Why was the Taj Mahal built?

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Why was the Taj Mahal built?

Hi there, thanks for asking Wonder about why the Taj Mahal was built.


The Taj Mahal was built as a monument of love. A testament to love from a devoted king to his beloved queen and mother of his 14 children.
During the Moghul Dynasty reign over India in the 16th-18th century, Emperor Shah Jehan reigned over Northern India between 1628-1658.
He married his most beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal when he was 21 and she was 19. At the age of 36, Shah Jehan became the Emperor and a short 3 years later, Mumtaz Mahal died after giving birth to their 14th child. The Taj Mahal was built as a memorial to "house the remains of his cherished wife". (source: Science Direct and History.com).


The Taj Mahal is one of UNESCO's seven wonders of the world. It's visited by six million tourists per year, and its popularity may lead to its own destruction as some conservationists claimed. Yet, as a monument of love, a building built with white marbles, and carved in ornaments and gemstones, the Taj Mahal continues to be sought after by travelers, as a romantic historical site. (source: Firstpost)

The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, India and is on the southern bank of Yamuna River. Its architecture is the most well known of the Moghul empire and is a fine example of Islamic, Persian and Indian architectural influences.


The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal to expressed his love for his late wife, Arjumand Banu Begum popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, after her marriage to him. Mumtaz Mahal means "Jewel of the Palace" which exemplified his love for her. She was his third wife, whom he fell in love with when she was 14 and he was 16. Married five years later, she bore him 14 children and died while giving birth to her last child.

She was much loved by the Emperor, not only for her beauty but also for her compassion, generosity, and wisdom. She gave allowances to widows and met with petitioners seeking the Emperor's court, and often accompanied him on his military campaigns. It was during his military campaign to defeat a rebel commander, Khan Jahan Lodi, that Mumtaz died in childbirth. The Emperor was heartbroken and had deeply mourned for his wife, which he then announced a two-day state mourning. (source: Science Direct).

When Mumtaz was alive, she extracted four promises from Shah Jehan. "The first, to build the palace (the Taj Mahal); second, to marry again; third, to be kind to their children; and fourth, to visit her on her tomb on her death anniversary" (source: TheTajMahal.In).

The grieving Emperor ordered a tomb to be built in honor of Mumtaz overseeing his palace in Agra. Construction began a year later, in 1632, and would only be completed twenty years later.


Construction of the Taj Mahal took twenty years to build, with 20,000 workers from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire and around 1,000 elephants.(source: History.com)

The monument was built with white marbles and ornate with semi-precious stones. Its main dome is 240 feet tall and surrounded by four smaller domes. Its arched entrances were inscribed with Quranic calligraphy, in line with Islamic traditions of the Moghul Empire. The monument where a false tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is covered with precious stones. The real grave of Mumtaz Mahal is at the garden level, in line with Islamic traditions. (source: History.com)

The chief architect was Ustad Ahmad Lahouri, an Indian Persian Muslim. Ismail Affandi (a.k.a Ismail Khan) of the Ottoman Empire was known as the chief dome designer. Chiranjilal, a local Indian Hindu, was the chief sculptor and Amanat Khan from Shiraz, Iran was the chief calligrapher.
The assembly of architects, designers, sculptors and calligraphers from India, Persia and the Ottoman Empire showed the Moghul Empire vast span and influence. (source: TajMahal.Gov.In)


Famous folklores have named Shah Jehan as the Emperor who ordered his men to cut off the hands of his architects and workers to ensure that they would not build another beauty like the Taj Mahal.

However, this folklore has never been proven. It is also likely to be untrue, given that Shah Jehan had commissioned other buildings to be built during his reign, some of which became famous in their own right. These include the Red Forte of Agra, the mosque in Agra and the Shalimar (Water Garden). (source: IslamicArt). For these to be built, he would have needed the skilled labor and architects. (source: Scoopwhoop.com - 20 Interesting Facts About The Taj Mahal).


After Shah Jehan's health deteriorated in 1657, his sons fought for power. Aurangzeb, his sixth son with Mumtaz Mahal, took control in 1658, and imprisoned his father. Shah Jehan became a prisoner in Agra Fort, unable to visit the Taj Mahal, and for the remaining 8 years, spent gazing at the Taj Mahal. He was laid to rest by his son next to Mumtaz Mahal, in the Taj Mahal. (source: Encyclopedia.com).


The background of how Taj Mahal came to be built is one of the most interesting histories of today. Its monument is said to be built for the love of a woman, from a king to his queen. As one of the seven wonders of the world, it has never ceased to have visitors.