The Taj Mahal (1653 AD)—a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India—was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Widely recognized as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage,” the Taj Mahal is also regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles.
Ever since its construction, the building has been the source of an admiration transcending culture and geography, and so personal and emotional responses have consistently eclipsed scholastic appraisals of the monument.
In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen with Ahmad Lahauri, who is generally considered to be the principal designer.
Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:
Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator’s glory.
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