Taj Mahal, often called Tadj Mahall, is a mausoleum complex in Agra, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, in the west. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahn (reigned 1628–1588) erected the Taj Mahal to honor his wife Mumtaz Mahal, also known as “Chosen One of the Palace,” who passed away in childbirth in 1631 after being the emperor’s constant companion since their marriage in 1612. It is located in the eastern section of the city on the southern (right) bank of the Yamuna (Jumna) River and is arguably the most well-known and recognizable structure in all of India. Agra Fort (Red Fort), which is situated on the right bank of the Yamuna, is approximately one mile (1.6 km) to the west of the Taj Mahal.
With its harmonious proportions and seamless incorporation of decorative elements, the Taj Mahal is regarded as the best example of Mughal architecture, a synthesis of Indian, Persian, and Islamic traditions. Beautiful gardens, a museum, and twin mosque buildings that are symmetrically placed on either side of the mausoleum are among the other features.
The Taj Mahal, one of the most exquisite architectural designs in the world and one of the most recognizable landmarks, attracts millions of people every year. In 1983, the complex received the UNESCO World Heritage designation.
- History of construction
The complex’s blueprints have been credited to a number of historical architects, although the principal designer was most likely the Indian of Persian heritage Ustad Amad Lahawr. The main gateway, garden, mosque, jawb (literally, “answer,” a building that mirrors the mosque), and mausoleum (including its four minarets)—the five main components of the complex—were conceived and designed as a single, cohesive unit in accordance with the rules of Mughal building practice, which forbade any later additions or alterations.
Construction started about 1632. The mausoleum itself took more than 20,000 laborers from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe to complete by around 1638–1639; the auxiliary structures were done by 1643, and decorating work lasted at least until 1647. The 42-acre (17-hectare) facility was constructed over the course of 22 years.
A tradition holds that Shah Jahan had intended to build a second mausoleum across the river to house his own remains. The structure would have been made of black marble and would have had a bridge connecting it to the Taj Mahal. He spent the rest of his life at Agra Fort after being ousted by his son Aurangzeb in 1658.
- Plan and structure
The mausoleum proper, which is made of white marble and stands in the center of a broad platform 23 feet (7 meters) high, reflects different colors depending on whether it is lit by moonlight or sunshine. It comprises four essentially identical facades, each of which has a large central arch that rises to 108 feet (33 meters) at its apex and chamfered (slanted) corners that incorporate smaller arches. Four smaller domes surround the grand central dome, which rises to a height of 240 feet (73 meters) at the tip of its finial. The main dome’s acoustics cause a flute’s single sound to resonate five times. The mausoleum’s interior is laid out around an octagonal marble chamber with low-relief carvings and semiprecious stones as decorations (pietra dura). The cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are located there. A screen made of marble filigree that has been expertly crafted surrounds those fake tombs. The actual sarcophagi are located below the tombs, at garden level. At each of the four corners of the square plinth, graceful minarets stand gracefully away from the main structure.
The mosque, which faces east, and its jawb, which faces west and offers artistic balance, flank the mausoleum towards the northwestern and northeastern borders of the garden, respectively. They contrast in both color and texture with the white marble of the tomb and are constructed of red Sikri sandstone with marble-necked domes and architraves.