The Taj Mahal is the immense marble mausoleum that is India's most iconic building. The building itself is often called the greatest testament to love ever built, and its large white walls not only hold a romantic story, but many interesting rumors as well.
In this article, we will answer the most frequently asked questions about the Taj Mahal including where it is in Agra and why it's there, the story of the Taj Mahal, how to get to Agra, and what is special about the Taj's architecture.
We will also go over the main rumors and mysteries that surround the construction of this incredible world wonder, such as what happened to the builders and the Black Taj.
1. Where is the Taj Mahal?
The Taj Mahal is in the city of Agra, which is in India's state of Uttar Pradesh. Agra is located in northwestern India and is around 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Delhi, the nation's capital.
Agra was a city of great importance during the Mughal era and today has around 1.7 million inhabitants. The Taj Mahal is located to the east of the city on the outskirts next to the Yamuna River, around 3 kilometers (2 miles) from downtown.
The site of the Taj Mahal was chosen carefully by Shah Jahan, the structure's builder, to be an auspicious burial ground for his beloved wife. In the 17th century, this part of the city was a wealthy area that was full of beautiful gardens, which are a holy concept in Islam and a symbol of divine creation.
See more on What to Do Near the Taj Mahal
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2. How should I get to the Taj Mahal?
The city of Agra is located on the Golden Triangle tourism route and is easily reached from Delhi and Jaipur which are both around 200 kilometers away. If you want to visit all three cities, the easiest method of travel is to go through a tour company that will arrange private transfers between each destination for you.
To get to Agra from Delhi, travelers can use the high-speed railway, which is a journey of 1 hour and 40 minutes. Another way to reach Agra is to take a private car from Delhi, which can be more expensive but is often much more comfortable and convenient. Traveling by car between Delhi and Agra typically takes around 3 hours.
You can also reach Agra by flying from most major Indian cities.
The best way to get to the Taj Mahal while in Agra is to take a private car or taxi. In order to avoid being scammed by a taxi or tuk-tuk driver, it's a good idea to book a car through your hotel or through a tourism company.
See more on Ways to See the Taj Mahal.
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3. What is the story behind the Taj Mahal?
As one of the most famous of the New 7 Wonders of the World, the almost-as-famous story behind the Taj Mahal is all about Shah Jahan's eternal love for Mumtaz Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is a symbol of true love between the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. They started their 19 year-long marriage when He was twenty and she was nineteen. To memorialize his undying love for Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan built a beautiful and majestic white-marble monument and iconic tomb structure after her death.
4. What does "Taj Mahal" mean?
The words Taj Mahal are generally thought to mean 'Crown Palace' literally in Arabic. The word taj means crown, and although mahal is not a word in Arabic, the closely related Urdu word mahal means summer house or palace.
However, it seems quite obvious that the structure was named the Taj "Mahal" because it was built to be the burial site of Mumtaz Mahal, the favorite wife of Shah Jahan. Therefore, the real meaning of the name can be found to be: the Taj or 'Eternal Crown' of Mumtaz Mahal.
5. Who was Mumtaz Mahal?
Mumtaz Mahal was an empress consort of Shah Jahan. Originally named Arjumand Banu, she was given the title of Mumtaz Mahal, meaning the "Jewel of the Palace", by Shah Jahan when they were married in 1612.
Mumtaz Mahal was a Persian born princess who Shah Jahan fell in love with before he rose to power and married once he became emperor. Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan were said to be inseparable since their marriage and she was widely known to be his favorite wife.
Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631 while giving birth to her 14th child. Shah Jahan created the Taj Mahal as her mausoleum as a symbol of his love and a testament to her beauty.
The white marble walls of the Taj Mahal change color with the passing of time during the day. From sunrise to sunset, the Taj is said to reflect colors that represent the different moods of the emperor during his time with Mumtaz Mahal from the pink rosy tone of the sunrise to the darkness of night.
See more on The History of the Taj Mahal and Its Love Story.
6. What is special about architecture of the Taj Mahal?
The Taj Mahal is one of the most significant architectural marvels of the Mughal Empire (1526–1857) and consists of a mixture of Ottoman, Indian, and Persian architecture styles, making it stand out from other palaces across the world.
The Taj Mahal is also almost perfectly symmetrical. Everything in the structure itself and on the surrounding grounds was built to be a mirror of the other side.
This world wonder was built to be just as beautiful as it is impressive.
The Taj Mahal uses an optical illusion to make it appear larger when first seen. The minarets on the four corners of the tomb look to be standing perfectly upright, but actually lean outwards to give the illusion of larger size from a distance. (This feature would also prevent the minarets from falling on the mausoleum in the event of an earthquake.)
