Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan. The golden emperor of the Mughal Dynasty built this tomb as his depiction of love for his favourite queen, Mumtaj Mahal. Mumtaj Mahal was the third wife of Shah Jahan. The construction of the mausoleum was commissioned in the year 1631, the same year Mumtaj died. The construction of the building was completed in the year 1648, however it took another five years to finish the gardens and outlying buildings.
The mausoleum is situated on the right bank of river Yamuna in the Agra district of Uttar Pradesh in India. It covers approximately 17 hectares of land. Other than the main building and the main gateway, there are 2 mosques, a guest house, a courtyard (and its corridor), a fountain in the centre and huge gardens. For the construction of the monument, about 20,000 workers were recruited. Other than the workers, there was a creative unit of 37 men comprising of masons, stone-cutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome builders and other artisans. These men were recruited not only from India, but from Persia, Syria, Bukhara and Baluchistan as well. Ustad Ahmad Lahori being the main architect.
The land on which Taj Mahal is built, was initially owned by Maharajah Jai Singh. Maharajah Jai Singh was given a large palace in the centre of Agra for the land.
This Indo-Islamic architecture is considered to be the greatest achievement of all Indo-Islamic architectures. The monument is built by shimmering while marbles that seems to be changing color with day light. The combination of lush green, red corridors and blue sky too affect the change in reflection. The white translucent marble was inlaid by 28 different types of precious and semi-precious stone.
Shah Jahan intended to build another mausoleum for his own remains after his death. The second complex was to be built across the Yamuna river from Taj Mahal. The two complexes were to be connected by a bridge. Only if he was not be sacked from power by his son Aurangzeb in 1658 and put under house arrest at Agra Fort for the rest of his life.
Architecture, Construction and Design
It took a good 22 years to complete the construction of the mausoleum; of which 12 years were spent on the completion of plinth and the tomb. The remaining parts of the project being minarets, mosque & jawab, and gateway were completed in another 10 years. The main building was completed in the year 1648, but the whole project took another 5 years for completion.
Workers used colossal brick scaffolding instead of bamboo. The idea behind this was to mirror the tomb and the scaffolding came out to be so extensive that the workers estimated it will take years to dismantle it. But Shah Jahan on the other hand announced that anyone can keep the bricks dismantled from the scaffold, leading it to dismantle the scaffold overnight.
Material used for construction was brought from all over the India and Asia.
|White Marble||Makrana, Rajasthan|
|Jade & Crystal||China|
The design of the mausoleum was inspired by Persian and Mughal architectural traditions. While the other Mughal buildings were constructed using red sandstone, Shah Jahan promoted usage of white translucent marble with precious and semi-precious stones inlaid in it for the tomb.
The height of the tomb is 240ft. It is surrounded by four smaller domes (slender towers) at the four chamfered corners, making it an eight sided structure. All the four sides of the iwan has a carved vaulted archway and two similar shaped smaller arched balconies on either side. These smaller arches are also carved on the chamfered corners of the building to complete the symmetry. The four minarets are placed at the chamfered corners of the building. These minarets are 40m tall.
The top of dome is decorated with a lotus to make the height and design of the tomb more prominent. The dome is also accentuated by the four smaller dome shaped chattris placed at the corners. The dome and chattris have finials on top giving them a sense of Persian and Hindu elements. Even the top of the minarets are sculpted with similar dome shaped chattris.
Inside the mausoleum, there is an octagon shaped chamber which houses the cenotaph of Mumtaj Mahal, but the real tomb is laid at the lower level. The mausoleum has crenellated walls on three side, made of red sandstone. The river side is open. Outside the walls, there are a few more mausoleums of Shah Jahan’s other wives and Mumtaj’s favourite servant. The two sides of the tomb, at distance there are identical grand red sandstone buildings facing the sides of the tomb.
There’s a mosque on the west side of the complex, along with a guest house (jawab). At the entrance, verses from Quran are inscribed on the arch.
Taj Mahal Facts:
- Shah Jahan (1592-1666) was the fifth emperor of Mughal Dynasty. He reigned supreme from 1628-1658.
- Mumtaj Mahal died giving birth to their 14th offspring.
- The mausoleum also has the cenotaphs of both Shah Jahan and Mumtaj Mahal.
- It took an estimated cost of 32 million Rupees to built the whole complex.
- More than 7million tourists visit the mausoleum every year.
- Declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983.
- Winner of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
- Threats, Myths and Controversies too, have surround the mausoleum in past and in present.
- Foreign dignitaries such as Dwight Eisenhower, Jacqueline Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, George Harrison, Barack and Michelle Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Vladimir Putin, Princess Diana and Donald Trump have visited Taj Mahal.
- British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered the first restoration project of the monument. He also commissioned a lamp to be placed in the interior chamber, designed like one in a Cairo mosque.
- The lawns were remodelled in British style during the British rule in India.