The Taj Mahal, located in on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra, India, was built as a tomb by the emperor Shah Jahan, for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Constructed between 1631-1648, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visited by millions of people each year. It is the finest example of Mughal architecture, which combines Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles. The construction of the Taj Mahal took 20,000 workers and cost 32 million rupees. Expert craftsmen from India and abroad (including Baghdad, Shiraz, and Bukhara) were employed.Shah Jahan means King of the World. Prince Khurram was granted this title by his father, Emperor Jahangir. He was the favorite son, and after his father’s death and brothers’ mysterious deaths, became Emperor himself. He met a beautiful Persian princess at the age of 15 – his soulmate, Mumtaj Mahal. They were married five years later, and were inseparable after that. After her death in childbirth, Shah Jahan immensely grieved for two years, and never again showed enthusiasm for his responsibilities. Within six months of her death, he laid the foundation for the Taj Mahal across the river from his palace.
- Take a tour of the Taj Mahal. With so many people visiting, how do you think visitors are able to get photos of themselves without huge numbers of people in it? What do you think the impact of tourism is on this monument? What can India do to preserve the Taj Mahal, more than they are doing? UNESCO granted funds to reduce air pollution around the Taj Mahal in 1994, and to help preserve the Taj Mahal in 1986.
- The Taj Mahal boasts incredible beauty and craftsmanship, both inside and out. Read thisofficial website about the decoration of the outside of the Taj Mahal, and this official UNESCO description of the craftsmanship. Discuss the enormous effort and cost it took to coordinate the building of this palace.
- Then take an aerial tour of the Taj Mahal (click on the images on the side for different perspectives). Can you better imagine the beauty and craftsmanship of this monument with these images?
- Watch these 10 facts you didn’t know about the Taj Mahal. Which fact surprised you the most, and why?
- Read these visitor impressions of the Taj Mahal. What words might you write about this “castle in the air”?