The Taj Mahal
History of Taj Mahal:
The Taj Mahal of Agra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, for reasons more than just looking magnificent. It’s the history of Taj Mahal that adds a soul to its magnificence: a soul that is filled with love, loss, remorse, and love again. Because if it was not for love, the world would have been robbed of a fine example upon which people base their relationships. An example of how deeply a man loved his wife, that even after she remained but a memory, he made sure that this memory would never fade away. This man was the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was head-over-heels in love with Mumtaz Mahal, his dear wife. She was a Muslim Persian princess (her name Arjumand Banu Begum before marriage) and he was the son of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir and grandson of Akbar the Great. It was at the age of 14 that he met Mumtaz and fell in love with her. Five years later in the year 1612, they got married.
Mumtaz Mahal, an inseparable companion of Shah Jahan, died in 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child. It was in the memory of his beloved wife that Shah Jahan built a magnificent monument as a tribute to her, which we today know as the “Taj Mahal”. The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631. Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran, and it took approximately 22 years to build what we see today. An epitome of love, it made use of the services of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. The monument was built entirely out of white marble, which was brought in from all over India and central Asia. After an expenditure of approximately 32 million rupees, Taj Mahal was finally completed in the year 1653.
It was soon after the completion of Taj Mahal that Shah Jahan was deposed by his own son Aurangzeb and was put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort. Shah Jahan, himself also, lies entombed in this mausoleum along with his wife. Moving further down the history, it was at the end of the 19th century that British Viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a sweeping restoration project, which was completed in 1908, as a measure to restore what was lost during the Indian rebellion of 1857: Taj being blemished by British soldiers and government officials who also deprived the monument of its immaculate beauty by chiseling out precious stones and lapis lazuli from its walls. Also, the British style lawns that we see today adding on to the beauty of Taj were remodeled around the same time. Despite prevailing controversies, past and present threats from Indo-Pak war and environmental pollution, this epitome of love continuous to shine and attract people from all over the world.
Year of Construction: 1631 – Completed In: 1653 – Time Taken: 22 years – Built By: Shah Jahan – Dedicated to: Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Bano Begum), the wife of Shah Jahan – Location: Agra (Uttar Pradesh), India – Building Type: Islamic tomb – Architecture: Mughal (Combination of Persian, Islamic and Indian architecture style) – Architect: Ustad Ahmad Lahauri – Cost of Construction: 32 crore rupees – Number of workers: 20,000 – Highlights: One of the Seven Wonders of the World; A UNESCO World Heritage Site
History of Agra Fort:
Abul Fazal, the court historian at Akbar’s court mentions in his ‘Ain-a-Akbari’ that an old, Pathan Fort existed in Agra before the Mughals came to power.Also, pulling down a fort and building a new one on its site involved a lot of labour and time and therefore it was quite understandable that the captured citadels were renovated and fortified as per the specifications and requirements of the new occupants ; which also applies to the Agra Fort.The Agra Fort has withstood many sieges and the onslaught and ravages of times. A further input to fortify its existence to pre –Mughal period is mentioned in the ‘Tarik-i-daudi’, which states that this citadel was used as a state prison during the time of Kanishka.The belief that the fort existed during the time of Ashoka the Great, is also given strength by the discovery of the remains of a short length of wall unearthed close to the Jahangiri Mahal, which is claimed to be of a Jain or Buddhist relic.The fort belonged to a period prior to Akbar’s coming to power is also admitted in a publication which states…. ‘Traditions assert that the old fortress of Badalgarh was altered and adopted to his requirements by Akbar”
The “Badshahnama” and the Ai –i –Akbari, gives its time of completion as eight years in the period 1565 – 1571 AD.
- Agra Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The fort is also known as ‘Lal Qila’, Fort Rouge and Red Fort of Agra.
- Agra fort was originally a brick fort and the Chauhan Rajputs held it. It was mentioned for the first time in 1080 AD when a Ghaznavide force captured it.
- Sikandar Lodi was the first Sultan of Delhi, who shifted to Agra and lived in the fort.
- The great Mughal Emperors, Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb lived here and the country was governed from here.
- According to Abul Fazl, a historian during Akbar’s reign, this brick fort was in a ruined condition and was known as Badalgarh.
- Akbar had it rebuilt with red sandstone. Some 1,444,000 builders worked on it for eight years, completing it in 1573.
- It contained the largest state treasury and mint. It was visited by foreign ambassadors, travelers and the highest dignitaries, who are an integral part of the history of India.
- The fort can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city.
- The fort has a semi-circular plan, its chord lying parallel to the Yamuna River and stretches for almost 2.5 km.
- The walls of the Fort are seventy feet high.
- It consists of a wall built in red sandstone and several buildings inside. It has 4 gates on four sides, two of which are known as the Delhi Gate and the Amar Singh Gate. You can only enter the fort via the Amar Singh Gate.
- Some of the most historically interesting mix of Hindu and Islamic architecture can be seen here. The Islamic decorations here feature forbidden images of living creatures – dragons, elephants and birds, instead of the usual patterns and calligraphy seen in Islamic surface decoration.
- The Agra Fort plays a key role in the Sherlock Holmes mystery, ‘The Sign of the Four’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- The Agra Fort has won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in the year 2004 and Indian Post issued a stamp to commemorate this prestigious award on 28 November, 2004.