Agra, Dharmapuri, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India
GPS: 27.175595366406, 78.042445998274
Located on the right bank of the sacred river of Yamuna, in the city of Agra, the Taj Mahal is a funerary mausoleum of white marble inlaid with fine and semi-precious stones. National emblem of India, this monument with impressive dimensions means “Crown of the Palace” in Persian. Born of a heartache, the Taj Mahal is one of the best known tombs in the world with the Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt), the Khazneh of Petra (Jordan) and the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (China).
The Taj Mahal is considered by some to be the eighth wonder of the world. It is the work of the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who decides to erect it in memory of his third and favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Banu) who bore the title of Mumtaz Mahal (“the Exalted One of the Palace”). It was after giving birth to their 14th child (half of them died in infancy) that she died suddenly in 1631, before she was 40. The best artisans of the whole empire but also of Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East, are requisitioned by the emperor to build this jewel of all beauty, symbol of paradise and eternal love. Shah Jahan reigned at the time on an immensely large territory and controlled the equivalent of a quarter of the world population. He opts for a white marble architecture, a rare and expensive material, which differs from the many Hindu buildings that surround it. To extract the white marble from the quarries of Makrana (located 300 kilometres away) and Jodhpur (150 kilometres) in Rajasthan, a thousand elephants are used without counting a multitude of oxen and buffaloes. About 20,000 forced workers contribute to the construction of the Taj Mahal, the total weight of which is estimated at 40,000 tonnes (the building site lasted about twenty years).
Completed in the mid-17th century, the Taj Mahal serves not only as the tomb of the deceased Mumtaz Mahal (who gave her name to the building) but also to Shah Jahan himself. The emperor died in 1658 after eight years of imprisonment in the Agra Fort, on the orders of his third son Aurangzeb, greedy for power. This flamboyant complex represents the most beautiful example of architecture in the Mughal dynasty combined with the finesse of Muslim art. With its large garden, its fountains, its reflective basin, its red sandstone mosque and its raised tombs, the Taj Mahal creates an unprecedented perspective effect. An essential step for high foreign dignitaries, it is distinguished by its almost perfect proportions and symmetry, marked by its large central dome, its four minarets and its series of iwans (vacuum openings typical of Islamic architecture). In recent years, large-scale renovation works have been underway to restore the Taj Mahal to its original radiance and combat the undesirable effects of air pollution surrounding the city of Agra.