been mopped up into these photographs and videos. Gorgeous work guys. Thanks a lot!!!""
Dipak Munsaf, USA
So Nice...Thank you,thank you"
Nurettin yilmaz, Turkey
"Excellent work, and as being Indian I know how difficult to get this sort of permit, and u did it, great...., on the contrary Indian govt. should thank you for increasing tourism. ( frankly I am travel agent, and looking at my benefit in this)"
Rajiv Shah, India
"I was ill when i visited Agra back in 1994 and never had the chance to visit again. However, I feel I will not regret if I never am able to go again as your amazing, wonderful, beautiful and breath taking photography tour has shown me much much more than I would have probably see myself. Thank you for this"
Amrit Bhogal, United Kingdom
Varvara, AirPano: You are welcome! We appreciate your attention.
"That is just great. Nobody woild have seen such a great veiw Of TAJ MAHAL!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Benny George, Australia
"Excellent, any one can enjoy world tour, Well done job. keep it up....Thanks"
Yash Paul Malhotra, Canada
"Wow...its great....very amazing.....wonderful...awesome...."
pranab karmokar, India
"I grew up India - lived in Agra one year and saw the Taj on a school trip -- but the it was surreal to see it by moonlight on my return from canada-- almost like a genie holding a magic castle afloat in the river mist- your photos should be seen and its history made known - mans ability and his neglect
teh two powers awesome capture"
Mehrangees chang, South Africa
"It's absolutely stunning and very delightful to see such beautiful photography.
I've been to Agra to see The Taj Mahal twice and I'm an ardent admirer of it's beauty but it looks more beautiful through your lens. Thanks for showing us it's true beauty.....!!!
Hats off to all your team and best of luck for your future projects.
Arun Sharma, India
"Thank you very much. Very Very Very Very Beautiful images. It is very nice place and photography."
G.V.A.N. VARMA, India
"Great efforts and very good job."
Pradeep Mhatre, India
"I visited the Taj Mahal in 2002 along with nine Indian friends,we had travelled down from Delhi.At the enterance gate the price of admission was 20 rupee for an Indian,so together all my friends paid a total of 180 rupee,but when it came to my turn the price of admission was 540 rupee,which to a traveller on a budget seemed like a penalty,although in retrospect was worth every paisa,magnificant structure."
sean lucey, Ireland
"MAGNIFICENT. I DONT THINK ANY BODY CAN BUILD A MONUMENT LIKE THE TAJ FOR LOVE. SIMPLY SUPERB PHOTOGRAPHS."
ZOHER TAHERBHAI, Bahrain
""Thank you, Anna, AirPano, to visit Taj Mahal, India and take such wonderful aerial photos. One can't comprehend the beauty of this marvel from ground unless you see from above. Thank you for sharing with all of us, it's priceless.......""
Bimal Modi, USA
"Congratulations for your wonderful job .... Airpano.....Now I don't feel the desperate need of visiting after seeing so much, even from the sky !!! And please, keep on working in these kind of awesome and outstanding projects."
Somashekar GS, India
"I've seen Taj Mahal many times but never as beautiful as this, feel touched, blessed what can I say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder !! Thank you for showing how you saw and to the one and only who shared it with me.I equally loved the hilarious story of how impossible it was, only Russians can do it! Hurray!!!!!!!!"
Amnah Khalid, Malaysia
Varvara, AirPano: Thanks for the recognition of our efforts!
"Amazing Work !!
Reminded me of my trip and close-proximity watch back in the Taj Mahal. Thanks."
Ganesh S, India
"It appeared whole cosmos has descended on Taj Mahal. GREAT ! SPECTACULAR !
dilip kumar biswas, India
"Really fantastic. hats off to you for doing this. I am going to share this to my freinds!!!!!!"
"First time I see photos that do justice with this amazing place. Thanks and please add more sites from India....."
Yaelah Gal, Israel
"Its my dream comes true. Since I am not able to visit the monuments of our Country. I feel very lucky that I am able to view Taj Mahal in a very fantastic way. I feel that I will not able to view such a beauty even by my eye, which you had presented. Thanks"
Jatin Jhaveri, India
"Really, Gr8 work."
Ranjit Singh, Slovakia
"bind blowing wat to say... felt like i am looking closing.. had a touch and look feeling"
KALPANA YOGESWARAN, India
"One of the best video / photographs that I have seen and thanks for sharing with the world. So awesome.... and keep up the best work.
H Stephen Prasad."
H Stephen Prasad, Canada
"My heartfelt thanks to AirPano for a masterpiece of photography"
Salil Ray, Canada
"A beautiful piece of work. Congratulations. I also love the music. Could you tell us the name of the band so we can find them and perhaps hear more of their music?
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David Baker, Canada
Varvara, AirPano: Thank you for your comment. David, there are control buttons in the left bottm corner of a pano. Put your mouse over the "sound" button or the "change melody" button and you will see the title of the melody and its author.
"Awesome snaps, Indian's Golden place for love..."
Vishal Bakraniya, India
"No Doubt TajMahal is the wonder of the world for its Architecture and Beauty, But you'll have captured and enhanced the beauty to its extreme,Keep up the awesome work."
Deepak Kapoor, India
"Exellent professionalism delivered & Awesome !!"
Philip MC, India
"I have No words to write & Explain."
Vijay Wagh, India
"This is absolutely mesmarising.It was my long time aspiration to go to agra and see this monumental piece of art.But i think i just realised it.Thank you for providing such stunning images of arguably the most beautiful structure ever built.... Kudos to the effort you people took to realise this."
Arun Thampi, India
"♥♥♥...i love Taj Mahal so much...♥♥♥"
"""Beautiful PHOTOGRAPHY. I will see this again and again. TAJMAHAL is my LOVE. Please continue this great work."""
elizha anbhu, India
"Why have you not published my comments which I emailed to you a few days ago!? Hasan. 11.7.2012."
hasan Moolla, Canada