The Taj Mahal is one of the places on your bucket list that you need to visit in your lifetime. It is considered one of the most beautiful buildings on the planet, attracting millions of visitors to the site.
German philosopher Count Hermann Keyserling once described the Taj Mahal by stating: “A massive marble structure, without weight, as if formed of ether, perfectly rational and at the same time entirely decorative, it is perhaps the greatest artwork which the forming spirit of mankind has ever brought forth.”
The structure has been a source of inspiration for artists, painters, designers, and architects around the world. But why? Aside from the Taj Mahal’s unique and diverse design language, people are drawn the mausoleum because of what it represents; a monument of love to a wife from a husband. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
1. It was expensive
From 1631 to 1648 the massive mausoleum was commissioned by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife. He spent nearly 32 million rupees for his love. How much is that exactly? That would be the equivalent of $1 billion today.
2. It was built in the name of love
As mentioned above, the emperor built the Taj Mahal in honor of his favorite wife Arjumand Banu Begum, also known as Mumtaz Mahal. As implied, Shah Jahan married several wives over the course of his adult life. But this love was extra special.
He considered her his first love, having a union that lasted 19 years and led to the birth of 14 children. She passed away at the age of 39 while giving birth to her final child. Many people are drawn to the mausoleum simply because of this epic testament to love.
3. Keeping cars at a distance
There are a lot of rules and regulations put into place to ensure the massive palace stays in pristine condition. When you are traveling to the Taj Mahal you may notice that vehicles are kept at a distance and, in fact, this is one of the rules at the palace.
Cars and buses are strictly prohibited from coming within 500 meters of the Taj Mahal. The aim is to prevent exhaust from gasoline-powered vehicles from destroying the beauty of the building.
4. Precious and heavy designs
As mentioned before, the emperor did not waste a cent for his love to create the ultimate means of extravagance. Twenty-eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were used across the palace. All of the stones were sourced from Tibet, China, Sri Lanka and some parts of India.
The other materials used to source the building also came from all over India and Asia. It is rumored that well over 1,000 elephants were used to transport the construction materials. Even more so 20,000 artisans were needed to build the palace.
The translucent white marble was bought from Makrana, a well-known place for marble in Rajasthan. The jade and crystal were imported from China and the jasper came from Punjab.
5. Visited by people from around the world
The Taj Mahal is one of the most visited monuments in India with 4-8 million visitors annually. There have been some cases in which 40 to 50 thousand people have visited the site in just one day. The UNESCO World Heritage has even classified the Taj as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ in the year 2007, garnering over 100 million votes.
6. Beautiful inscriptions
The Taj Mahal features beautifully articulated printed lines of Muslim scripture from the Quran under the supervision of head calligrapher Abd-al Haqq. He even got the rare opportunity to sign his name in the building.
7. Merging various different styles
The architecture of Taj Mahal merges a combination of Islamic, Persian and Indian styles. The first accounts of the palace included abundant daffodils, roses, and fruit trees. The 19th century British empire came in and changed everything to their liking.
8. The actual grave is not decorated
Due to Muslim law, graves cannot be adorned with elaborate decorations as they can be viewed as an inappropriate expression of vanity. This means that the only part of the palace that is not ornately decorated is the actual grave. Compared to the extravagant rest of the building, the lower level of the building where Shah Jahan was laid to rest is beautifully simple and minimalistic.
9. The palace was designed so that everything would fall away from the tomb
The placement of those iconic minarets are not just for aesthetics but these minarets also have a strategic purpose. In the event of a collapse, everything would fall away from the tomb. To protect the crypt of Mumtaz Mahal, the chief architect tilted those minarets very slightly so that they fall away from the rest of the Taj Mahal.