How big is the Taj Mahal? Would you believe that it took 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants to complete it? Or that the construction took workers twenty years to finish? (I wonder how much was left of Mumtaz Mahal by the time her tomb was finished.) Well, believe it or not, that is all true. Although, once you hear how intricate the mausoleum was, you will probably understand.
Built for Shah Jahan’s beloved wife, Arjumand Banu, the Taj is a beautiful building meant to represent paradise. The name might have come from Arjumand Banu’s name, Mumtaz Mahal, or it might have come from the meaning in Hindi, Crown Palace. It is made entirely out of white marble because, in India, white not only stands for purity, it also stands for mourning. However, the workers also put designs in the marble to give the white marble a little beauty.
From far away, it looks like the designs were painted on, but once you get close, you can see that the designs were actually set in the marble. The flowers, Arabic letters, and other designs were actually made of other stones, such as lapis lazuli, agate, jasper, and turquoise, to name a few. There are four water channels leading from the gate entrance to the Taj Mahal with a fountain sitting half way between. The water channels were supposed to represent the Islamic paradise. Also on the grounds of the Taj Mahal are two other buildings, a guesthouse and a masjid (mosque in Hindi). A cool fact about this beautiful building is that it is symmetric. All the sides are exactly the same.
To enter the area where the Taj Mahal is in, there are three different gates you can go through. All of these entrances lead into one courtyard where there is another larger gate that leads into the area with the Taj Mahal. The railing right after this gate is one of the most popular places to take pictures of the Taj Mahal. In order to get to the front of the crowd, you have to push your way through or people will take advantage of the empty space and push ahead. I was only able to take a few photos before I was shoved out of the way.
Being one of the most famous historical buildings in the world, the Taj Mahal was incredibly busy. My dad, my dad’s friend, and I went to the Taj Mahal at about six in the morning to get some good photos of the Taj and it wasn’t really busy, but it certainly wasn’t empty.
Later when we went back in the afternoon with the rest of our families, it was much busier than before. Inside, where the tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife are (not the real tombs, the real tombs are in a underground burial chamber beneath the Taj Mahal), we had to push and shove just to stay together.
When we went inside where the tombs were, the noise everybody was making echoed and made the large room seem almost sacred, or holy. It might have been the tombs too that made it feel that way. One of the tombs was larger than the other. The larger one was the king’s tomb, and the smaller tomb was the queen’s tomb. At first we thought the larger tomb was for the queen since the Taj was built for her, but then again, the king was the most important person in the kingdom.
Destined to become one of the king’s favorite companions, Arjumand Banu (She was renamed Mumtaz Mahal later after her marriage) was only a teenager, when she was married to Shah Jahan in 1612. (Shah Jahan himself was only fifteen!) Imagine, you are only about thirteen or fourteen years old and your father tells you that you are to be married to the most powerful person in the kingdom. The person who could order you killed if he is not pleased with you, or could make you the most envied person in the kingdom. You are probably a daughter of one of the noblemen, but still, being married to the king is kind of intimidating.
The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and for good reason. The construction took massive numbers of workers, and many years to finish, and is one of very few wonders still standing today.
A lot of the information in this post comes from interactions with a tour guide we hired. However, here are additional sources I used as well.