The Taj Mahal is one of India's most dominant architectural marvels and is among the country’s most popular landmarks. Situated in the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum that sits on a 17-hectare piece of land next to the Yamuna River. More than 20,000 laborers drawn from the Mughal Empire were involved in the construction of the mausoleum under the leadership and guidance of the project’s chief architect, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Construction of the mausoleum primarily occurred from 1632 until 1643. However, construction of the complex was not officially complete until 1653.
History of the Taj Mahal
The mausoleum’s construction was commissioned in 1632 by Shah Jahan, Emperor of the Mughal Empire, in honor of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Born to a prince and princess in 1592, Shah Jahan ascended to the Mughal throne in 1628. The emperor’s reign was long and relatively prosperous, and result in the expansion of the Mughal Empire and the construction of many iconic pieces of Mughal architecture. The emperor married Mumtaz in 1612, who became his favorite wife (the emperor had nine wives during his lifetime) and bore him 14 children. Mumtaz died in 1631 while delivering their 14th child and was temporarily buried along the Tapti River. After a lengthy period of mourning, Shah Jahan decided to have a grand mausoleum built where Mumtaz’s remains would be interred.
Construction of the Mausoleum
Experts from the empire and beyond had to come up with new innovative ideas to enable them to build the Taj Mahal. An example of this innovation is the earth ramp, which stretched over nine miles in length and was specifically built for the transportation of materials. Oxen and elephants to move construction materials. Specially designed carts were pulled by at least 20 oxen to transport huge blocks to the construction site along the earth ramp. Another example of the grandeur of the Taj Mahal’s construction was the gigantic scaffold made of bricks instead of the usual bamboo scaffold. The scaffold was so immense that the laborers thought it would take years to dismantle. However, sources suggest that the Shah Jahan announced that laborers could keep any bricks they removed from the scaffold, which motivated peasants to dismantle it in only one night.
Scale of the Taj Mahal’s Construction
The Taj Mahal consumed materials on a scale that had not been witnessed before, and historical accounts suggest that the materials were transported using more than 1,000 elephants. The materials were sourced from regions surrounding the Mughal Empire, with jasper coming from neighboring Punjab and white marble sourced from Rajasthan. However, some materials came from as far as Arabia, where carnelian was sourced, and sapphire was imported from Sri Lanka. The construction of the mausoleum complex is believed to have cost over $827 million (adjusted to 2015 US dollars).
Tourism to the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal has become synonymous with the Mughal period of India’s history and is one of the country’s most recognizable structures. Due to its popularity, the mausoleum complex is among India’s most visited tourist spots and receives more than seven million visitors each year. In 1983, the Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.