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History of the Taj Mahal

| Words by Ashley Diterlizzi |

The Taj Mahal, a jewel of Muslim art in India, is admired universally as a masterpiece. We know it as one of the Seven Wonders of the World but for many of us, that’s where our knowledge of the UNESCO World Heritage site ends. Here’s a brief history of the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal

Located in on the right bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a symbol of love and a tribute to one very lucky lady.

The building represents how deeply a man loved his wife, even after she remained only as a memory. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan wanted to cement his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, a Muslim Persian princess, in a way that would be marvelled at for centuries.

The couple married in 1612 after meeting and falling in love with each other five years earlier. The couple were inseparable but in 1631 when Mahal died while giving birth to their 14th child, Jahan began planning something special to honour the memory of his beloved wife.

Taj Mahal at sunset

Construction on the building began in 1631 by masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers and artisans from all over Central Asia and Iran. Ustad-Ahmad Lahori was the main architect of the perfectly symmetrical Taj Mahal. Entirely made out of white marble, the structure is a mausoleum with both Jahan and Mahal entombed inside. It took 22 years to build the epitome of love.

The building doesn’t look the same today as it did at the time of its completion in 1653. During the Indian rebellion in 1857, the Taj was blemished by government officials and British soldiers. Precious stones like lapis lazuli were chiselled from the building’s walls. The British also influenced the style of the 17-hectare gardens in 1908 during a restoration project. Now, the building’s exterior is under threat of environmental pollution.

Taj Mahal in black and white

Despite its recent history of aesthetic changes, the building continues to be admired by many for its beauty and attracts thousands of visitors to India each year.

See the Taj Mahal for yourself on one of our India small group journeys or speak to our experts about private tours.