Taj Mahal has always been a place I wanted to go to even without a clue about the amazing love story behind it. Taj Mahal means “crown of palaces” and was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died when she gave birth to her 14th child. Although it was an arranged marriage and the emperor lived in a harem with many wives, history tells that he truly loved his wife – his love, consultant and friend.
When she died she asked him to built a mausoleum for her, which will make her unforgettable. He truly kept his promise, by combining the most beautiful architectural parts of his ancestors’ mausoleums, building this site with 20.000 workers over 12 years. He started the constructions in 1631 in Agra, when the empire was at its greatest prosperity.
He basically became obsessed with the construction of Taj Mahal combining the finest elements from Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles and Italian handcraft. The flower style decoration which seems to be painted on the marble is in fact a technique, which is called “Piedra Dura” – supposedly the most challenging handcraft. Artists carve a pattern out of the strong marble, then carve a colored stone in the exact same shape and paste it into the carved area. It is unbelievable to see once you stand in front of that building. On top of that, 22 passages and 14 chapters of the Qur’an are “written” on the marble walls – meaning, carved in the marble and filled with jasper or black marble.
Through the years of building the immense monument with deliberate passion, the empire started to be threatened by this project, as it took every resource especially financially. At the very end, the son of the emperor, pushed his father to stop him wasting more energy on the Taj Mahal and “locked” him into the Agra Fort. From there he could see the monument he had built over the years, which would not only be a memory to his wife, but also a memory to him, as the builder of the “jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”, which became UNESCO World Heritage in 1983.