The Taj Mahal, was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his Empress Mumtaz Mahal. As symbols of undying love go, it is one of the most deservedly famous and best examples of unparalleled excellence in Indo-Persian architecture.
Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
Mumtaz Mahal, originally named Arjumand Banu Begum; which means 'the chosen one of the palace'. She was the daughter of Asif Khan and the grand-daughter of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, both of whom held high positions in the Mughal Court.
According to a popular story, Arjumand Banu, as a young girl, captivated Shah Jahan when he confronted her for having released one of his two prized fantail pigeons. He angrily demanded how she could have done something like this, upon which she released the other one as well and said, "Like this!"
During the long years of their married life, she stood by him through political and personal highs and lows, and often accompanied him during military campaigns.
It was on one of these, against Khan-i-Jehan Lodi at Burhanpur that she delivered their fourteenth child and died shortly after on June 17,1631. The grief-stricken Emperor aged almost overnight and, for the next two years, remained in deep mourning.
The Idea of the Taj Mahal
After his wife's death, Shah Jahan gave up most of the pleasures and comforts that his royal position brought him. He had always had an avid interest in architecture, and now thought of erecting a commemorative monument in his queen's memory.
After her death, Arjumand Banu had been buried temporarily in Burhanpur's Zainabad Garden. Six months later she was taken to Agra, then called Dar-ul Khilafat Akbarabad and reburied on the banks of the Yamuna.
The piece of land chosen for the burial belonged to Raja Jai Singh, the grand-son of Raja Man Singh, who gladly offered it to the Emperor, and was compensated with another piece of land elsewhere.
Building the Taj
Initially, many wooden models for the proposed tomb were prepared and, after much consulting between the Emperor and his designers, the final design was approved.
There is considerable debate between historians on who the actual designers were. Was it the Turkish or Persian designer Ustad Muhammad Isa Effendi or the Venetian Adventurer Geronimo Veroneo, or if it was a collaboration as both are known to have been employed by Shah Jehan around this time.
The building process began in 1632 and the main mausoleum was completed in 1643. The work on the outer buildings continued for a considerable time after this, until 1653. So the project took around twenty-two years to complete.
Some of these workmen and craftsmen are mentioned in contemporary accounts, and so we know that a certain Amanat Khan Shirazi was the calligrapher and Ismail Khan was the dome-builder. Shah Jahan was determined not to be held back by any financial considerations and so no expense was spared in the building.
The total cost is said to have been roughly 411 lakhs, 48 thousand, 826 rupees, seven annas, six pies. This probably includes the cost of the building materials like marble, red sand-stone, precious gems, and so on, procured both from the State Treasury and from donations by Vassal States.
Shah Jahan had planned to build a tomb for himself that would be a twin to the Taj Mahal, only in black marble, on the exact opposite side of the Yamuna and connected to the Taj with a marble bridge.