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History of the Taj Hahal

Location

The Taj Mahal stands along the banks of the river Yamuna in Agra, India. Within India, Agra’s location in the north places it around 200 kilometers South of India’s capitol, New Delhi. The city is of great historical significance to India. The Mughal emperors made Agra their capitol from 1556-1658. Because of its importance to this powerful empire, Agra holds two other UNESCO World Heritage Sites than the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.

History

Shah Jahan began construction of the Taj Mahal in 1632. Grief over the death of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, while giving birth to their 14th child inspired him to construct the building as a monument for their love. Construction of the mausoleum lasted until 1648. The rest of the grounds, including the garden and surrounding buildings, took an additional five years to complete. Artisans from all over the Mughal Empire worked on the building, along with 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. Its white marble was brought in from all over India and the rest of Asia. Not long after its completion, Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb, deposed him. Shan Jahan now lies in the Taj Mahal with his beloved wife.

Over the centuries, the Taj Mahal lost some of it beauty, thanks in large part to the British who chiseled the precious stones and lapis lazuli that had been placed in the walls. However, the British also helped restore the Taj Mahal. British Viceroy Lord Curzon led an effort to restore the grounds in 1908 to repair damage caused by the Indian rebellion of 1857. They also redesigned the lawns that now add to the beauty of the complex.

During WWII and later conflicts in the 20th century, scaffolds were constructed around the building to misled enemy pilots during bombing. More recent threats to the Taj Mahal include pollution turning the marble yellow. Strict emission regulations now govern the area around the Taj Mahal. Another danger is that the building is sinking. Recently, cracks have appeared, leading to worry that the tomb may soon collapse.

A long standing myth claims that Shah Jahan planned to build another identical building across the river as his tomb. The only difference was that it was to be constructed of black marble. The belief is that he was overthrown by his son before he could begin construction. Ruins of black marble across the river seemed to support this theory. However, what was thought to be black marble turned out to simply be discolored white marble. Most experts dismiss the possibility of the black Taj Mahal. In 2006, archeologists reconstructed part of the pool in the Moonlight Garden across the river. A dark reflection of the white Taj Mahal in the water was clearly visible, leaving at the very least a testament to Jahan’s love of symmetry.

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