One of the new seven wonders of the world, it is no surprise that the famous Taj Mahal may have some myths attached to its name. An impressive architectural structure, this monument continues to amaze and inspire people from all around the world. There is a lot to be learned about the Taj Mahal, but it is also important to separate fact from fiction.
The History of Taj Mahal
Before we can delve deeper into the Taj Mahal facts and myths, it is important to learn about the history of the place. The story behind the Taj Mahal is well-known, but no less interesting every time that you hear it.
Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631 after she gave birth to their 14th child; leaving a grieving Shah Jahan behind. The ruler was famous for commissioning monuments and forts, and hence, it came as no surprise when he wished for a memorial building to be built for Mumtaz Mahal. He commissioned the building in 1632, and it wasn’t until 1648 that the main structure was finished being built.
The building took 16 years to finish being built, and when you look at its marvellous structure, it is not hard to see why so many years were spent building this monument. However, it was not until 1953 that the other structures surrounding the monument such as the southern gateway, the guest house, the mosque, the outer courtyard and the cloisters surrounding it were finished.
To build the Taj Mahal artisans from all over the Empire and even Iran and Central Asia were commissioned; the main architect behind the project was Ustad-Ahmad Lahori. Fascinating Taj Mahal facts will let you know that it took over 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants working over two decades to finish building this mausoleum.
Taj Mahal Myths
Approximately 6.5 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. Of course, since the building is over three centuries old, the monument has garnered quite a few myths and stories. Some myths may even be popular than true Taj Mahal facts! Let’s take a look at some of the popular myths surrounding the monument:
Exquisite Taj Mahal
The most popular myth surrounding the Taj Mahal is that Shah Jahan wanted Taj Mahal to be the only structure of such grandeur and design. He did not want another similar, or perhaps, better and more gorgeous building to ever be recreated. Hence, he cut off the hands and gouged the eyes of the artisans who took part in building the Taj Mahal.
This Taj mahal myth is so widely circulated and considered to be one of the some of the horrifying Taj Mahal facts. Fortunately, this story seems to be fabricated to add to the romantic history of the monument and has no basis in truth.
Historians have found no evidence that Shah Jahan had ordered for these artisans to be amputated, nor for their eyes to be gouged. Shah Jahan commissioned these artisans to build several other monuments or buildings after the Taj Mahal was built, so it can be assumed that the artisans were not harmed.
Although it may be true that he wished for Taj Mahal to be one of a kind, and even after three centuries, it remains so.
The Black Taj Mahal
Another famous Taj Mahal myth is of the black Taj Mahal. Black marble remains were found in the Mehtab Garden, which was located directly opposite to the Taj Mahal. Hence, a myth was formed that Shah Jahan wished for a black Taj Mahal to be built across the Yamuna River, and for the two mahals to be connected by a bridge.
However, when Shah Jahan’s son, Aurangzeb deposed him, the building was halted. However, historians claim that this is a myth and have found no evidence to suggest this theory.
Asymmetrical Taj Mahal
Artisans from Persia, India, and even the Ottoman Empire came together to build the famous Taj Mahal. With over 20,000 people working on the Taj Mahal, it seems improbable that there would be any shortcomings in how the building was built. However, many believe that the Taj Mahal is asymmetrical.
This Taj Mahal myth arises because Shah Jahan’s cenotaph, which is placed beside Mumtaz Mahal’s, appears to be slightly elevated. Hence, people often assume that the building is asymmetrical. This placement of the cenotaph also fuelled the myth of the black Taj Mahal as people assume that the placement of Shah Jahan’s cenotaph is not symmetrical because it was never supposed to be placed there.
Flawed Taj Mahal
One of the well-known Taj Mahal facts is that Shah Jahan wished for the building to be flawless and one of a kind. While it cannot be verified completely, since it was a monument built as a memorial to his wife, we can assume that it is true.
However, a popular Taj Mahal myth that emerged as a result of this fact is that there is a hole on the Taj Mahal’s ceiling, perpendicular to Mumtaz’s cenotaph. During the rainy season, because of the water that drips from the ceiling, many people believe it to be true.
People consider that the hole was intentionally put there to make Taj Mahal a flawed structure by one of the artisans after they learned that their hands were to be amputated. However, as we know that the story of the amputation is false, it is safe to assume that this myth is false as well.
Additionally, many scientists have explained the water that drips from the ceiling during the rainy season as a result of perspiration and respiration, and not, because of any hole in the ceiling.
A Hindu King Built the Taj Mahal
A Taj Mahal myth that was even presented before the court is that the Taj Mahal was a Shiv Temple and that after Shah Jahan’s seizure it was converted into and named the Taj Mahal.
