The construction of this marble masterpiece is credited to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who erected this mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife, Arjumand Bano Begam, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1630 A.D. Her last whish to her husband was “to build a tomb in her memory such as the world has never seen before”. Thus Emperor Shah Jahan set about building this fairytale like marvel. The construction of Taj Mahal was started in A.D. 1632 and completed at the end of 1648 A.D. For 17 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’, was build adjoining to it. The central dome is 187 ft. high at the centre. In all 28 kind of rare, semi precious and precious stones were used for inlay work in the Taj Mahal. The chief building material, the white marble was brought from the quarries of Makrana in district, Nagaur, Rajasthan. The Taj has a jewel-like quality. The shadow and light play demonstrates its many moods some feel the Taj is best seen on a full moon night, others find it ethereal at dawn while some insist that it is a sensuous at sunset. The main gate of the Taj faces the Southern gate. The gateway is 151 ft. by 117 ft. and rises to a height of 100 ft. This gate is built in red sand stone. The small domed pavilions on top are Hindu in style. A striking feature of the gateway is that the lettering appears to be of the same size. Well laid out gardens measuring 300 by 300 mts. in the form of Charbagh are spread on either side of the pavement. In the centre is a platform from where tourist can capture the Taj on film.
Interior of the Taj: The interior of the mausoleum comprises a lofty central chamber, a crypt immediately below this and four octagonal corner rooms originally intended to house the graves of other royal family members. In the centre are the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan’s cenotaph is to the left and is higher than that of his beloved, which rests immediately below the dome. The cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal stands in the centre of the marble screen, it has inscribed on it in Persian with texts from the koran. The cenotaphs has the single epitaph inscribed on it, the English meaning of which is “Here lies Arjumand Bano Begum called Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1630 A.D.”. Above the tombs is a Cairene lamp, the flame of which is supposed to never burned out. Both tombs are exquisitely inlaid with semi precious stones. The acoustics of the building are superb with the domed ceiling being designed to echo chants from koran and musician’s melodies. It is suggested that one walk around the outside of the tomb, before retrieving your shoes, to appreciate it from all sides.
Exterior of the Taj: The Taj itself stands on a raised platform. The four minarets at each corner of the plinth provide a perfect balance to the tomb. The minarets measures 41.6 mts. high and each has a deliberate slant outwards so that in an unlikely event of an earthquake they would not fall on the tomb but away from it. The central dome of the Taj is flanked on all four angles by four very appropriate Chhatris, which appear to be attached to the dome, irrespective of the angle of the view. There is only one point of access the plinth and tomb, a double staircase facing the entrance.
Taj Museum: To the left of the above-mentioned platform is the Taj Museum. Original drawings available here show the precision with which the architect had planned this monument. Drawing of interior show the position of the graves in such precision that the foot of the grave faces the viewer from any angle. Many more such breathtaking collections are here which can also be seen.
The Mosque & The Jawab: To the left of the Taj is a mosque made of red sand stone. This mosque is still used for Friday prayers. An identical mosque is also built to the right of the Taj and is known as the Jawab (answer). Prayers are not held here as it faces west that is away from Macca, the holy city of the Muslim.
One can approach the Taj from three different direction:
* Tourist group arriving by coach from Fatehabad road often uses the eastern entrance.
* The southern entrance is from the shops, around the Taj.
* The western entrance is ideal for those arriving by car or cycle-rickshaw from the Agra fort.
Ticket counters are located at all the entrances.
Map Of Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh :