Guest article by Prof Dawn Lovett
The Taj Mahal is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of architecture known to man. It is recognized all around the world as an engineering marvel. Construction began in 1631 but took many years to complete. While most people consider the Taj Mahal to be the white domed building and towers, it actually encompasses a large complex of buildings and gardens that stretches over 55 acres. It is located on the bank of the river Yamuna in the city of Agra, which is about 125 miles south of the capital, New Delhi. Here are some interesting facts about this world marvel:
1. It was built as a mausoleum for the favorite wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He loved her so much that he commissioned the mausoleum to be built for her tomb.
2. The design for the Taj Mahal and the surrounding land followed the Mughal tradition of the paradise garden, with abundant trees, flowers, and water features. The symmetrical and geometric elements decorating the mausoleum also come from Mughal design traditions. The Taj Mahal complex itself was meant to replicate the house of the departed in paradise.
3. Everything at the Taj Mahal is symmetrical apart from one feature. The original tomb is located at the very center of the (hall), with Jahan’s larger tomb to one side of it. The placing of the tomb was thought to be conceived by Jahan’s son, who may have done so to spite his father (see number 7).
4. It took 22 years, 22,000 workers, and 1,000 elephants to construct the Taj Mahal. If it was built in present times, it would have cost over $100 million to complete.
5. Several features of the Taj Mahal are not what they seem. The four pillars tilt slightly outwards so that they would fall away from the tomb in an earthquake. The writing around the entryway becomes larger near the top so that it appears to be all one size to a viewer standing at the base.
6. The materials used to construct the Taj Mahal came from all over India and other areas of Asia. The walls are made of brick and rubble and are covered with fine white marble. 28 types of precious stones including jade, sapphire, turquoise, and carnelian were inlaid in the white marble for the various decorations.
7. Shah Jahan planned on building another Taj Mahal as a tomb for himself. It would have been made of black marble and located across the river Yamuna from the original Taj. However, his son prevented him from doing so and imprisoned him in his own palace until his death.
8. It is not known exactly who was the chief architect of the Taj Mahal, but most historians believe it was Ustad Ahamd Lahouri, an architect from Shah Jahan’s court. In fact, many designers and craftsman were involved in the design and construction of the Taj Mahal – even Shah Jahan had an active role in the process.
9. No one knows what was planted in the original Taj Mahal gardens. Contemporary accounts note fruit-bearing trees and aromatic herbs, but nothing specific. The vegetation has changed over the years, especially during the time of British rule.
10. Since Muslims forbid any depiction of Allah, the decoration on the Taj Mahal is limited to various geometric designs and calligraphy, which comes from the Qur’an. Most of the texts refer to themes of judgment and are set in black jasper.Dawn Lovett has been a professor of engineering for over 20 years. She also owns the site Online Engineering Degrees for students interested in getting an online degree in engineering.