The architectural wonder of India, the Taj Mahal in Agra, is considered the “Jewel of Muslim Art in India”. The story of the building of this magnificent structure goes back to the early 1600s, during the Mughal Empire Period. The Emperor Shah Jahan, led India through its architectural Golden Age. Shah Jahan built many monuments during his reign, all of them exquisite and breath-taking. He was titled as “The Builder of Marvels.” His most famous work of art is the Taj Mahal, a tomb for Jahan and his Wife.
A Great Love
Shah Jahan had three wives, but was forever devoted and thoroughly in love with his first wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She traveled with him frequently, and was equally devoted to him. She had 14 children, but died while giving birth to her last child. Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal out of grief, love and devotion for Mumtaz Mahal.
For the task of designing the structure, Shah Jahan employed architects from all over the world to create the tribute to his great love. Several artists, stonecutters, brick-layers, and 20,000 laborers from India, Persia, and throughout Asia were employed during the 22 year construction of the Taj Mahal. A thousand elephants were utilized to move the large pieces of white marble.
The marble was brought to Agra from China, Tibet, Afghanistan, and Arabia, and cut and fashioned onsite to build the monument. Calligraphers inscribed marble with holy passages from the Quran, the 99 names of God, and welcoming messages for all visitors. There has been a rumor that Shah Jahan cut off workers’ hands so they could not repeat the building process.
The structure was completed in 1653. The grounds of the Taj Mahal include a beautiful reflecting pool and walkway that guides visitors to the entrance of the famous structure. The Paradise Garden is a beautiful manicured garden with fountains and trees, though it was likely more elaborate in the 1650s. There are other decorated buildings on the property, including a gateway building, a mosque, a mausoleum for Shah Jahan’s other wives, and a mausoleum dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal’s favorite servant. Shah Jahan was laid to rest next to his wife in 1666.
Throughout history, the building has gone through many renovations. The earliest was in 1908, when British Viceroy Lord Curzon headed an intricate resurfacing and detailing to try to replace the missing lapis lazuli, turquoise, and sapphire stones that were inlayed in the walls. It sustained a lot of damage during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
During World War II and the Indian-Pakistan Wars of 1965 and 1971, the Indian government erected huge protective scaffolding to attempt to shield the Taj Mahal from possible air attacks. Several resurfacing jobs and cleaning have taken place in the last century, but the marble is turning brown. From far away and in photos, the Taj Mahal still appears glistening white. When close, it is obvious that centuries of air pollution and decay has caused the white marble to lose its luster. Visiting tours are not allowed to bring automobiles near the structure in hopes that keeping the car exhaust away will help maintain the old-world marble.
Today, the historic Taj Mahal is probably the most famous structure in India. The story of the Taj Mahal inspires tourists to travel from all over the world to experience it. They come to visit the translucent white monument, with its rounded, elegant domes and hand-cut stone decorations. The Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and is amazing to see, both inside and out.