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The Taj Mahal, or commonly called just the Taj, was constructed between 1631 and 1645 by the Mughal Emporer Shah Jahan and a work force of 20,000 as a monument to his late wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, also called Mumtaz Mahal. It all began back in the year 1607 when a prince of the royal Mughal household strolled down the Meena Bazaar and he caught a glimpse of a girl hawking silk and glass beads. Five years and a first wife later the then 20 year old Shah Jahan wed his 19 year old bride.It was a fairytale union and one that withstood the test of time, court intrigues and battles for succession. When Mumtaz died on the 19th year of their marriage, Shah Jahan etched her story in stone with the Taj Mahal being the living symbol of the monumental passion of Shah Jahan and Arjumand Banu. The Taj Mahal name is thought to come from Persian,the language of the Mughal court, meaning crown, and Mahal means palace. Most sources suggest that Taj Mahal is a shorter variant of Mumtaz Mahal, the nickname of Arjumand Banu Begum, meaning First Lady of the Palace. Soon after its completion, Shah Jahan was deposed and put under house arrest at the nearby Agra Fort by his son Aurangzeb.Legend has it that he spent the remainder of his days gazing through the window at the Taj Mahal, where it can be observed like a mirage from the Agra Fort across the river.Upon Shah Jahans death, Aurangzeb buried him in the Taj Mahal next to his wife, the only disruption of the otherwise perfect symmetry in the architecture.
The Taj is a masterpiece of symmetry, seeming to be floating in the air from a distance and is definitely the finest example of Mughal architecture anywhere, and one that combines elements of Islamic,Indian, Persian and Turkish architectures. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar part of the monument, the Taj Mahal is actually an integrated complex of structures. Built by the Persian architect, Ustad Isa, The Taj Mahal the bank of the Yamuna River, the Taj has verses of Holy Koran inscribed on it and at the top of gate 22 small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to built.The Taj Mahal has been built on a marble platform that stands above a sandstone one. The most elegant dome of the Taj, with diameter of 60 feet, rises 80 feet over the building and directly under the dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahans tomb has been erected next to hers by his son Aurangzeb. Fantastic Inlay works using semi-precious stones decorate the interiors. The inner chamber contains the cenotaphs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan and is a masterpiece of artistic craftsmanship, virtually without precedent or equal. It is an octagon and while the design allows for entry from each face, only the south door is used. The interior walls are about 25m high, topped by a "false" interior dome decorated with a sun motif.
The main gateway (darwaza) to the complex is a monumental structure built primarily of red sandstone. The style is reminiscent of that of Mughal architecture of earlier emperors with its archways mirroring the shape of the tombs archways, The vaulted ceilings and walls have elaborate geometric designs, like those found in the other sandstone buildings of the complex. At the far end of the complex, two grand red sandstone buildings open to the sides of the tomb. Their backs parallel the western and eastern walls. The two buildings are precise mirror images of each other. The western building is a mosque; its opposite is the jawab or "answer", whose primary purpose was architectural balance (and which may have been used as a guesthouse during Mughal times). The distinctions are that the jawab lacks a mihrab, a niche in a mosques wall facing Mecca, and the floors of the jawab have a geometric design, while the mosque floor was laid out the outlines of 569 prayer rugs in black marble.
In the construction,instead of lashed bamboo, the typical scaffolding method used all over India,workmen constructed a colossal brick scaffold that mirrored the inner and outer surfaces of the tomb. The scaffold was so enormous that foremen estimated it would take years to dismantle. According to legend, Shah Jahan decreed that anyone could keep bricks taken from the scaffold, and it was dismantled by peasants overnight. The total cost of the Tajs construction was about 50 million rupees and at that time,1 gram of gold was sold for about 1.4 rupees. Based on the July 2006 gold price, that would translate to more than 33 billion US dollars.
By the late 19th century parts of the Taj Mahal had fallen badly into disrepair. During the time of the First war of Indian Independance the Taj Mahal faced defacement by British soldiers, sepoys, and government officials who chiseled out precious stones and lapis lazuli from its walls.Numerous items also disappeared and these include the an entrance door of carved jasper, gold leaf that adorned the cast iron joints of the jali screen around the cenotaphs, numerous fine carpets that covered the interior of the tomb and enamelled lamps from the interior of the tomb.At the end of the 19th century the British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a massive restoration project, which was completed in 1908. It was during this time the garden was remodelled with the more English looking lawns visible today. In 1942 the yjen government erected a behemoth scaffolding over it in anticipation of an air attack by the German Luftwaffe and later by the Japanese Air Force. One interesting bit of history is that during the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 scaffoldings were erected by the government to mislead would-be bomber pilots.

A longstanding popular tradition holds that an identical mausoleum complex was originally supposed to be built on the other side of the river, in black marble instead of white. The story suggests that Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb before the black version could be built. Ruins of dark marble found across the river are, the story suggests, the unfinished base of this "Black Taj". However, scholars now dispute this theory, and at the same time, add some interesting thought on the design of the Taj Mahal. All other major Mughal tombs were sited in gardens that form a cross, with the tomb at the intersection of the vertical and horizontal pieces. The Taj Mahal gardens, by contrast, form a great T, with the tomb at the centre of the crosspiece. But the outline of the ruins on the other river bank would extend the design of the Taj Mahal gardens to form a cross of proportions typical of other Mughal tombs. Further, the marble in the ruins opposite the Taj Mahal, while dark from staining, were originally white. In addition, an octagonal pool in these ruins would have reflected the Taj Mahal. Scholars have called these ruins the Mahtab Bagh or "Moonlight Garden". It is originally thought that Shah Jahan was to have built a bridge across the river at this point to connect the two parts.As of 1983 the Taj Mahal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its most recent threats now came from environmental pollution includingacid rain occurring due to the Mathura oil refinery and the many small coal fires from the local population. Steps are being taken by the to try and move the industries and create a pollution free corridor for the Taj to survive in all its pristine white! While its significance as a political center may have ended with the transfer of the capital to Delhi in 1634 by Shah Jahan, its architectural wealth has secured its place on the international map!