While the Taj looks breathtaking from far away, it is just as beautiful up close. The walls of the mausoleum are inlaid with 28 different types of precious stones and the ceilings are covers in intricate designs.
See more on the Top 10 Architectural Features of the Taj Mahal.
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7. Is the Taj Mahal a mosque?
The Taj Mahal is sometimes believed to be a mosque due to the clear Persian and Ottoman influences in its design. However, the Taj Mahal is not a mosque, but rather an Islamic garden tomb.
The Taj Mahal complex does include a mosque, which is located on the northwest corner of the grounds. The mosque is one of two identical red sandstone buildings topped with beautiful white domes. The other building, the jawab, was created to maintain symmetry.
8. How was the Taj Mahal built?
The Taj Mahal was built entirely out of white marble and took 20,000 workers around 20 years to complete. These workers came from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe.
The construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1631 and the mausoleum was completed in 1638 while the other structures on the grounds were not completed until 1643 and the decoration work continued until at least 1647.
The materials used to build the Taj Mahal were transported to Agra using 10,000 elephants. The interior walls of the Taj Mahal are inlaid with 28 different types of precious stones including jade, crystals, amethyst, and turquoise.
One of the major legends surrounding the Taj Mahal is that once the construction was finished, Shah Jahan ordered that all the workers who built the Taj have their hands cut off so that they could never build a similar structure again. This legend is believed by many, but no historians have found evidence to support the story.
9. What's inside the Taj Mahal?
Inside the Taj Mahal, the marble walls are covered in an art style called pietra dura, which involves inlaying precious stones to create complicated geometric patterns. The pietra dura patterns and Arabic calligraphy elegantly cover much of the tomb's interior.
The floor of the Taj Mahal is made from black marble that is inlaid with white marble in a pattern of octagonal stars.
Inside the Taj, you will also find two cenotaphs, one for Mumtaz Mahal and the other for Shah Jahan, in an eight-sided beautifully decorated chamber. These beautiful coffins are just for show as the actual graves of the husband and wife are located in a quiet room below.
See more on What's Inside the Taj Mahal?
10. What is the Black Taj?
The Black Taj is another legend that surrounds the Taj Mahal. When building the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan took great care to make sure everything was symmetrical and almost everything inside the Taj Mahal is in perfect symmetry except for the cenotaph of Shah Jahan which is positioned off of the central axis.
The fact that Shah Jahan's cenotaph is not symmetrical with the rest of the Taj has led many people to believe that Shah Jahan did not plan to be buried in the Taj Mahal at all.
It is believed that Shah Jahan had planned to build a second Taj made out of black marble that would have been located across the Yamuna River and connected to the Taj Mahal by a bridge. Shah Jahan began construction of the Black Taj, but he was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb in 1658 and the Black Taj was destroyed.
Shah Jahan spent the rest of his life imprisoned in the Agra Fort and was buried in the Taj Mahal next to Mumtaz Mahal upon his death.
11. When is the best time to visit the Taj Mahal?
The Taj Mahal can be visited at any time of year. The winter months of November to February are the peak tourist season in Agra and offer the best weather, but larger crowds.
From June to September is the monsoon season in Agra. The monsoons do not hit Agra as hard as they hit most of India and it is still possible to visit the city and see the Taj Mahal at this time. Visiting during the monsoon season allows travelers to experience the monument with much smaller crowds.
The Taj Mahal is one of the busiest tourist sites in India and is often full of international travelers and local visitors alike. In order to have the best experience, you should always try to visit the Taj Mahal in the early morning.
See more on Best Time to Visit the Taj Mahal.
12. How can I see the Taj Mahal?
There are many different ways travelers can see the Taj Mahal while in Agra. The first and most obvious method is to visit the Taj Mahal site. This is a must-do for everyone who visits Agra because it is the only way to see the Taj up close.
If you want to avoid the crowds at the Taj Mahal, you can catch an iconic view of the Taj from Mehtab Bagh. Mehtab Bagh is a Mughal-era garden that is located just across the river from the Taj Mahal and is considered to be one of the best places to see the world wonder.
Another option is to view the Taj Mahal from your hotel. There are many hotels that are located near the Taj Mahal and some offer excellent views of the monument. Some of our favorites are the Oberoi Amarvilas and Trident. For more hotel recommendations, please feel free to contact our travel advisors
For more, see our Essential Guide to Visiting the Taj Mahal.
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