You’re watching FreeSchool! Renowned worldwide for its beauty and symmetry,
the Taj Mahal is the most famous landmark in India. Located near the city of Agra, the
Taj Mahal attracts millions of visitors each year, who come to see its beauty and remember
the romantic story of its origins. The Taj Mahal – its name is Persian for ‘Crown
of Palaces’ – is an elaborate mausoleum, or tomb. It was built more than 350 years ago
by Emperor Shah Jahan of India as a memorial for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who had
died. Shah Jahan met his future wife when he was
fifteen years old and she was fourteen, although they were not married until five years later
in 1612. Their marriage was a happy one, as the two loved each other and were good friends
as well. Shah Jahan gave his wife the title Mumtaz Mahal, which means ‘Chosen One of the
Palace,’ and together they had fourteen children. It was while giving birth to her final child
in 1631 that Mumtaz Mahal died. Shah Jahan was heartbroken and decided to build a memorial
for his beloved wife in Agra, on the banks of the Yamuna river. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632.
It was an immense project: more than 20,000 workers were involved, and materials were
transported by more than 1,000 elephants. The style of the buildings was inspired by
Persian, Islamic, and Indian architecture and the tomb was finished with huge slabs
of white marble and decorated with many precious and semi-precious stones. Elaborate patterns
of tile and even poems written on the walls in careful calligraphy decorated nearly every
surface. The tomb took about 12 years to build, but the work was not over yet! The tomb itself is only part of a much larger
complex, and is surrounded by elaborate gardens with pathways and pools of water that are
positioned to catch beautiful reflections. There are also minarets, a mosque, and a gateway.
Construction of the rest of the complex took an additional ten years, meaning that the
entire project took 22 years to build. The cost is estimated to have been 32 million
Indian rupees, an equivalent of about $827 million US dollars today. It is said that Shah Jahan planned to build
a second Taj Mahal across the river from the first, made completely of black marble, as
his own tomb, but when his son overthrew him and rose to power the plans were discarded.
Whether this is true or not, it is probably true that Shah Jahan did not plan to be buried
in the Taj Mahal with his wife, but that is where his son buried him when he died. A slightly
larger tomb for Shah Jahan was added next to Mumtaz Mahal’s, marking the only place
in the tomb that the symmetry is broken. Shah Jahan and his Queen are not actually buried
in the tombs that are on display: those are empty. Instead, their bodies are buried beneath
the Taj Mahal. Through the centuries, the Taj Mahal has survived.
It has been described as ‘poetry in stone’, and ‘a teardrop on the cheek of time,’ and
has been designated a World Heritage Site for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India”
and a “universally admired masterpiece”. Today it is a symbol of India and one of the most
famous landmarks in the world, as well as an enduring symbol of a love that was meant
to last forever. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Taj
Mahal today. Goodbye till next time!