In 1631, after giving birth to her 14th child, Mughul Empress Mumtaz Mahal called her husband to her death bed. Her last words were pleads to the Emperor Shah Jahan. First, he must never remarry. Second, he must raise their children like a father, not as a king. And third, he must build her a tomb so magnificent, the whole world will know of the love he had for her.
He kept the first promise and never remarried.
He probably tried to keep the second promise, but his youngest son, Aurangzeb, killed his three brothers and imprisoned Shah Jahan to gain power.
And out of the third promise, he built the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal sits on the Yamuna River in Agra. It is a mausoleum, built entirely in marble. It took 22 years to build, with the help of over 20,000 slaves and 1,000 elephants. It was completed in 1653, at a cost of 32 million rupees.
Because the Mughul empire was Muslim, the Taj Mahal has predominantly Islamic architecture. The tall, pointed arches are surrounded with Arabic excerpts from the Quran. These excerpts are black marble inlaid into the white. As the script goes up, it widens slightly so that it appears to be straight against the perspective of someone standing below it.
The entirety of the Taj, inside and out, is decorated with intricate jewels set in the marble. There are over 4.3 million pieces of jewels – jade, crystal, amethyst, turquoise – set together to form flowers and vines.
One of the major appealing elements of the Taj Mahal is its symmetry. The grounds in front of the Taj is a garden, divided into 4 identical sections by a long pool and footpaths.
On the left side is a Mosque, and on the right is the guest house, which was only built to maintain the symmetry and is often called “the answer to the mosque”. These structures, along with the three gates surrounding the Taj are built out of red sandstone and marble, providing beautiful contrast to the off white Taj.
Emperor Shah Jahan planned to build an identical mausoleum for himself, but built out of black marble, on the other side of the Yamuna River, but the people were upset at the huge tax increase, and his son imprisoned him before he could begin plans.
On a hazy New Years Eve, I watched the sun rise behind the Jewel of India. It was breathtaking.