The Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore defined this beauty as a “teardrop on the cheek of eternity” and how right he was! This exceptional monument is a magnificent structure but it is the history behind this that adds soul to the tale.
It was the year 1631 on the month of a wintry December when Shah Jahan asked the masons to commence its construction. The Mahal (palace) was commissioned as a symbol of love for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal who had died while giving birth to their fourteenth child.
The story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal is one which is ingrained even today in the Indian history. Legend has it that Shah Jahan, who was initially known as Prince Khurram, one day attended Meena Bazar in the year 1607 with a number of courtiers.
Meena Bazaar was a fulfilled market held for the women from the royal family. Only the Emperor along with a few male members including the Prince was allowed to attend it. It was a quarterly fair organised to relieve the ladies off the ‘purdah’. They could come out without veils, bargain and purchase various items including jewellery, clothes and handicrafts in a spirit of joy.
There, Prince Khurram saw a girl selling silk and beads of glass. The girl caught his attention at once and as they say it, it was truly love at first sight. This girl was Mumtaz Mahal, originally known as Arjumand Banu Begum.
Prince Khurram was 14 years old at that time while she was 15. Their match was fixed and they got betrothed in the year 1612. Time stopped for Shah Jahan when the queen died at child birth and the emperor lost the love of his life. To make her memory everlasting, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Stonecutters, dome builders, skilled masons and artisans gathered from every part of the world to construct the Emperor’s dream tomb. Calligraphers and carvers from Iran, Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan and other places were called in to build this temple of love.
Rumour has it that the Emperor had ordered to cut off the masons’ fingers so that after the construction, they couldn’t build another monument like this again. There was one particular artisan, as the legend goes, who wanted to sabotage Shah Jahan’s dream temple palace after he heard of his decision to amputate the builders’ hands.
It took 22 years for 22,000 laborers and about 1000 elephants to construct the palace of love. A whopping amount of 32 million INR was spent in the architecture of the Taj Mahal back then.
In 1640, 1 rupee in Indian currency was approximately equal to 0.15 GBP. Therefore, the cost of Taj Mahal’s construction was 4.8 million British pounds.
Some unknown facts about the Taj Mahal…
There are secret passageways and hidden rooms within the tomb. Also, a number of rooms have been kept shut ever since the Emperor’s death.
Two cenotaphs remain empty! These were built to honour Shah Jahan and Mumtaz within a hemmed eight-sided compartment. Decorated with Mughal artistry, the pietra dura remain empty as the real caskets have been put in a discreet room below.
Owing to age and environmental pollution, the white marbles were getting affected. As a result, the monument now receives occasional spruce ups with multani mitti, an old-style recipe commonly used by Indian women. The blemishes on this monumental beauty vanish after the spruce ups and glow with radiance.
The minarets, four in number, were built in a way that made them tilt outwards from the Taj Mahal. This was done to protect this tomb from earthquakes so that these minarets didn’t topple down in an earthquake.
It has been proved that the Taj Mahal is five feet taller than the Qutub Minar. Its sheer structure also comprises 28 rare kinds of priceless stones obtained from Tibet, Sri Lanka and China.
A brief note about Qutub Minar:
It is the world’s tallest minaret made up of bricks back in 1192. The Delhi Sultanate’s founder, Qutab-ud-din Aibak established this 73-metre tall, 5 storied tower in the Qutab Complex which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are innumerable myths and facts regarding this mausoleum. A structure that is greater than life cannot be covered in mere words. With more than 12,000 tourists visiting this place every day, the best time still remains October to December and also, February to March. Mild weather condition offers you comfort and ease as you go exploring the tomb.
This year, if your history loving soul nudges you to visit the Taj Mahal, here’s how you can get there –
Agra, where the Taj Mahal is situated, is 204 kms away from Delhi while 125 kms away from Gwalior in Rajasthan. People travelling from Jaipur will have to travel a distance of 235 kms. These are the buzzing tourist hubs surrounding Agra, and the best way to reach is via a train from Delhi that takes approximately 3 hours. Rail tickets from Delhi to Agra cost within Rs. 1000. If you avail the road, it will take about 5 hours from Delhi, 6 from Jaipur and 2 from Gwalior.
Agra is also accessible via airways with the nearest airport, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Airport, being 5 kilometres away from Agra city. Air India is one of the airline brands operating presently. It takes less than an hour from Delhi to Agra by flight. There are convenient taxi services available from the airport for getting to the city. The air tickets from Delhi to Agra start at Rs. 1,867.
You can feel the awe when this visiting this monument. No wonder, it is considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World! It is an embodiment of the fine Mughal Art born out of the sheer love that Emperor Shah Jahan felt for his beloved wife, Mumtaz. The Taj Mahal stands tall proclaiming Shah Jahan’s irreplaceable loss in the form of his wife. A story that started in 15th century Mughal India still continues its legacy of love today.
If you are planning to visit Taj Mahal shortly, you can check out more details in the Uttar Pradesh tourism website - http://uptourism.gov.in/. You may also browse through https://www.tajmahal.gov.in/ for more information on the Taj Mahal.