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The Taj Mahal: History and Facts

Uttara Manohar
The Taj Mahal, a symbol of undying love, has enamored visitors for centuries with its unique history and architecture. Its beauty always has a mesmerizing effect on the onlookers. This story attempts to shed light on the fascinating history, and some interesting facts of the monument of love.

Hues of the Taj

The Taj Mahal appears pink in the morning, white during the day, golden in the evening, and shining silver in the moonlight. Interestingly, the various hues that it takes on are said to reflect the different moods of a woman.
A masterpiece in the true sense, the Taj Mahal has an aura of romance, a quality of perfect symmetry, and is one of the finest creations by man on earth. An epitome of love and beauty, an elegy in marble, enigmatic, captivating, enchanting―the list of epithets to describe the Taj Mahal seems to be never-ending.
As you walk through the beautiful garden that lies in front of the Taj and look at majestic piece of architecture, you are automatically taken to a different world, words to describe it tend to subside, and you can to nothing but admire the beauty that the Taj Mahal is.
Those who have seen this 'magic in marble' with their own eyes can speak volumes about it for hours together. However, those who haven't had a chance to see this wondrous edifice, should surely make a plan to visit the Taj in the near future. This article is about the history and facts regarding this marvelous piece of architecture that is spread on the land area of about 40 acres in Agra, India, on the right bank of the river Yamuna.

Building the Symbol of Love

The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, while a prince, fell in love with his future wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is said that it was 'love at first sight' for both of them, and they were married amidst great pomp and splendor after five years.
Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal were inseparable companions. They both were deeply in love with each other, and she even accompanied him on his military expeditions and journeys, after he became the Emperor of India.
On one military campaign in Burhanpur, Mumtaz Mahal died after giving birth to their fourteenth child, her last wish being 'to erect a monument to immortalize and depict their love'.

Shah Jahan was grief stricken and so heart broken that the entire kingdom went into mourning for two years. Yet, he was determined on building a unique and exquisite monument, the like of which was unseen and unheard of in the whole world.
Mumtaz Mahal was temporarily buried in the Zainabad garden in Burhanpur, and six months later her remains were brought to Agra to be finally entombed in the Taj Mahal, the construction of which was complete by then.
It is said that Shah Jahan wanted to build another Taj Mahal in black marble, just opposite the white one. However, soon after the completion of the Taj, Shah Jahan was deposed and put under house arrest at the nearby Agra Fort by his son Aurangazeb, thus, foiling his plans to construct the second Taj.
Shah Jahan spent his last days gazing at the Taj Mahal from the Agra Fort.
After his death, Aurangazeb buried him next to Mumtaz Mahal, in the Taj.

Facts about the Taj Mahal

- The base of the Taj Mahal is a large cube with chamfered edges, sitting on an area measuring 1,902 feet x 1,002 feet on each side. The entire design of the Taj Mahal is completely symmetrical, with four minarets (each 135 feet high) at each corner of the plinth surrounding the tomb.

- The building consists of an iwan (vaulted hall), an arched doorway, and a large dome at the pinnacle. The height of the central dome is 115 feet.
- The complex is set around a 300 square-meter garden, designed in the classic charbagh pattern of the Mughals. The garden (bagh) is divided into four (char) equal sections by pathways, which are further subdivided by raised pathways and sixteen sunken flowerbeds.
- The construction of the Taj began in 1631 and took almost 22 years to complete. The total cost of construction at that time was 32 million rupees, $1.06 billion, as of today. Ustad Ahmad Lahouri was the chief architect of the monument.

- The monument is the result of the effort and hard work of 20,000 craftsmen and about 1,000 elephants, employed to build this remarkable mausoleum.
- Twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were embedded into the white marble to create the majestic and beautiful work of art.
Jasper was brought from Punjab, jade and crystal were imported from China, turquoise came from Tibet, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while sapphire came from Sri Lanka, and carnelian from Arabia.
- The main octagonal chamber of the Taj Mahal houses the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, embellished with carvings and semi-precious stones, while their graves are located on the lower level.
- At the southern point of the complex lies the forecourt with the main gate in front. It houses the tombs of two other queens of Shah Jahan, Akbarabadi Begum and Fatehpuri Begum.

Interesting Trivia About the Taj

- The four minarets or towers around the Taj are tilted outwards. They have been designed in such a way so as to prevent them from collapsing on the main structure, in case of an earthquake, and thus, protecting it from damage.
- The calligraphy found on the walls of the Taj is written in the florid Thuluth script. The panels were calligraphed and signed by the Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan.
- The sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal have calligraphic inscriptions consisting of 99 names of Allah.

- The tomb of Shah Jahan carries an inscription that reads: He traveled from this world to the banquet hall of Eternity on the night of the twenty-sixth of the month of Rajab, in the year 1076 Hijri.
- From 28th November 2004 onwards, it has been allowed (on the orders of the Supreme Court of India) to take night-viewing tours of the Taj for five nights in a month (which includes the Full Moon night and two days before and after) except Fridays and the month of Ramadan.