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Taj Mahal: The Wonder of the World

Standing on the bank of Yamuna River in Agra, Taj Mahal is one of the ‘Seven Wonders’ on the world. It is a marble mausoleum, built by Mughal King Shah Jahan for his beloved wife, Mumtaz. Taj Mahal

houses the tomb of Shah Jahan and his wife. It sprawls across an area of forty-two acres and features a manicured garden, a mosque and a guest house. The construction of this timeless monument started in the year 1632 and the entire complex was completed around 1653. The monument houses twenty-two white domes that symbolize the fact that it took twenty-two years to complete the Taj Mahal.

Ustad Ahmad Lahauri was the main architect for the project. He led several other architects and twenty thousand artisans including carvers, dome builders, masons, calligraphers and more. Today, the Taj Mahal is a masterpiece depicting extravagant Indo-Islamic architecture. The ivory white marbles adorned with intricate carvings and precious stones make it one of the most iconic heritage sites across the globe. It is supposed to represent Shah Jehan’s vision of Mumtaz Mahal’s home in paradise. It is believed that the Taj Mahal was constructed in such a way that the white marble reflects the sky. So, the monument changes its colours during the day. Early morning the Taj appears pinkish, milky white at noon, a sparkling golden at sunset and shimmering silver in the moonlight. The Taj Mahal complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653 at a cost estimated at the time to be around ₹32 million, which in 2020 would be approximately ₹70 billion. The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being "The jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage". It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India's rich history. The Taj Mahal attracts more than 6 million visitors a year and in 2007, it was declared a winner of the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World’ initiative.

Today, the Taj Mahal is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. But, this magnificent white marbled mausoleum has its own story to tell. It is the final resting place of Arjuman Banu, also know as Mumtaz Mahal. Born on April 6, 1593, Mumtaz Mahal was the daughter of Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan, a Persian nobleman and the niece of the Empress Nur Jehan. When she was 14, she was engaged to marry Prince Khurram, also known as Shah Jahan. They were married in 1612. Mumtaz Mahal travelled with Shah Jahan and even accompanied him on his military campaigns. Shah Jehan trusted her and gave her his Imperial Seat — the Muhr Uzah. Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan had 14 children, including Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja, Roshnara Begum, Jahanara Begum and Aurangzeb.

On June 17, 1631 while she was giving birth to their 14th child, she died. Her body was buried in a walled garden in Burhanpur, on the banks of the Tapti. Shah Jahan was devastated by her death. He went into mourning that lasted a year. When he returned, his hair had turned white and his face was ravaged with grief and sadness. He had her body exhumed and taken back to Agra in a golden coffin, escorted by their son Shah Shuja. In Agra, her body was buried in a small building on the banks of the Yamuna. Shah Jehan now began planning a royal mausoleum for his wife.

The interior of the Taj Mahal never fails to enthral visitors. The carved interiors decorated with unique mosaic designs are a feast to the sore eyes. The main mausoleum backed by four minarets forms the heart of the monument. In the central chamber lie the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. The cenotaphs are engraved with verses from the Quran, the holy book of the Muslims. Apart from the cenotaphs, the mosque and the guest house at both the sides of the monument look equally fascinating. Taj Mahal boasts of a lush manicured garden that looks straight out of a postcard. It is a Timurid style garden filled with several trees and plants. According to Islamic texts, water plays an important role in the creation of a paradise on land. Hence, the garden is known as Charbagh where the water channels divide the lush garden into four equal parts. A pond rests at the centre of the sprawling garden and its water is considered holy.

Taj Mahal is one of the finest examples of Muslim architecture. It sprawls across an area of forty-two acres and features the Indo-Islamic architectural style. The Taj Mahal is surrounded by lush gardens, water bodies and fountains that add to the beauty of the complex. The complex comprises of five structures – main mausoleum, garden, mosque, guest house and the main gateway. The mausoleum is the main highlight and it stands on a raised platform on the bank of River Yamuna. The four minarets standing on each side enhance the aesthetic appeal of the monument. They are slightly tilted to protect the tomb from any damage caused due to natural calamity.

There are several myths attached to the iconic Taj Mahal but none of these is proven to be true. Some of the most popular myths are
•    The construction of the Taj Mahal has been led by an Italian architect
•    Shah Jahan wanted to build the Taj Mahal for himself and not for his wife Mumtaz Mahal
•    Taj Mahal faced demolition in the year 1830 under Governor Lord William Bentinck
•    The monument faced the threat of air attack in 1942
•    The shape of the Taj Mahal is often regarded asymmetrical
•    Shah Jahan wanted to build a mirror image of Taj Mahal in black marble
•    Shah Jahan chopped off the fingers of the labourers involved in the construction of the monument

Taj Mahal is the symbol of eternal love between Shah Jahan and his beloved wife. Hence, it has a romance factor attached to it. The beauty of Taj Mahal can be best relished on a lunar night. There are several reasons why millions of tourists from every part of the world visit the Taj Mahal.

Aritri Ghosh.
Amity University Kolkata.


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