The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his queen Arjumand Bano Begum, better known as ‘Mumtaz Mahal’. Begun in 1632 AD, it was completed in 1642. 20,000 men were employed for 22 years to complete it. The Taj Mahal is the mausoleum of both Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan.
Why should I be aware of this?
- Taj Mahal is one of the masterpieces of Mughal architecture and splendour.
- It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983.
- It is a visible evidence of the devastation caused by pollution.
All about the Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal, the pinnacle of Mughal architecture, was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658). Shah Jahan was the grandson of Akbar the great.
Though the Taj Mahal is considered to be the zenith of Mughal architecture, the identity of its architect remains a mystery, in part perhaps because Shah Jahan seems to have played such an active role in its design. A seventeenth century manuscript claims that Ustad Ahmad was the architect of both the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort at Delhi.
Tah Mahal is located on the right bank of the river Yamuna. Originally, the land where the Taj Mahal presently stands belonged to the Kachhwahas of Ajmer (Rajasthan). The land was acquired from them in lieu of four havelis as is testified by a court historian.
For construction, a network of wells was laid along the river line to support the huge mausoleum buildings. Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran. While bricks for internal constructions were locally prepared, white marble for external use in veneering work was obtained from Makrana in Rajasthan. Semi-precious stones for inlay ornamentation were brought from distant regions of India, Ceylon and Afghanistan. Red sandstone of different tints was requisitioned from the neighbouring quarries of Sikri, Dholpur, etc. It took 17 years for the monument complex to be completed in 1648.
The monument sums up many of the formal themes that have played through Islamic architecture. Its refined elegance is a conspicuous contrast both to the Hindu architecture of pre-Islamic India, with its thick walls, corbeled arches, and heavy lintels, and to the Indo-Islamic styles, in which Hindu elements are combined with an eclectic assortment of motifs from Persian and Turkish sources
The interior of the building is dimly lit through pierced marble lattices and contains a virtuoso display of carved marble. Externally the building gains an ethereal quality from its marble facings, which respond with extraordinary subtlety to changing light and weather.
Taj Mahal and the environment
Environmental pollution spurred by industry and automobiles has long been observed to be progressively destroying the Taj Mahal's white marble surface. It is estimated that the area around the Taj contains five times the amount of suspended particles (such as sulfur dioxide) that the Taj Mahal could handle without sustaining everlasting damage.
- Many say that opposite the Taj Mahal, a similar monument was supposed to be built in black marble. There is however, no documented proof about it.
- One of the popular myths about the Taj Mahal is that it is sinking towards the riverside.
- It has been said that the Taj Mahal was deliberately made asymmetrical, by the Emperor Aurangzeb.
- There is a popular myth that Taj Mahal was once a Hindu palace, constructed by a Rajput king.
- Another myth states that a Shiva temple was taken over by Shah Jahan and remodeled as the Taj Mahal.
- There is a myth that Lord William Bentinck, governor of India in the 1830s, planned to demolish the Taj Mahal and auction off the marble.
- It is popularly believed that numerous articles are alleged to be stolen from The Taj. However, only a few of them have been proved to be really existed and stolen.
- People say that Shah Jahan mutilated the architects and sculptors, who built the Taj Mahal, after its completion. There is no historical evidence of this.
- There are supposed to be a third set of graves inside the Taj Mahal, which have not been discovered till date.