The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz Mahal the second, wife of Shah Jahan, was accompanying him on one of this military expedition where she developed complications and died while delivering her 14th child. A devastated Shah Jahan had only one mission left in life, to fulfil his wife's last desire by constructing a monument peerless in both concept and beauty, and which would symbolize their eternal love for each other.
It is estimated that nearly 20,000 workers consisting of labourers, carpenters, craftsman, artists and engineers worked incessantly for almost 22 years (1631 - 1653). The Taj Mahal is a total package of tomkb, mosque, gardens, gateways and fountains.
The Taj Mahal is placed on a high plinth, 6.7 metres high and covers an area of 95 square metres. There are four elegant tapering minarets, one on each corner of the plinth. Each of the minarets is 41.6 metres high and is capped by a small cupola. The minarets not only balance the main structure of the mausoleum, but are also placed in such a way that in case of a mishap, they do not fall over the main edifice. Each pillar has a letter written on it, which put together spell the word ar-rahman (all merciful) - one of the many names of Allah.
The main structure of the Taj Mahal is square and is beveled at its corners. Each side of the Taj Mahal is 56.6 metres long. On each faoade, arched recesses arranged in two stories flank a high diwan on each side rises higher than the rest of the faoade, thus concealing the neck of the dome behind it. The outer walls of the Taj Mahal are decorated in a number of places with shallow marble carving, apart from the elegant pieta dura (stone inlay) work, which can be seen near arched recesses and borders.
The entrance to the tomb leads you to the central hall, which houses the false tombs and has four small octagonal halls, grouped around it. The original graves are located in crypt, which is directly below the central hall. The cenotaphs are decorated with exquisite pietra dura work. Apart from unexcelled inlay work, the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal is inscribed by 99 different names of Allah. It is said that as many as 35 different of precious and semi-precious stones were used in the inlay work done on the Taj.
The white marble came from Makrana in Rajasthan and the red sandstone came from Fatehpur Sikri. Precious stones such as; jade, crystal, turquoise, lapis lazuli, sapphire, coral and diamonds were brought from far flung places in Tibet, China, Sri Lanka, Persia and Afghanistan. It is believed that a fleet of 1000 elephants were used to transport the materials.
Declared a world heritage side by UNESCO, the Taj Mahal has always evoked varying emotions from wonder to ecstasy and often times, inspired poetic verse. Over the centuries, it has become the symbol of undying love and flawless beauty. Environmentalists are concerned about the possible hazardous effects of pollution on this marble wonder and are taking steps to preserve it for posterity.
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