The wonder that is the Taj Mahal

The mystery of the Taj MahalThere are few buildings which have the presence and the striking beauty of the Taj Mahal which is located in Agra, India. Such is the beauty of the Taj Mahal is was deemed to be one of the few world Heritage sites and is considered by many to be one of the “wonders of the world”. What do you know about the Taj Mahal?

There are many myths and rumours about the inner workings of the Taj Mahal, what it means, who built it and how long it actually took. It is easy to see why the Taj Mahal attracts so much attention as this massive building can be seen from miles around and each and every turn in the building tells a different story.

Why was the Taj Mahal built?

History has it that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan ordered the building of the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who is said to have died in June 1631. Born in 1593 she married the Prince Khurram in May 1612 who later became Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Legend has it that Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to their 14th child after a number of complications.

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was said to be devastated after her death and decided upon a monumental mausoleum to ensure that memory lived on forever.

The location of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, India which is a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh which is on the banks of the Yamuna river – something which was to prove vital in the building of this massive project. The city itself is famous for an array of Mughal style buildings and is said to have been the centre of the region for the many Mughal emperors between 1526 and 1658. The city itself has a population of 1.4 million people with a subtropical climate where even the winters are “warm” during the day but freezing at night time.

The building of the Taj Mahal

Work on the Taj Mahal is said to have started in 1631 although it was not finished until 1653 at a cost of 35 million rupees (even in those days!). However, it is worth noting that the central tomb was actually finished in 1643 and it took a further 10 years to complete the outer buildings and garden areas.

Legend has it that a parcel of land on which the Taj Mahal is built was given to Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in exchange for a large palace in the centre of Agra. Early work at the site included the excavation of nearly 3 acres of land which was filled with dirt to reduce any potential seepage – the land was then built back up to a height of 50 m above the riverbank level. Such was the size of the project that the scaffolding which was used by the workers would normally have taken years to dismantle but local legend has it that the Emperor informed the local peasants that they could retain any bricks from the scaffolding and it was said to have been dismantled overnight!

The building itself is built using white marble which was dragged to the venue via a 15 km ramp which was built by the 20,000 strong workforce. There were a number of specially designed wagons to transport the white marble and an elaborate and complex set of pulley systems to raise these heavyweight blocks into place.

As with all the legends from centuries ago there is some debate as to when different sections of the Taj Mahal were completed as it appears that work stopped at various stages of the project. As we suggested above it is rumoured that 32 million rupees were spent on the project which if converted into dollars today would be in the trillions!

The design of the Taj Mahal

The focal point of the Taj Mahal is the white marble tomb of the Emperor’s wife which is located on a square plinth surrounded by a symmetrical building, an arch shaped doorway and a large dome which is visible from outside. On entrance to the Taj Mahal there are many passages, chambers and secrets which have attracted a number of theories and questions. The striking symmetry associated with the inner tomb is very impressive when you consider this was the 16th century at the time when the equipment we use today had never even been thought of.

The exterior of the Taj Mahal is littered with passages carved into the many stones and again these have attracted a number of legends, rumours and suspicion. In direct contradiction to the main tomb chamber, where culture forbids the extensive decoration of the area, the exterior of the Taj Mahal is a legend in itself and is complemented by a number of additional buildings and tombs constructed of red sandstone but much smaller than the showpiece for the Emperor’s wife.

The extensive gardens around the Taj Mahal are perfectly split into symmetrical shapes and areas of natural beauty. Even when the tomb and central building of the Taj Mahal was completed it is said to have taken years to finish off the gardens and outer buildings which compliment the centrepiece.

Myths about the Taj Mahal

It is rumoured that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan ordered that all who assisted in the building of the Taj Mahal had their hands chopped off so that they were unable to build anything remotely similar in the future.

Legend has it that the Emperor had planned to build a black marble tomb for himself but shortly after the Taj Mahal was completed he was over-thrown by his son and placed under house arrest.

Initially the outer layer of the Taj Mahal was embedded with precious gems and stones which over the years were looted by those in the area.

The Emperor’s wife was placed in a perfect position within the tomb facing Mecca as the religion denotes.

Rumour has it that over 1000 elephants were used during the transportation of the white marble from the neighbouring Nagaur district.

The central dome of the Taj Mahal is nearly 200 feet in height and the main entrance gate is 151 feet x 117 feet and rises to an overall height of 100 feet.

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