Mughal Majesty: Unraveling the enchanting story of the Taj Mahal

Posted on 3 August 2023 By Tsoku Maela

The Taj Mahal, also known as the “Crown of Palaces,” stands as an ivory-white marble mausoleum situated on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in the Indian city of Agra. Recognized for its splendour and significance, it was rightfully declared one of the winners of the New7Wonders of the World initiative in 2007.

The Taj Mahal (more often meaning Crown of the Palace) is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. Picture: Getty Images

Commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632, the Taj Mahal was intended to serve as the final resting place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The centrepiece of a sprawling 42-acre complex, the mausoleum is flanked by a mosque and a guest house, all enveloped by formal gardens bordered by a crenellated wall.

Construction of the mausoleum reached its primary completion in 1643, although additional work on various aspects of the project continued for another decade. The entire Taj Mahal complex was believed to have reached its completion in 1653, with a total estimated cost of around 32 million rupees at that time, equivalent to approximately 52.8 billion rupees in 2015. Overseeing a team of around 20,000 skilled artisans, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the court architect to the emperor, played a crucial role in bringing this grand vision to life.

In recognition of its cultural and architectural significance, the Taj Mahal earned the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1983. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore eloquently described it as “the tear-drop on the cheek of time,” solidifying its position as an emblem of India’s rich history and a prime example of Mughal architecture. Each year, the Taj Mahal draws a staggering 7 to 8 million visitors from across the globe, leaving them in awe of its unparalleled beauty and captivating history.

Let’s delve into some captivating facts that make this temple an awe-inspiring masterpiece of architectural history.

A symbol of love

The Taj Mahal was conceived by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as an enduring tribute to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Tragically, Mumtaz Mahal passed away during childbirth in 1631. The emperor’s profound love for his departed wife led him to construct this marble tomb, which stands as a testament to his devotion. The construction commenced in 1632 and culminated in 1648, while additional details, including a mosque, guesthouse, and southern gateway, were added in 1653.

Mughal architecture

The Taj Mahal represents the pinnacle of architectural achievements during the Mughal Empire. Designed by the Indian architect Ustad-Ahmad Lahori, the mausoleum is a superb blend of Indo-Islamic sepulchral architecture. Lahori meticulously crafted a harmonious interplay between solids and voids throughout the building’s interior and exterior. Distinctive arches, curves, and elegant bulbous domes gracefully ascend toward the heavens, epitomizing the Mughal era’s artistic excellence.

The symmetrical layout of the building and its surroundings exudes a sense of tranquillity, creating an ideal resting place for a queen. Its captivating beauty has rendered the Taj Mahal an enduring symbol of a prosperous empire that has transcended through the ages.

A monument crafted by thousands

The creation of the Taj Mahal required the collective efforts of around 20,000 dedicated workers. Among them were skilled masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, and dome builders. These artisans worked tirelessly, utilizing materials sourced from various parts of India and Asia, some of which were transported by majestic elephants across the land. It took this vast team approximately 22 years to complete the Taj Mahal, at a cost of 32 million rupees (around US $827 million).

Ornate details

The Taj Mahal boasts a wealth of intricate and exquisite details. One of the most remarkable features is the elaborate lattice screens and structures, known as “jaali,” adorning both the interior and exterior of the mausoleum. These ornate perforated screens not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also ensure proper ventilation, preventing overheating. Sunlight filtering through these delicate screens creates a mesmerizing interplay of light and shadows.

The Indo-Islamic style is evident in the distinct circular patterns of the jaali. Additionally, the Taj Mahal showcases captivating curling patterns and intricate calligraphy, presented in paint, stucco, stone inlay, or carvings.

Extensive Grounds

Occupying a vast expanse of 42 acres, the Taj Mahal is surrounded by meticulously designed grounds that harmoniously complement the complex of buildings. The grounds feature a mosque and a guest house constructed in red sandstone, adding to the splendour of the surroundings. The geometric gardens, lined with majestic trees, are meticulously arranged, while a serene, rectangular pool reflects the grand exterior of the mausoleum, invoking a sense of spiritual and celestial contemplation.


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