01865 268 941  or  enquire now

Home

A short history of the Taj Mahal

| Words by Rachel McCombie |

We look at the history of the world’s most famous monument to love, India’s magnificent Taj Mahal.

Ask anyone to name one Indian monument that stands out above all others and the chances are they’ll name the Taj Mahal. This legendary white marble mausoleum is considered by many to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the tragic romance of its story only adding to its appeal...

Where is it?

The Taj Mahal lies on the bank of the river Yamuna, in an extensive and beautifully symmetrical garden in the Agra District of Uttar Pradesh, in northern India.

Who built it, when, and why?

The Taj Mahal was built at the orders of the heartbroken Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, as a memorial to his favourite wife (he had three), the Persian princess Mumtaz Mahal. Construction took place from 1632 to 1648, though other structures on the same site - including a mosque and guest house - weren’t completed until 1653. Legend has it that the scaffolding used during construction disappeared overnight after Shah Jahan decreed that anybody could help themselves to bricks from it.

The Taj Mahal was built at the orders of the heartbroken Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, as a memorial to his favourite wife - he had three

The primary building material is, of course, translucent white marble, and it’s adorned with 28 kinds of precious and semi-precious stones. The tombs of both Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan lie side by side at the heart of this astonishing complex, and can be found on a raised platform beneath the huge marble dome. However, the two sarcophagi on display in the main chamber are in fact false; the real ones are lower down.

Recognition by UNESCO

The Taj Mahal was officially recognised and protected by UNESCO in 1983, on account of its status as India’s greatest architectural achievement. UNESCO describes it as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage.”

The Taj Mahal was officially recognised and protected by UNESCO in 1983, on account of its status as India’s greatest architectural achievement

Interesting facts about the Taj Mahal

  • The name Taj Mahal means “Crown Palace”.
  • About 20,000 people and 1,000 elephants were employed to construct the Taj Mahal.
  • At the time, it cost around 32 million Indian rupees, or $501,000, to build. That would be worth somewhere in the region of $827 million in today’s money.
  • Mumtaz Mahal, to whom the monument is dedicated, died giving birth to her 14th child.

Mumtaz Mahal, to whom the monument is dedicated, died giving birth to her 14th child

In the news

At present, there are concerns for the condition of the Taj Mahal, which is showing signs of environmental damage. An action plan has been formulated to reverse the discolouration the building has suffered over the years as a result of pollution, in particular from vehicle fumes and burning; the project is scheduled to take place over the coming three years.

At present, there are concerns for the condition of the Taj Mahal, which is showing signs of environmental damage

Top tip for visitors

The Taj Mahal is open from sunrise to sunset, but it’s closed on a Friday, so make sure you don’t plan your visit for then! More information about visiting can be found on the official Taj Mahal website.