A mausoleum that represents a man’s love for his deceased wife and the strategic supremacy of an entire empire over the land he ruled, the Taj Mahal is a wonder of the world witnessed by many, but only a few. know its secrets,
Before divulging all the intriguing secrets surrounding India’s undisputed pride, the Taj; here are some stories about it:
The Taj was commissioned by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, who envisioned it as a grand tomb for his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
Built in Agra on the southern right bank of the Yamuna River, construction of the Taj began in 1632 and took about 22 years to complete. Nearly 20,000 workers from Persia, India and the Ottoman Empire were called upon to build this historic monument.
A fable describes how Shah Jahan cut off the hands of architect Ustad Ahmad Lahori so he could never create another masterpiece like the Taj again. But historians have never found any evidence that this incident ever took place.
This marvelous monument which is the pride and joy of India attracts many travelers from all over the world who cross continents to witness its beauty. But there are elusive details that most travelers don’t know about this famous landmark. Here are some little-known facts:
1. The walls of the Taj were once encrusted with precious jewels.
When completed, the Taj Mahal, built of marble, shimmered with precious jewels etched into its walls. This was done so that the Taj appears to shimmer when light falls on it. However, over the centuries, the Taj has been the victim of many raids and lootings which resulted in the theft of most of these gems. That being said, the gleaming marble of the Taj continues to dazzle and fascinate onlookers, especially on full moon nights.
2. The architecture of the Taj and its complex were designed to give you optical illusions
It is reported that when you enter the main gate of the complex, the Taj seems to be huge and framed by the arches of the gate, and as you approach it, it seems to shrink, making it an opposite phenomenon to this that the human mind, on average, would expect.
The towers that flank the main minaret give you yet another illusion of perfect symmetry. They appear perfectly straight but, in reality, are angled slightly outward! It was not a mistake; rather, it was a calculated move on the part of the architects to ensure that in the event of a natural calamity in the area, the towers would not collapse onto the main minaret but instead fall, keeping the mausoleum safe!
3. Unlike every inch of the Taj which is perfectly calculated, the placement of Shah Jahan’s Cenotaph is not in symmetry!
The empty cenotaphs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan placed on the top floor of the Taj (the real ones are placed on a lower floor, where entry is restricted) are not placed in perfect symmetry.
The story claims that Shah Jahan never wanted his grave to be in the Taj. In fact, there was to be another monument reflecting the Taj and built opposite it across the river, in black, where it would be interred (registered as the Black Taj). However, the project never saw the light of day as Shah Jahan was deposed and imprisoned for life by his son Aurangzeb (ironically the son of Mumtaz Mahal).
4. The original tombs are rather simple, in keeping with tradition.
As mentioned earlier, the real graves are placed on the lower floor. These originals are rather plain compared to the jeweled replicas seen below. This was done in accordance with Islamic tradition which does not allow tombstones to be adorned with jewels. With this, historians managed to meet the expectations of ultra-grand visitors and respect the religious feeling at the same time.
5. The Taj always bears the autograph of its calligrapher.
The walls of the Taj are home to some of the most captivating geometric and floral inlays. They also bear intricate calligraphy that reads the teachings of the Quran. Amanat Khan designed these letters and overlooked the craftsmen as they meticulously carved them out of marble and covered them with another stone. It reads “Written by the insignificant being, Amanat Khan Shirazi”, engraved below the engraved sermon.
6. The Taj has an error that honors God!
The Taj is a magnificent work of architecture that looks flawless to the average viewer. But a few years ago, Academician Dilip Ahuja conducted a simple experiment to prove that, in fact, the Taj’s main dome was imperfect. The experiment included cutting out an image of the main dome from the center and checking its alignment. Indeed, the alignment was off by 5.5%, proving that Mr. Ahuja was right.
Many believe this was a thoughtful decision by the architect, who included this minor imperfection to honor God in accordance with the Islamic tradition of doing so.
Located in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a must visit when visiting North India and Delhi in particular, as it is only a two-hour drive away. The city itself has a lot to offer its guests, but we’ll save that discussion for a later date.
Have you ever visited Agra and seen the Taj?