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The Taj Mahal - An Edifice Sans Pareil! By Shyam Amladi

The Taj Mahal


Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan


The 5th Mughal emperor, grand son of the great Mughal emperor Akbar,  Shah Jahan constructed Taj Mahal  in memory of his beloved wife, Arjumarid Bano Begum; popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, who died in on June 17, 1631. They had been married 19 years.


Mumtaz Mahal dying wish to her husband was "to build a tomb in her memory such as the world had never seen before". Thus emperor Shah Jahan set about building this fairy tale like marvel. Construction actually started one year after Mumtaj Mahal for whom it is name,  died in June, 1631 giving birth to her 13th child. Today, other than its beautiful, almost surreal structural grandeur, Taj Mahal contains the graves of Mumtaz Mahal and her royal consort, emperor Shah Jahan. While Mumtaz was buried in it after her death, it was many years before Shah Jahan’s remains were buried there. His son Aurungjeb, after allegedly having murdered his siblings to gain ascendance to the throne, had imprisoned him at the nearby Red Fort of Agra. After his death suffering 8 years of isolation at the hand of his own son, his unmarried daughter Jahanara Begum secretly brought Shah Jahan's body to be buried beside his beloved wife. Later, Aurungjeb built a proper grave for Shah Jahan. However, today visitors can only visit the upper floor which contains the cenotaphs of the two graves below.

Graves of Mumtaz and Shah Jaha


First and foremost, Taj Mahal is a Mausoleum, i.e. it is a structure that houses remains of the deceased. And as a Mausoleum, it has retained over the five centuries, all of the poignancy of its residents' love life, the devout religious beliefs of its architects and a unique beauty that sometimes feels not of this world.

Taj Mahal, as has been reported and imaged millions of times around the world, is a stunningly beautiful structure. The construction of Taj Mahal was started in A.D. 1632 –--and completed at the ended in 1648 A.D. For seventeen years, twenty thousand workmen are said to have been employed on it daily, for their accommodation a small town, named after the deceased empress- 'Mumtazabad', now known as Taj Ganj, was built adjacent to it.

Taj Mahal calligrapher was Amanat Khan Shirazi, his name occurs at the end of an inscription on one of the gates of the Taj. Poet Ghiyasuddin had designed the verses on the tombstone, while Ismail Khan Afridi of Turkey was the dome maker. Muhammad Hanif was the superintendent of Masons.

Calligraphy (Arabic) on the Great Gate of the Taj Mahal
Taj bathed in early moon light

Taj Mahal was designed by Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The material was brought in from all over India and central Asia and it took a fleet of 1000 elephants to transport it to the site. The central dome is 187 ft. high at the centre.

Red sandstone was brought from Fatehpur Sikri, Jasper from Punjab, Jade and Crystal from China, Turquoise from Tibet, Lapis Lazuli and Sapphire from Sri Lanka, Coal & Comelian from Arabia and Diamonds from Panna. In all 28 kind of rare, semi precious and precious stones were used for inlay work in the Taj Mahal.

The white marble was brought from the quarries of Makrana, in distt. Nagaur, Rajasthan. Copies of orders (farmans) issued to Raja Jai Singh, for the purpose by Shah Jahan, can be seen in the Taj Museum.

Taj Mahal's outer court, also known as Jilo Khana, was formerly used both as a bazar and a caravansarai (Rest house). On the south-east and south-west comers are the tombs of Sirhindi Begum and Satiunnisa Khanum. The Taj has a jewel-like quality.

Taj’s architecture is unique. From the religious inscriptions – their lettering scaled to the elevation of the structure—to the design, acoustics and the aesthetics, this interplay extends from what can be seen with the senses, into religious, intellectual, mathematical and poetic ideas.



Because of its symmetry and its intricate niche work, Taj looks beautiful both in sunlight and at night. The marble reflects light so during daylight it is dazzlingly white, during evening it turns slightly russet and at night it is almost bluish and luminous.

Taj’s beauty is enhanced several times on a full moon night. Entrance is limited to about 400 and you cannot actually enter the main structure (which is fine since you have to admire it from a distance, not be in it to appreciate its nightly beauty), but stand at the main entrance, as Taj is bathed in milky blue moon light. The shadow and the ethereal light play demonstrates its many moods.

The approach to Taj Mahal is refreshingly clean. The government has banned all emission vehicles such as gasoline consuming cars from within one kilometer (0.62 mile) of the outer periphery of Taj Mahal.





Agra is 230 kilometers (132 mils) from Delhi. You can take the train—in 2016 a new fast track train called the Gatiman has been started, covering the distance in about 2 hours. Or you can hire a private car. There are also regular bus routes.


The two other highly recommended places to see are the Red Fort (one of the largest forts in the world, 2.4 kilometers long) and the Fatehpur Sikri, both of which were built by the Mogul dynasty to serve as their palaces during the time Agra was the capital of the Mogul empire.