Taj Mahal history
The story behind Taj Mahal started when the Mughal emperor to be, Shan Jahan, met a Persian nobles daughter, Arjumand Banu. They quickly fell in love and married five years later.
By then, Shan Jahan already had two wives, but Arjumand would become his favorite wife. When Shan Jahan became the emperor in 1628, he bestowed her with the title “Mumtaz Mahal” – meaning “Jewel of the Temple”.
Death of the Jewel
When Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to their 14th child, in 1631, Shan Jahan was devastated. Some say ”The Taj” – as it is sometimes referred as – was built as a last request from his wife. Others say it was simply a way to honor her. Either way, Shan Jahan gave the order to build what would be one of the most magnificent tombs ever – one certainly worthy of his very own “Jewel of the Temple”.
One year after the death of his beloved wife, the construction of the Taj Mahal began. The name Taj Mahal further shows the emperors dedicating and love for his lost wife. “Taj” is a Hindu origin and means “crown” while “Mahal” refers to the title he bestowed his wife. Thus, “Taj Mahal” translates to “The Crown of Mahal”, which is certainly a fitting name.
The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia and over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials. The work force was made up of over 20.000 men and Shan Jahan had the best sculptors, calligraphers and stonecutters from all over asia and the middle east recruited in order to build the Taj Mahal.
The main building was completed 26 years later, in 1648, and the whole building complex as such 1953.
Why visit Taj Mahal ?
The Taj Mahal is without a doubt the most iconic site in India. The building, with its white shining marble, is actually one of the most iconic destinations in the world. The Taj Mahal has been voted into “the seven wonders of the world”-list and is visited by millions of people each year.
The Taj complex
While many think Taj Mahal refers to the white marble mausoleum, Taj Mahal is actually the whole structural complex. The whole complex as such has a lot to offer. In order to enter the Taj Mahal one passes through the gateway building which leads into the garden.
The raised marble water tank between the gatehouse and the mausoleum is called “al Hawd al-Kawthar”, in reference to the “Tank of Abundance” promised to Muhammad – Prophet of Islam.In addition to the mausoleum, Taj Mahal is made up of a mosque to the west and a mimic building to the east. The eastern buildings purpose was to provide architectural balance or possibly serve as a guesthouse. Surrounding the main mausoleum stands four minarets.
These were used in traditional mosques to call Islamic faithful to prayer. While these towers were designed as working minarets, they further display the designer’s desire for perfect symmetry.
The Taj Mahal architecture combines styles from Persian, Indian and Islamic designs. It is by many seen as the crown jewel of Muslim art in India. The dome, which has gotten the nickname “the onion dome” due to its looks, stands 35 meters tall. The dome is crowned by a bronze finial with Persian and Hindu decorative elements.The calligraphy and the other decorative elements found on the outside of the main building are some of the finest one can find. Much of the on the building are composed of varieties of Islamic calligraphy scripts, made of jasper or black marble, inlaid in white marble panels.
The writings often have influence form or are taken directly from passages in the Qur’an. The calligraphy on the Great Gate reads “O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you.”
Today, both Shan Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal rest inside the main building of Taj Mahal. One might think their sarcophagi are the ones located in the main chamber, but these are actually false graves.
Their real sarcophagi lie next to each other beneath the inner chamber with their faces turned right and towards Mecca. Due to Muslim tradition forbidding elaborate decoration of graves, their graves are relatively plain and simple, in contrast to the tomb building surrounding them.
Taj Mahal location
The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, India. Agra is a historic town in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Agra was previously the capital of the Mughal Empire.
The closest route to Taj Mahal from afar is by airplane to Agra Airport, located about 12.5 km from city center. The region has a good road and railroad system. However, polluting vehicles are not allowed near Taj Mahal, so one needs to take an electric car or a carriage if one wants to get to Taj Mahal right away.
For the exact location of Taj Mahal, check out the Location Map to the right.