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15 Interesting Facts about the Taj Mahal

15 Interesting Facts about the Taj Mahal

By RitaUpdated Oct. 14, 2022

Commissioned in 1632 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is a stunning symbol of love and architectural brilliance.

Influenced by Indian, Persian, and Islamic architectural principals, the Taj Mahal mausoleum is made of white marble, the color of which seems to change according to the time of day, and the entire mausoleum complex spans nearly 17 hectares (42 acres or about 20 big football pitches).

The construction of the Taj Mahal took 20 years and 20,000 workers to complete and the mausoleum houses not just the body of Mumtaz Mahal but also Shah Jahan himself. In this article, you can find interesting facts about the Taj Mahal to share with your kids or friends. 

1. The Taj Mahal was created by Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Taj Mahal with rainbow Taj Mahal with rainbow

Shah Jahan was the fifth Mughal emperor and ruled from 1628 to 1658. When his third and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal — a princess of Persian nobility and also Agra native — died, Shah Jahan was so overcome with grief that he wanted to build the Taj Mahal as a testament of his undying love for her.

There are several other mausoleums outside the Taj, but in the same complex, where Shah Jahan's other wives and favorite servants are buried, showing a level of respect and thoughtfulness to them too.

2. There is a legend that Shah Jahan wanted to build a black marble Taj for himself.

India woman in mosque of Taj Mahal India woman in mosque of Taj Mahal

The Black Taj, also known as the Kaala Taj or Second Taj, is a legendary black marble mausoleum that is said to have been planned to be built across the Yamuna River directly opposite the Taj Mahal. 

Shah Jahan is said to have planned to build this black marble mausoleum as a tomb for himself and wanted the two structures (the Black Taj and the Taj he built for Mumtaz Mahal) to be connected by a bridge.

Historians still disagree about the validity of this claim, although the people of Agra whose families have lived there since Mughal times have continued to pass down the legend of the Black Taj to this day. Many people believe that evidence of the Black Taj cannot be found by archeologists because the son of Shah Jahan, who overthrew and imprisoned him, had it torn down.

Read more about The History of the Taj Mahal and Its Love Story

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3. It took 20 years and 20,000 workers to build

The Taj Mahal mausoleum complex spans nearly 17 hectares The Taj Mahal mausoleum complex spans nearly 17 hectaresl

The Taj Mahal is built of red sandstone and covered in large plates of marble. The artisans who helped in the construction of this world wonder hailed from many different countries and regions, including Central Asia, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. It took them 20 years to complete this momentous project and over 20,000 artisans were involved.

The rumor that Shah Jahan had the artisans hands cut-off to ensure they could never replicate such a feat ever again remains nothing more than a myth, as no proof to support this claim exists.

It appears that the workers were not only paid well but also respected for their skills that were necessary to build the Taj Mahal. 

4. 1,000 elephants were used to transport the building materials to Agra.

working elephants in India Working elephants in India

The materials needed to build the Taj Mahal were transported with the help of over 1,000 elephants. It was mainly white marble and the red sandstone that required transportation, and it was sourced from all over India and the Middle East.

Red sandstone is common in Persian architecture and can be seen in other Mughal structures like the Red Fort and Jama Masjid both in Delhi, while white marble was used as a representation of the divine.

5. The Taj Mahal’s color changes constantly throughout the day.

yellow of sunrise at Taj Mahal Yellow of sunrise at Taj Mahal

The shimmering white marble used in the construction of the Taj Mahal changes color according to the time of day — from the uplifting yellow of sunrise to the desolate deep blue of night. People have imagined poetically that the color changes reflect the feelings the late emperor underwent during his time with Mumtaz Mahal and after her death. Find out the best times to visit the Taj Mahal>>>

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6.The Taj uses mud face packs for its facade.

Pollution levels in India remain alarmingly high and this is particularly true in the northern part of the country where Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, is located. High pollution levels have resulted in yellowing of the Taj's white marble. To counteract this yellowing, a special mud-pack treatment has been and continues to be given to the iconic monument.

The cleaning treatment, a traditional recipe that is used by Indian women to restore a natural glow in their faces will, according to archeologists, help restore the natural sheen and color of the mausoleum.

7. 28 types of jewels were used.

The decorations on walls of Taj Mahal The decorations on walls of Taj Mahal

If you step inside, you can find many beautiful tulips, lilies, irises, poppies, and narcissus inlaid into the wall. They are elegantly decorated using pietra dura (a jigsaw-like inlay technique). To make these plants lifelike, 28 types of precious and colorful stones were used, such as orange carnelian, multi-colored agates and chalcedonies, blue lapis lazuli, bloodstone, and garnet.