In fact, in two separate cases, people claimed that the Taj Mahal was either built by a Hindu King to be a Shiv Temple or a Palace. However, the Archaeological Survey of India put these claims to rest and confirmed that there is no evidence that the Taj Mahal has been a palace or a temple.
Also read: Golden Temple Facts that will make you wow
Thus, it is safe to say that the Taj Mahal is, as it was always intended to be, a tomb and memorial for Shah Jahan’s beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. This one of the verifiable Taj Mahal facts, as the ASI has backed it.
It is fascinating to learn of the myths surrounding the Taj Mahal, which are more widely circulated than some of the Taj Mahal facts. This centuries-old structure which stands tall even today and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites seems to be full of mystery. Hence, it seems to be a wonder in more ways than one. It is safe to say that although we may know a lot about the Taj Mahal, there is still a lot to be learned about it.
Taj Mahal Structure
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum which is constructed out of white marble. The structure is also inlaid with several semiprecious stones such as jades, crystals, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise. The jewels for intricate designs and the technique used to create these designs is referred to as the Pietra Dura.
The central dome of the mahal is 240 feet tall, and there are four smaller domes around it. Surrounding the central structure are four minarets or pillars. If one observes, then they will notice that the pillars are not perpendicular; rather, they lean outwards.
The minarets were built in this way to protect the main structure of the mahal in case of a natural calamity such as an earthquake. If the minarets fell, they would fall outward, protecting the central structure from any harm.
Numerous sections of the complex and the arches of the entryway to the mausoleum are inscribed with verses from the Quran, per Islamic traditions.
The chamber inside the mausoleum is octagonal and is adorned with semiprecious stones along with carvings. The cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal and later, Shah Jahn’s cenotaph as well. Their actual remains rest at the garden level, below the cenotaph.
The rest of the complex consists of the main gateway which is made of red sandstone, a square garden which is divided into four parts by long pools of water and finally, a mosque made out of red sandstone and another identical building which is called “Jawab” or “mirror” which is built directly across from the mosque. According to traditional practices in Mughal building, no future alterations can be made to the complex.
Taj Mahal Facts
As beautiful as the Taj mahal is, it is also intriguing. Whether or not you have visited the store in person, you may have heard many stories about it. Learning Taj mahal facts is interesting because it is a significant part of India’s history, and marvel of the world. Some Taj Mahal facts can be quite surprising as well. Take a look at some of them:
Shah Jahan could not enjoy the beauty of the Taj Mahal
While he probably did get to visit it, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb only a year after the Taj Mahal was completed. It is widely believed that he would admire the beauty (and the memory of Mumtaz Mahal) from his window in the Agra Fort.
The Taj Mahal Changes Colour
This is one of the verifiable Taj Mahal facts. Suppose you have been to the Taj Mahal. Then you will notice that the colour of the Taj Mahal changes according to the position of the sun.
The architects who built the Taj Mahal were extremely talented and masters of illusion. The monument is built so that the colour varies from pale white to pale pink and even pale blue from certain angles. It is truly a fascinating sight to see!
Not built by an Indian
The main architect of the building is generally regarded as Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. However, he was Persian and not Indian. Since many architects from several places such as Persia and the Ottoman Empire were commissioned to build this fort, it comes as no surprise that perhaps the main architects for this project were not Indian.
The building is mainly constructed from heavy white marble which was imported from Rajasthan, but that is not all. The structure is inlaid with several precious and semiprecious stones, 28 types to be exact. The jade was imported from China, and the turquoise was imported from Tibet.
The emission levels and air pollution in Agra are rapidly causing the Taj Mahal’s stones to turn yellow. Hence, only electric vehicles are allowed within a 6,500-kilometre radius of the monument. Those who wish to visit the Taj Mahal may either walk or use an electric vehicle to reach the Taj Mahal from the parking lot.
As far as fascinating Taj Mahal facts go, it is interesting to know that to preserve the beauty of the Taj Mahal, it receives a Spa Day every once in a while. The building is covered in Multani mitti and then cleaned with brush and water to help improve the shine and brightness of the building.
Replica Taj Mahal
Although nothing can be as beautiful as the original one, there is a replica of the Taj Mahal in Bangladesh. The replica cost around $56 million and was a project undertaken by Ahsan Ullah Moni, a Bangladeshi filmmaker.
The projects took eight years to complete with modern equipment and are located 32 kilometres from the capital of Dhaka. Ahsan Ullah Moni wanted to bring the Taj to his fellow countrymen, most of whom were too impoverished to go see the real monument in Agra.
Additionally, he believed that there are no monuments or other tourist attractions in Bangladesh, and he hoped that this building would boost tourism.
Ever wondered why the garden surrounding the structure looked rather plain? Well, originally, the garden around the monument was colourful and filled with roses and Daffodils to add to the beauty of the structure.
However, during the British rule in India, all of this changed. The garden was trimmed and manicured to make it resemble the well-maintained, but plain, gardens of London.
