The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, Western Uttar Pradesh state, Northern India. The construction of the Taj Mahal was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (reign 1628-1658) to immortalize his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the “chosen one” of his wives, who died during childbirth in 1631 and had been his inseparable companion since their marriage in 1612. This iconic and widely recognized structure in India is situated on the southern (right) bank of the Yamuna River in the eastern part of the city. Agra Fort, located about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) to the west of the Taj Mahal on the right bank of the Yamuna River, is another prominent attraction in the vicinity.

With its harmonious proportions and a blend of architectural elements and decorative features from Mughal, Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles, the Taj Mahal is considered one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture. Other attractions within the complex include twin mosque buildings (situated on both sides of the mausoleum), beautiful gardens, and a museum. As one of the most beautiful architectural creations in the world, the Taj Mahal attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. In 1983, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

History of Construction| of Taj Mahal

Credit for the layout of the complex is given to various architects of the time, although the chief architect was likely Ustad Ahmad Lahori, of Persian origin. The complex was conceived and designed as an integrated unit with five main elements – the main entrance gate, gardens, mosque, jawab (a building mirroring the mosque, but not used for worship), and the mausoleum – in accordance with Mughal architectural tradition, which did not allow for any alteration or modification once a building was constructed. Construction of the Taj Mahal began around 1632, and it took approximately 20,000 laborers from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe until around 1638-39 to complete the main tomb, with auxiliary buildings finished by 1643 and decoration work continuing until at least 1647. In total, the construction of the 42-acre (17-hectare) complex took 22 years.

A tradition holds that Shah Jahan originally intended to construct another mausoleum across the Yamuna River to house his own remains. This structure, built of black marble, was connected to the Taj Mahal by a bridge. However, he was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb in 1658 and was subsequently imprisoned for life in the Agra Fort.

Layout and Architecture

Situated between two nearly identical red sandstone buildings at the northern and northeastern edges of the garden, the mausoleum itself is made of white marble that reflects colors depending on the intensity of sunlight or moonlight. It has four nearly identical facades, each featuring a centrally located large central iwan (arched portal) flanked by smaller iwans on either side and chamfered (slanting) corners. The central dome, rising to a height of approximately 240 feet (73 meters) at its pinnacle, is surrounded by four smaller domes, and the interior of the main dome echoes with the sound of a flute due to its acoustic properties. Below the tombs, set at the garden level, are false tombs enclosed by finely carved marble jali (latticework). In the corners of the square structure are four graceful minarets.

The gardens are laid out in the Mughal Charbagh style – a square divided into quadrants by long water channels – with pedestrian paths, fountains, and decorative trees. Enclosed by walls and structures, the garden provides a picturesque perspective leading to the mausoleum, which can be viewed from the central reflecting pool.

The southern edge of the complex is adorned with a wide red sandstone entrance gate, featuring a two-story central iwan with a tall central mihrab. The panels around the mihrab are inlaid with black Quranic calligraphy and floral designs. The main iwan is flanked by two pairs of smaller iwans. The northern and southern facades of the entrance gate have rows of white chhatris (small domed pavilions), each with 11 slender minarets. The corners of the structure have octagonal minarets, capped with large chhatris.

Present Challenges

The Taj Mahal has been a victim of neglect and decay for centuries. In the early 20th century, a major restoration effort was undertaken under the direction of the then British Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. Recently, emissions from foundries and other nearby industries, as well as air pollution from vehicular traffic, have caused damage to the monument, especially to its white marble facade. To mitigate the risk, several measures have been implemented, including the closure of some foundries and the installation of pollution-control devices at other locations, the creation of a buffer zone around the complex, and a ban on vehicular traffic around the site during certain times. Restoration and research programs for the Taj Mahal were initiated in 1998, though progress in improving the environmental conditions around the monument has been slow.

From time to time, the Taj Mahal has been a subject of political controversy in India. It was temporarily closed to night visits between 1984 and 2004 due to fears that the monument would be targeted by Sikh terrorists. Additionally, it has been increasingly viewed as a symbol of Indian cultural heritage, with some Hindu nationalist groups attempting to downplay the Muslim influence on the origin and design of the Taj Mahal.

Most Visited: The chart shows the revenue earned by centrally protected monuments during FY22. The Taj Mahal, with earnings of over ₹25 crores, tops the list, having the highest revenue among 144 protected monuments under ASI. According to official figures, the Taj Mahal attracts around 7-8 million visitors annually, with more than 0.8 million being foreign tourists.

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