Many of these precious stones were stripped off and taken by the British army during the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

Beyond the inlaid-stone floral patterns, you will also see beautiful Arabic calligraphy. The calligraphy engraved into the walls includes verses from the Koran that speak of paradise. Read details on Architectural Features of the Taj Mahal.

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8. The Taj Mahal cost today’s equivalent of 1 billion USD!

This huge and luxurious architectural gem in total cost over INR 32 million in 1653 — US$1 billion in value today! That was a spend of about US$1 million a week for its 20 years of construction. So, you can appreciate that Shah Jahan almost spent all of the Mughal Empire’s funds building the Taj for his favorite wife. 

9. Jahan’s grave breaks the perfect symmetry of the Taj Mahal.

perfectly symmetrical at The Taj Mahal Perfectly symmetrical at The Taj Mahal

In line with Persian and Islamic architectural principals, the Taj Mahal is almost perfectly symmetrical. The minarets (towers), walls, rooms, and even gardens follow perfect symmetry. 

The placing of the cenotaph of Shah Jahan — and his grave — are perhaps the only elements of the Taj that do not follow perfect geometric proportions and symmetrical precision.

The grave of Mumtaz Mahal lies on the geometric center and that of Shah Jahan is beside it. What’s more, they do follow the traditional rule that the male tomb has to be larger than the female tomb. Are you curious about the inside of the Taj? You'll get more info at What's Inside the Taj Mahal?

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10. The Taj Mahal is half as high as the Great Pyramid.

Taj Mahal is a 73-meter (240-foot) tall monument, while the largest pyramid is 146.5 m (481 ft) tall. Compared to other famous buildings, its highest point hits the book held by the Statue of Liberty and reaches the clock of Big Ben. Interestingly, it is 16 m (53ft) higher than both the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.  More comparision at Taj Mahal and Great Pyramids Travel Comparison>>>

11. The Taj Mahal might be slowly sinking into the Yamuna River.

A soft yellow view of Taj A soft yellow view of Taj

Sitting aside the Yamuna River, the foundations of the Taj are supported by wood. It is thought that the wood can retain its strength only when it’s kept wet. However, as per the latest statistics, the Yamuna River is slowly drying up. People are worried that the decrease in water might threaten the Taj.

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12. Chief Taj architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri was Persian not Indian.

The Taj Mahal is a combination of Islamic, Persian, and Indian styles. Ustad Ahmad Lahori was considered the chief architect of the Taj Mahal. He was a Persian architect in the court of Shah Jahan during India’s golden age of Mughal architecture. Besides being heavily involved in the construction of the Taj Mahal, he also laid the foundations of the Red Fort at Delhi. 

13. The minarets were built with a slight lean to create an optical illusion.

The minarets were built with a slight lean in Taj The minarets were built with a slight lean in Taj

The four minarets, or towers, of the Taj, lean slightly outwards, thereby making the Taj Mahal look much larger from a distance. Because of this optical illusion, the first view that visitors are treated to upon entering the main gate is a striking one. 

However, the minarets don’t only lean outwards to give the appearance of grandeur, but this architectural calculation also stems from the logic that having them lean outwards would prevent them from falling on, and destroying, the Taj main dome if there were an earthquake.

14. To deter insect fouling, no light illuminates the Taj at night.

Night views of the Taj Mahal Night views of the Taj Mahal

There are no lights illuminating the Taj, as lights attract insects. Their excrement would destroy the flawless beauty of the marble monument. This icon can be seen clearly at night with natural moonlight on full moon evenings, meaning no lighting is needed for part of a month. Rejecting illumination is also argued to lower potential security threats. Check more details about the Taj Mahal at night>>>

15. The Taj Mahal hid from wars.

The Taj Mahal is the most stunning landmark in India, and it was extremely vulnerable as a target during wars. During World War II and conflicts between India and Pakistan throughout the 20th century, the British and Indian governments hid the gleaming beauty of the Taj by erecting bamboo scaffolding and covers over the dome of the Taj to mislead enemy pilots.

Hence, the Taj Mahal was overlooked by German, Japanese, and Pakistani bomber pilot missions and this wonder of the world survived several wars.

Discover More Taj Mahal Facts with Asia Highlights

Asia Highlights welcomes the chance to help you design your perfect trip to India. Check out the following links to learn more about our tours. Get a head start on planning your hassle-free vacation, when you can learn even more interesting facts about the Taj Mahal.

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