The Taj Mahal of Agra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This ‘epitome of love’ is a magnificent creation built in the memory of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
The history of Taj Mahal adds a soul to its magnificence, a true soul filled with love, loss, remorse, and love again. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan fell in love with Mumtaz Mahal at the age of 14. Five years later in the year 1612, they got married.
Mumtaz Mahal, an inseparable companion of Shah Jahan, died in 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child.
The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631. It took approximately 22 years to build it making use of the services of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants.
Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans got engaged in its construction from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran.
The monument was built entirely out of white marble, which was brought in from all over India and central Asia.
The entire Taj complex consists of five major constituents, namely Darwaza (main gateway), Bageecha (gardens), Masjid (mosque), Naqqar Khana (rest house) and Rauza (main mausoleum).
The main gateway is situated at the end of the long watercourse, bordered with Arabic calligraphy of verses from the Quran, made up of black stone and a domed central chamber.
The original door of the massive sandstone gateway was made out of solid silver.
The main tomb of Taj Mahal stands on a square platform raised 50 meter above the riverbank and was well-leveled with dirt to reduce seepage from the river.
The four minarets on each corner of this square are detached, facing the chamfered angles of the main and are deliberately kept at 137 feet to emphasize the beautiful and spherical dome that itself is 58 feet in diameter and 81 feet high.
The western side of the main tomb has the mosque and on the eastern side is the Naqqar Khana (rest/guest house), both made in red sandstone.
The two structures not only provide an architectural symmetry, but also make for an aesthetic color contrast. One can only marvel at the mosque and the rest house as despite being on the opposite ends, the two are mirror image of each other.
The Islamic style architecture of the garden has a well-defined meaning which symbolizes spirituality and according to the Holy Quran, the lush green, well watered is a symbol of Paradise in Islam. The raised pathways divide each of the four quarters into 16 flowerbeds with around 400 plants in each bed.
A shadowy burial crypt inside the Taj Mahal houses the tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan himself, who were buried there after death.
Above these tombs is the main chamber that has the false tombs and perforated marble screens used to transmit light into the burial chamber, typical of mausoleums of the Mughals.
Calligraphic inscriptions of the ninety nine names of Allah are also found on the sides of actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal.