History of Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World under the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. A marvellous work of architecture, it continues to draw millions from around the globe every year. But as much as the architecture is worth noticing in detail, the history of the Taj is why it holds such significance, a perfect picture of a lover’ s inspiration.
Khurram, better known as Shah Jahan which means ruler of the world, son of Jahangir, built many spectacles of great work in architecture including many halls of the Agra Fort and more in Delhi. He received many titles, ‘builder of marvels’ is one which he received most suited for his love for art and architecture. But Shah Jahan is probably known more so for the great Mughal structure that stands out till today in the form of the Taj Mahal .The Taj built during the reign of Shah Jahan took 17 long years to be completed. Its construction started in the year 1631 A.D. and was finally completed in the year 1648 A.D. It was built by the emperor in memory of his deceased and beloved wife Arjumand Bano Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal, meaning ‘Jewel of the Palace’. Shah Jahan first met the queen when he was just 14 years of age in 1607 A.D.
In the year 1612, almost five years after their first meeting, Shah Jahan was married to Mumtaz, a Persian princess. Almost after two decades in 1631 A.D. , the queen died while delivering their fourteenth child at Burhanpur while accompanying the king on a military expedition. The emperor was believed to have been extremely disturbed and emotionally weak. So deep was his love, that he had promised his wife not to marry again. For a long time, there was to be no feast or music or any celebration of any kind at the court. It was in this state of extreme grief that inspired the emperor to build the most beautiful monument the world would have ever witnessed. Although it was no more possible for him to be with his love, his love for her remained in his memory even after she had gone. Shah Jahan did have other wives too, but it is undoubted that Mumtaz Mahal had a special place in his life.
The Taj was the effort of more than 20000 labourers from North West of the subcontinent, and Central Asia which included artisans, architects, and stone cutters, along with the help of hundreds of Elephants that went behind making the Taj what it is today. The site of the Taj was originally owned by Raja Jai Singh, the grandson of Raja Man Singh of Amber. Shah Jahan offered four havelis to the King from Amber in exchange for the site on which the Taj stands today. Many believe that the site was chosen such that the emperor could see the memorial of his beloved from his palace at Agra Fort. The Structure of the Taj is built within a rectangular garden also known as charbagh, a typical of Mughal gardens. It has three gateways in three sides and the river Yamuna on the remaining side. In terms of the chief architects, there are many controversies as to who was at the centre of building such a fine piece of art. But there seems to be more than a single architect involved in planning and building of the great Taj.
Some of the most prominent names in relation to this, are Ustad Isa Afandi ,Ustad Ahmed who had designed the Red fort in Delhi , Ab dul Karim Mamur Khan and Makramat Khan. But Shah Jahan himself was talented in terms of art and architecture and there are mentions that he had a great involvement in creating this spectacle to keep his love eternal. He involved artists from various parts of the world starting from France, Turkey, Persia and India. He is said to have co-ordinated the ideas of the most skilled craftsmen known at the time and involved himself to the work of the Taj. The dome however, is credited in the name of Ismail Khan. There is a common belief that the emperor had the right hand of the chief architect, Ustad Isa Afandi?s hand cut off so that he may not be able to create such a beautiful structure again.
But this belief is questionable since Shah Jahan is believed to have planned a replica of the Taj in black marble on the other side of the river Yamuna, on which the Mehtab Garden is situated. This structure is believed to have been planned by the emperor to dedicate to his own self. Hence, in this case, he would indeed have required the best of skilled craftsmen to be at his service including Ustad Isa. But if true, this structure remained incomplete, as Aurangzeb rose in rebellion and imprisoned his own father at Agra Fort along with the emperor? s beloved daughter Jahanara, who remained with him till death. When the emperor died, it was decided to build a tomb of his just next to his beloved wife inside the Taj itself.
The inscription on the main mausoleum of the Taj along with the southern gateway is in black marble, words that are in Arabic and taken from the Quran. In one of the passages, on the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, it says ‘implore Allah to allow the faithful to enter paradise’, recited by angels from a Quranic prayer. In this regard, many associate the garden surrounding the Taj as a garden of paradise, existing in heaven, as it is referred sometimes as bagh-i firdaus-a’in’. It is Amanat Khan who is believed to have done the calligraphic inscriptions on the Taj. His original name was Abdul Haq from Shiraz, Iran. The emperor was so impressed with the calligraphic work of the man, that he conferred upon him the title of ‘Amanat Khan’.
The depiction of flowers made mainly of semiprecious stones on the white marble surface gives a sense of calmness and adds to the architectural marvel. Inside the Taj Mahal just above tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz, set in between an octagonal double storeyed structure, is a cairene lamp, whose flame is believed to never burn out. Jjajjhari, or well developed marble screens from which light enters the dark inside encloses the monument.The main structure is of White marble that reflects the sheer beauty of the Taj, which is believed to be imported from Makrana, in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan that was gifted to the Mughal emperor by Maharaja of Jaipur. But many other components were imported from various places to make the Taj what it is today. Garnets were believed to be imported from nearby Bundelkhand while corals were brought all the way from Arabia. Agates came from Yemen while Persia sent amethyst.
The Taj today is not just a must see for its architectural glory ,which from every angle is amazing, be it in terms of the inscriptions, planning or technicalities that went into building such a grandeur. What also, is important to note is the class in which division of work must have been done, assigning every one a task he is perfected to do. The inscriptions of the quranic versus on white marble, done so perfectly by Amanat Khan, highlights the Taj as a funerary place of two lovers. The mention of paradise of the inscriptions on the wall, is not just about jannat or heaven, but the significance of the Day of Judgement where the queen is at the door step of the great and most revered Allah, to request God for his mercy. However, along with the significance of the Taj as a place for day of the judgement, the saga of love between Mumtaz and her lover, Shah Jahan continues as a fine example of the eternal love that exists till today and to be continued well into the future. The Taj is a true structure of the greatness of love, and the unquestionable beauty and significance it possesses.
Suggested Itineraries: Taj Mahal Tours