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What is the Taj Mahal?

The Taj Mahal is an architectural marvel and a symbol of love, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. This ivory-white mausoleum in Agra, India, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world's most celebrated structures. Discover its captivating history and the secrets behind its timeless beauty. What mysteries might the Taj Mahal still hold? Continue reading to explore.
S. Mithra
S. Mithra

The magnificent Taj Mahal rises over the River Yamuna as a testament to an Indian emperor's everlasting devotion to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Shah Jahan built the mausoleum, mosque, and monument to honor his deceased wife with opulent décor, religious piety, and unsurpassed beauty. With its characteristic tapered dome, delicate minarets, and glowing white marble façade, the Taj Mahal has remained "the jewel of India."

The strong Mughal Empire of the 17th century melded culture of the Hindus, Muslims, and other central Asians. Shah Jahan ruled with a peaceful authority compared to previous Shahs. He felt inspired by his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, to treat his subjects with justice. Right before she died during childbirth in 1630, she made him promise to build her a grand structure to commemorate her beauty and spiritual devotion.

Calligraphic lines from the Quran are inscribed inside the Taj Mahal.
Calligraphic lines from the Quran are inscribed inside the Taj Mahal.

Beginning in 1631, the Shah collected numerous advisors, architects, calligraphers, and religious leaders to advise him on the materials and design of the great building that would be known as the Taj Mahal. It took over 20 years, 20,000 laborers, and tons of marble and sandstone to complete the national treasure in the city of Agra. This enormous enterprise took advantage of mined gemstones and precious rocks of the Indian landscape to highlight the empire's natural splendor.

The Taj Mahal was built in honor of an Indian emperor's wife.
The Taj Mahal was built in honor of an Indian emperor's wife.

The Taj Mahal itself combines decorative gardens, a Muslim mosque, and the tomb with vaulted domes and an arching gateway. The rectangular foundation, made from reddish sandstone, contrasts with the opalescent white marble facing the central dome, walls, and minarets. The Shah probably designed the structure to seemingly alter color depending on the shade of sun or moonlight hitting its surface.

The Taj Mahal is known as the "jewel of India."
The Taj Mahal is known as the "jewel of India."

Intent upon perfection, the Shah finally completed one of the architectural wonders of the world in 1648. With the river reflecting its grandiose image, the Taj Mahal perfectly joins Islamic arts, Persian aesthetics, and innovative design. It is decorated with real inlaid gemstones that glitter in the light filtering through open lattices, and calligraphic lines from the Quran are inscribed throughout.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the historical significance of the Taj Mahal?

The Taj Mahal is not only an architectural masterpiece but also a symbol of love and loss. Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, it stands as a testament to the empire's wealth and artistic achievements during the 17th century. According to UNESCO, it is recognized as a World Heritage Site and is celebrated for its intricate craftsmanship and aesthetic beauty.

Can you describe the architectural style of the Taj Mahal?

The Taj Mahal is an exquisite example of Mughal architecture, which is a blend of Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Indian architectural styles. Its most prominent feature is the large white marble dome that surmounts the tomb. The dome is framed by four smaller domes and four slender minarets. Inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones, the white marble reflects subtle changes in light, a design meant to emulate paradise as described in Islamic texts.

What are the best times to visit the Taj Mahal?

Visiting the Taj Mahal during the cooler months from November to February offers a comfortable climate for exploration. Sunrise visits provide a breathtaking view as the monument's color appears to change, while sunset and full moon visits offer unique perspectives and photographic opportunities. The Archaeological Survey of India recommends these times for the best experience.

Is there an entry fee to visit the Taj Mahal?

Yes, there is an entry fee to visit the Taj Mahal. The cost varies for domestic and international visitors, with additional charges for visiting the main mausoleum. As of my knowledge cutoff in 2023, the fee for international tourists is 1100 INR, with an additional 200 INR to enter the main mausoleum. It's advisable to check the latest fees on the official Taj Mahal website or through verified travel resources before planning your visit.

What conservation efforts are in place for the Taj Mahal?

Conservation efforts for the Taj Mahal are ongoing and multifaceted, addressing both environmental and structural concerns. The Indian government has established a 10,000 square meter 'Taj Trapezium Zone' to protect the monument from pollution. Measures such as banning coal-powered industries and restricting vehicle traffic near the site have been implemented. Additionally, regular maintenance, including cleaning and restoration work, is conducted to preserve the integrity of the marble and inlay work.

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Discussion Comments

IronAssassin

I've travelled to India, and spent two months in Mumbai and Goa; it was one the best trips of my life. My biggest regret is that I didn't make it north to see the Taj Mahal.

If I ever return to India, I certainly plan on visiting this man-made wonder. I can only image the love the Shah must have had for his wife.

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    • Calligraphic lines from the Quran are inscribed inside the Taj Mahal.
      By: Egypix
      Calligraphic lines from the Quran are inscribed inside the Taj Mahal.
    • The Taj Mahal was built in honor of an Indian emperor's wife.
      By: Andrey Khrobostov
      The Taj Mahal was built in honor of an Indian emperor's wife.
    • The Taj Mahal is known as the "jewel of India."
      By: Tupungato
      The Taj Mahal is known as the "jewel of India."