The grand Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, according to one popular legend, to remember the love he shared with his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The building has come to represent not only this love but also dynastic splendor and, as another legend tells it, the emperor’s piety and his devotion to Islam.
On January 5, 1592, Shah Jahan
Shah Jahan rebelled against his father Jahāngīr in 1623. Jahāngīr died in 1627 and was succeeded by Shah Jahan, who was proclaimed emperor on January 28, 1628, and resided in the early years of his reign inĀgra.
The inseparable Mumtaz and Shah Jahan traveled together on early military expeditions to recover lost ancestral territories. Little is known about Mumtaz except that she was of legendary beauty and the emperor loved her deeply. He entrusted her with the royal seal, and she influenced him on behalf of the needy. Although pregnant, she traveled with Shah Jahan in 1631 to fight the Lodi Empire
Construction on the mausoleum began in 1632. According to official Mughal histories, the chief architect was Ustad Ahmad Lahori
More than one thousand elephants transported building materials, including twenty-eight types of gemstones, such as lapis lazuli, turquoise, and jade, which were used for the pietra dura, or decorative floral and geometric designs, inlaid in the white marble. More than twenty thousand laborers from India, the Ottoman Empire, Persia, and Europe worked on the Taj Mahal.
There is controversy regarding the exact date of its completion. According to Abdul Hamid Lahori, Shah Jahan’s official chronicler, the Taj Mahal was completed in twelve years (1644). However, an inscription on the main gate shows a date of 1648, seventeen years after Mumtaz’s death. Yet another source, an account of travels in India by the French jewel merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier
The 42-acre Taj Mahal complex has five principal parts: the main gateway, mausoleum, mosque, garden, and jawab (a building mirroring the mosque). The redstone gateway has a main arch, flanked by two pairs of smaller arches, which contain black Qur՚ānic calligraphy inlaid in white marble paneling. The white marble mausoleum rests on a square podium, with a minaret, or tower, at each corner, a large dome surrounded by four smaller domes in the center, and four identical facades, each with a central arch. Inside, an octagonal marble chamber contains the “false” tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, whose real coffins lie underneath at the garden level. The redstone mosque and jawab flank the mausoleum, and the garden is divided into four equal parts by canals.
The magnificent Taj Mahal, viewed from the garden side of the immense compound.
Generally, architecture and the arts flourished under Shah Jahan.
In 1638, Shah Jahan moved his capital fromĀgra to Shahjahanabad (now Old Delhi) on the Yamuna River. At Delhi he built the famous Red Fort
Shah Jahan also built the Moti Masjid
By 1656, construction was finished on the Jama Masjid
When Shah Jahan became gravely ill in 1657, four sons—Dara Shukoh, Shuja, Aurangzeb
Shah Jahan’s reign is considered the golden age of Mughal architecture and art. The Pearl Mosque atĀgra and the palace and Great Mosque at Delhi stand as monumental achievements of this period. Shah Jahan introduced the broad use of white marble instead of red sandstone in building construction.
His solid gold Peacock Throne, however, no longer exists. In 1739, Persian king Nāder Shāh (r. 1736-1747) plundered Delhi and took the Peacock Throne to Persia, where it was eventually dismantled and lost. The throne and its later reproductions would become symbols of the Persian (Iranian) monarchy.
Shah Jahan’s architectural masterpiece, the Taj Mahal, is considered one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and is a popular tourist attraction. The delicate white marble, harmonious forms, intricate decorative details, and structural symmetry epitomize the Mughal aesthetic style, which combines Islamic, Indian, and Persian elements. The love story and mythology of the Taj Mahal have also endured through the years, so that this opulent building has become one of the most celebrated symbols of love.
In 1983, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the Taj Mahal a World Heritage Site, a recognition given to a place or building of major import to the common heritage of humankind and, thus, worthy of preservation. Although controversy surrounds the exact dates of the Taj Mahal’s construction, India celebrated the 350th anniversary of this famous monument to love in September of 2004.