India was once known for its rich collection of jewels, and precious stones. However, during the British rule, most of this was lost. The Taj Mahal was perhaps the most famous structure which was inlaid with several precious stones. Unfortunately, during the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, the British soldiers removed several of these stones from inside of the structure, and they have been lost ever since.
It surpasses the Qutub Minar
One of the verifiable Taj Mahal facts is that it surpasses the Qutub Minar in height by five feet. The Taj Mahal is 240 feet in height and stands taller than the Qutub Minar.
It is not the first resting place of Mumtaz Mahal
While the Taj Mahal was built to become a memorial for Mumtaz Mahal, it is not the first place where her body was buried. After her death, Mumtaz Mahal’s body was moved twice. Her first resting place was in Burhanpur.
Then, her body was moved to Agra, and her body was buried in the Taj Complex for twelve years before finally being moved to the basement or the garden level of the Taj Mahal. According to Islamic tradition, a grave should not have any decoration. Hence, the main structure only has the cenotaph and not the remains.
While it may seem like it is only a tourist attraction, one of the Taj Mahal facts that will surprise you is that the Taj Mahal comprises a working mosque. On Fridays, this mosque is closed for prayers. Hence, if you are visiting the monument on a Friday, remember that it is a working religious structure and that you should dress appropriately.
Symbol of Power
While it is true that the Taj Mahal is mostly remembered as a symbol of power, it is important to remember that Shah Jahan was considered to be a ruthless man. That is not to say that he did not love Mumtaz Mahal or that the Taj Mahal is not a symbol of love. Rather, it is a symbol of both power and love. The complete symmetry of the Taj Mahal also signifies the perfection of the Mughal rule and absolute power. The grand scale of the monument, the cost of building it, the precious stones inlaid in the marble and the fanfare associated with the Taj Mahal also brought glory to Shah Jahan’s reign.
Yamuna River keeps it from collapsing
The foundation of the Taj Mahal is made of timber. In some other scenario, the wood would have weakened by now, and the Taj Mahal would have collapsed by now. However, the Yamuna River helps keep the foundation of the Taj Mahal strong.
Concealing the Taj Mahal
During World War II and even during the India-Pakistan war in 1971, the Taj Mahal was concealed by the Archaeological Survey of India. Huge scaffoldings were placed around the Taj Mahal, to make it resemble a pile of bamboos and keep it from being spotted.
Other Wives and Servants
Although it seems that Shah Jahan loved Mumtaz Mahal the most, he had other wives as well. It is believed that the other wives and even his favourite servants are buried in mausoleums outside of the main structure, but still within the Taj Mahal complex.
It did not always remain so grand
As mentioned earlier, the Taj Mahal is not just a symbol of love, but a symbol of power as well. As the Mughal empire ended, the Taj Mahal was mostly ignored. However, it was often raided and suffered a great deal of damage, especially during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. It wasn’t until the 19th century, under the British rule, that the Taj underwent some restoration and repairs.
Most of the structure was repaired and revived. Lord Curzon the Viceroy spent a huge amount of his own as well as government resources in restoring the Taj Mahal and its complex. He even gifted a lamp and chandelier to the Taj Mahal, who had his name inscribed on it.
Recently, the chandelier and the lamp have been removed from the site to protect them from damage.
It was not supposed to be located in Agra
Agra is famous for the Taj Mahal and attracts several tourists every year because of the monument. However, the monument was not always planned to be built in Agra. Mumtaz Mahal died of childbirth in Burhanpur, a city which is now located in present-day Madhya Pradesh.
A site along the Tapti River had been selected for building the Taj Mahal. However, Burhanpur could not supply the adequate amount of white marbles required for the construction of the monument. Hence, the building site shifted from Burhanpur to Agra.
The British did not plan on destroying the Taj Mahal
Although the governor-general Lord William Bentinck did auction off discarded marbles from the Agra Fort, he had no plans on destroying the Taj Mahal. Even if he did, he never succeeded, and it was under the British rule that the Taj Mahal underwent restoration and reparations to restore it to its former glory.
The Taj Mahal is an expensive structure
Even by today’s structure, the cost of building the Taj Mahal is something that most people cannot imagine. During that time, the Taj mahal cost around 32 crore rupees, which would be around 1 billion US dollars.
The Taj Mahal will continue to be a fascinating structure for all. It has lived for almost four centuries and continues to be a marvel of the world. It rightfully holds its position as one of the seven wonders of the new world and is not likely to be replaced. All should experience the grandeur of the Taj Mahal, and given the fact that it sometimes has 40,000 to 50,000 people visiting the site in a single day, it seems that most of the world agrees. These Taj Mahal facts help us not only learn more about the monument but also inspire us to take the trip to see it in person one day!