The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned it as a mausoleum for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Construction began in 1632 and was completed in approximately 1648. Some dispute surrounds the question of who designed the Taj Mahal; it is clear a team of designers and craftsmen were responsible for the design, with Ustad Ahmad Lahauri considered the most likely candidate as the principal designer.
The Taj Mahal (sometimes called "the Taj") is generally considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements of Persian, Turkish, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar part of the monument, the Taj Mahal is actually an integrated complex of structures. In 1983 the Taj became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in
In 1631 Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal's period of greatest prosperity, was griefstricken when his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their daughter Gauhara Begum, their fourteenth child. Contemporary court chronicles concerning Shah Jahan's grief form the basis of the love story traditionally held as the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.
Construction of the Taj Mahal was begun soon after Mumtaz's death. The principal mausoleum was completed in 1648, and the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. Visiting
The Taj Mahal incorporates and expands on many design traditions, particularly Persian and earlier Mughal architecture. Specific inspiration came from a number of successful Timurid and Mughal buildings. These include the Gur-e Amir (the tomb of Timur, progenitor of the Mughal dynasty, in Samarkand), Humayun's Tomb, Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb (sometimes called the Baby Taj), and Shah Jahan's own Jama Masjid in Delhi. Under his patronage, Mughal building reached new levels of refinement.While previous Mughal building had primarily been constructed of red sandstone, Shah Jahan promoted the use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones.
The focus of the Taj Mahal is the white marble tomb. Like most Mughal tombs, the basic elements are Persian in origin consisting of a symmetrical building with an iwan, an arch-shaped doorway, topped by a large dome. The tomb stands on a square plinth. The base structure is a large, multi-chambered structure. The main chamber houses the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan with the actual graves located a level below.
The base is essentially a cube with chamfered edges, roughly
The design is completely symmetrical on all sides of the building. Four minarets, one at each corner of the plinth, facing the chamfered corners, frame the tomb.