Love knows no boundaries. It inspires every lover to go beyond what is ordinary, manifesting the impossible and the incredible. One of the most famous and spectacular monuments of undying love is the Taj Mahal or the Luminous Tomb in Agra, India. It was built for the favorite wife of Emperor Shah Jahan of Mughal Dynasty, Arjuman Banu or Mumtaz Mahal, who died after giving birth to their 14th child on June 17, 1631. [Check out our travel guide on how to get to Taj Mahal from New Delhi]
A Beautiful, Sad Tale of Love
Arjuman got engaged to Prince Khurram (who later became Emperor Shah Jahan) when she was only 14. After 5 years of betrothal, they were married in 1612, becoming the second wife of the mighty ruler. He conferred upon her the regal title Mumtaz Mahal (“the exalted one of the palace”) and gave her the Muhr Uzah, his Imperial Seat. [Read our India Travel Guide for First Timers]
The two become inseparable. She went with him in all his travels and military campaigns, always a loving presence whenever he went. So, when Mumtaz suddenly died after giving birth to a baby girl in an encampment, Shah was extremely devastated. It was told that he cried for eight days in his tent and went away to mourn privately for almost a year. When he came back, Shah looked older and all his hair turned white.
A New Purpose
He immediately had her wife’s body exhumed from its resting place in Burbanpur, placed in a golden coffin and temporarily buried in a small building along the Yamuna river bank. He began planning for the permanent “home in paradise” for his beloved wife. Shah commissioned Ustad Ahmad Lahauri (Isa Khan) to make his vision possible by designing an exquisite and elaborate mausoleum that would surpass all existing structures, regardless of expense.
A Crowning Glory
The elaborate construction immediately began in 1632 and finished in 1648. The cost of the construction of Taj Mahal is believed to be around 32 million rupees. All materials were imported from Asia and India, showcasing a unique mixture of Islamic, Persian, Indian, Turkish, and Ottoman elements. The jade and crystals were from China, the white marble from Makrana in Rajasthan, the sapphire from Arabia and Sri Lanka, the Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, and the turquoise from Tibet.
The result was a unique piece of architecture that Emperor Shah dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal as her final resting place, an opulent and heavenly home on earth for the crowned queen of his life.
An Iconic Monument
At present, the Taj Mahal is one of the most visited monuments in the world. It is the focal point of the impressive complex that occupies 17 hectares of land that also houses a beautiful garden, a mosque, and the main gateway.
It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, after becoming one of the most-admired masterpieces in the world and showcasing Muslim Art in India. Taj Mahal was also an acclaimed winner of the 2000-2007 New 7 Wonders of the World.
A Sight to Behold
The best time to see the full splendor of the Taj Mahal is during a full moon when it is seen as a shimmering silver structure. The color reflection changes during daytime- pinkish in the early morning, milky-white during noon, and sparkling golden during sunset.