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27
Apr

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–1658), to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tomb is the centrepiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall.

Construction of the mausoleum was essentially completed in 1643 but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. 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 rupees, which in 2015 would be approximately 52.8 billion rupees (US$827 million). The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

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”. Described by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore as “the tear-drop on the cheek of time”, it is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history. The Taj Mahal attracts 7–8 million visitors a year. In 2007, it was declared a winner of the New7Wonders of the World (2000–2007) initiative.

History

The construction of Taj Mahal is credited to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who erected this mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife, Arjumand Banu Begum; popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, who died in A.H. 1040 (A.D. 1630).

Mumtaz Mahal last wish to her husband was “to build a tomb in her memory such as the world had never seen before”. Thus emperor Shah Jahan set about building this fairy tale like marvel.

The construction of Taj Mahal was started in A.D. 1632 and completed at the ended in 1648 A.D. For seventeen years, twenty thousand workmen are said to have been employed on it daily, for their accommodation a small town, named after the deceased empress- ‘Mumtazabad’, now known as Taj Ganj, was built adjacent to it.

Taj Mahal calligrapher was Amanat Khan Shirazi, his name occurs at the end of an inscription on one of the gates of the Taj. Poet Ghiyasuddin had designed the verses on the tombstone, while Ismail Khan Afridi of Turkey was the dome maker. Muhammad Hanif was the superintendent of Masons.

Taj Mahal was designed by Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The material was brought in from allover India and central Asia and it took a fleet of 1000 elephants to transport it to the site. The central dome is 187 ft. high at the centre.

Red sandstone was brought from Fatehpur Sikri, Jasper from Punjab, Jade and Crystal from China, Turquoise from Tibet, Lapis Lazuli and Sapphire from Sri Lanka, Coal & Comelian from Arabia and Diamonds from Panna. In all 28 kind of rare, semi precious and precious stones were used for inlay work in the Taj Mahal.

The white marble was brought from the quarries of Makrana, in distt. Nagaur, Rajasthan. Copies of orders (farmans) issued to Raja Jai Singh, for the purpose by Shah Jahan, can be seen in the Taj Museum.

Taj Mahal’s outer court, also known as Jilo Khana, was formerly used both as a bazar and a caravansarai (Rest house). On the south-east and south-west comers are the tombs of Sirhindi Begum and Satiunnisa Khanum. The Taj has a jewel-like quality.

THE TAJ MAHAL OVER THE YEARS

Under Aurangzeb’s long rule (1658-1707), the Mughal empire reached the height of its strength. However, his militant Muslim policies, including the destruction of many Hindu temples and shrines, undermined the enduring strength of the empire and led to its demise by the mid-18th century. Even as Mughal power crumbled, the Taj Mahal suffered from neglect and disrepair in the two centuries after Shah Jahan’s death. Near the turn of the 19th century, Lord Curzon, then British viceroy of India, ordered a major restoration of the mausoleum complex as part of a colonial effort to preserve India’s artistic and cultural heritage.

Today, some 3 million people a year (or around 45,000 a day during peak tourist season) visit the Taj Mahal. Air pollution from nearby factories and automobiles poses a continual threat to the mausoleum’s gleaming white marble façade, and in 1998, India’s Supreme Court ordered a number of anti-pollution measures to protect the building from deterioration. Some factories were closed, while vehicular traffic was banned from the immediate vicinity of the complex.

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