History of the Taj Mahal
The Taj is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, that was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the grandson of Emperor Akbar, in the memory of his deceased queen Arjumand Banu Begum, who was more popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal who was also the niece of empress Nur Jahan.
Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631, during the birth of her fourteenth child at Burhanpur. It is a known fact that her mortal remains were temporarily buried in the Zainabad garden and six months later, her remains were brought to Agra to be finally enshrined in the Taj Mahal. Soon after the completion of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan was deposed and put under house arrest at the nearby Agra Fort, by his own son Aurangzeb. It is said that Shah Jahan spent his last days gazing at the Taj Mahal. After Shah Jahan's death, Aurangzeb buried him next to his wife.
The land where the Taj stands, belonged to the Kachhwahas of Ajmer (Rajasthan) but was acquired from them in lieu of four havelis, as testified by a court historian, Abdul Hamid Lahauri in his book Badshah-Namah and the firmans (royal decrees). During the construction, a network of wells was laid along the river. Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and all other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and from Central Asia and Iran. The Taj Mahal architecture and designing exemplify strong traditions of Persian and early Mughal architecture.
Another fascinating aspect of the construction of the Taj Mahal was the fact that finest raw materials be it the marble or the stones, were obtained from distant countries across the world. The bricks for internal construction were prepared in the vicinity and the fine white marble used in intricate veneering was obtained from Makrana in Rajasthan. Twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were used to embed into the white marble to create the majestic and beautiful work of art. The jasper was brought from Punjab; jade and crystal were from China, the turquoise was from Tibet, the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. Also, red sandstone was obtained from the neighboring mines of Sikri and Dholpur. It took as many as seventeen years to complete the construction of the Taj and the masterpiece was finally ready in 1648.
Taj Mahal Facts
The Taj is not a single piece of architecture, but an entire complex consisting of a rectangular plot measuring 1,902 feet x 1,002 feet on each side and bounded on north and south by two oblong sections. The cynosure is a white marble tomb that stands on a square platform consisting of a symmetrical building with an iwan (vaulted hall), an arch-shaped doorway, and a large dome at the pinnacle. The base structure on the Taj Mahal is a large, cube with chamfered edges. The entire design of the Taj Mahal is completely symmetrical with four minarets, at each corner of the plinth surrounding the tomb. The main chamber of Taj Mahal houses the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan while their graves are located on lower level. Red sandstone mosque on the western, and Mehman-Khana on the eastern side of the tomb creates a beautiful color contrast that is simply a pleasure to look at. The Taj Mahal showcases exquisite specimens of polychrome inlay art both in the interior and exterior, which is finely crafted to perfection.
At the southern point of the complex lies the forecourt with the main gate in front. It also houses the tombs of two other queens of Shah Jahan, which are Akbarabadi Begum and Fatehpuri Begum. The south-east and south-west corners are respectively called Saheli Burj one and two. The complex is set around a 300 meter square garden called the Charbagh garden. The garden is called so since it is divided into four equal sections by pathways. These four sections of the garden are further subdivided by raised pathways into sixteen sunken flowerbeds, which makes for a beautiful view. There is a marble water tank at the center of the garden with a reflecting pool on North-South axis that mirrors the beautiful image of the Taj Mahal.
One of the Seven Wonders of the World
In 1983, The Taj Mahal was given recognition as a UNESCO World heritage site and hence was universally acknowledged as one of the best heritage sites throughout the world. Although there have been several listings for Seven Wonders of the World, or Recommended travel destinations. The Taj Mahal also featured in the recently announced New Seven Wonders of the World, through a recent poll where it is supposed to have fetched as many as 100 million votes. Around three million tourists visit the Taj every year, making it the most admired tourist destination in India. Although tourists flood the Taj every time of the year, majority of the tourists prefer to visit during October, November and February when the weather is relatively cooler and hence more pleasant as well.
Taj Mahal TriviaUstad Ahmad Lahouri was the chief designer of the Taj Mahal
The calligraphy found in Taj Mahal is written in the florid thuluth script which was created by a Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan who signed several of the panels.
The sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal have calligraphic inscriptions of ninety-nine names of God.
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.
During the Indian uprising of 1857, Taj Mahal faced defacement by the British who plucked out precious stones from its walls.
In the 19th century the British viceroy Lord Curzon, declared a restoration project for Taj Mahal, which was completed by 1908. The British remodeling of the garden is still evident in the lawn styling.
Night viewing of Taj Mahal has been allowed from 28th November 2004 for five nights in a month (which includes the Full Moon night and two days before and after) except Fridays and the month of Ramzan.
If you want to visit the Taj Mahal with your loved one, I recommend you visit it on a full moon night when it is opened for night viewing. The beauty of the serene white structure bathed in the magical moon light, will be a memory that you will cherish forever, but don't get me wrong, the Taj will sweep you off your feet any time you visit it. This monument will entice you with its gold finials and intricate carvings on pristine marble, it will overwhelm you with the surrounding beauty of flowers and greenery but most of all it will take you into the depths of a historical journey, it will be an experience that you will carry in your heart, forever.