Five facts about… the Taj Mahal

Built between 1631 and 1653 on the banks of the Yamuna River in India, the Taj Mahal is a masterpiece of architecture and art...

Five facts about… the Taj Mahal © iStock

The Taj Mahal in the Indian state of Agra is one of the world’s most recognisable and visited structures. The construction of the white marble mausoleum combined Hindu, Islamic and Persian styles of architecture; used materials from as far as China and Arabia carried by 1,000 elephants; and took 22 years and some 20,000 workers to complete.

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With History Revealed exploring the world-famous monument and architectural wonder in our latest issue, here are five facts about the marble marvel…

1

BUILT FOR LOVE

The decision to build the Taj Mahal was made in 1631 by the Emperor of the Mughal Empire, Shah Jahan. He was so heartbroken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died giving birth to her 14th child, he wanted her mausoleum to be much grander than anything seen before.

2

CHANGING COLOURS

During the day, the Taj Mahal takes on several different colours. By the light of the morning Sun, the tomb appears pink whereas in the evening, it turns milky white. Once the Sun has set, the Taj Mahal turns golden when lit by the Moon.

3

THE RAJ AND THE TAJ

Facing the Taj Mahal is a charbagh – or Mughal garden – that stretches for about 300 metres. When originally designed, the garden had 16 flowerbeds but these were largely replaced by lawns by the British during the Raj to make the grounds look more like a typical English garden. Then in 1857, as the Sepoy Rebellion threatened British rule in India, British soldiers prised many of the precious stones that were embedded in the walls of the Taj Mahal.

4

HARMONY AND BALANCE

The Taj Mahal is perfectly symmetrical – apart from a single detail. A pair of ornately decorated cenotaphs lie side-by-side in the central chamber to honour Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan – who died in 1666 – but they aren’t matching. The tomb of a man was always bigger than that of a woman so Shah Jahan’s is raised.

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5

BLACK AND WHITE

There is a legend that Shah Jahan intended to build an identical mausoleum for himself further down the river, but made of black marble rather than white. Before he had a chance to start construction, however, his son overthrew him.