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While we can by no means attach a price tag to the Taj Mahal, it would be interesting to know what it would take, if it were to be constructed today. In his book titled ‘Studies in Mughal India’, author Jadunath Sarkar reveals that the Taj Mahal was completed in January 1643, at an expense of Rs 50 lakhs. Some estimates show that the Taj Mahal, at that time, may have cost Rs 9.17 crores. Independent estimates claim that Shah Jahan may have spent what is Rs 70 billion or USD 916 million now, centuries ago, to construct the Taj Mahal for his wife Mumtaz. The 21st century or even the next will never see a marvel like a second Taj.
History of the Taj Mahal
In 1607, a 15-year-old Shah Jahan (then, prince Khurram) was betrothed to Arjmand Banu Begum, later known as Mumtaz. At 20, Shah Jahan married her and lived together for the next 19 years after which the queen died during childbirth. It is said that the king was so overpowered by grief that he would spend hours in solitude and gave up the use of colours, scents, jewels and would have even given up on kingship, had he not considered it as his sacred duty. The king had two other wives but these were through political alliances. It is said that on her deathbed, Mumtaz asked Shah Jahan to build a mausoleum in her remembrance, ‘the likes of which may not be seen anywhere else in the world’ and that is how India is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
(Source: Taj official website)
(Day view and night view of the Taj Mahal. Source: Taj official website)
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Architecture and design of the Taj Mahal
The ‘Shahjahani’ architecture is visible in the uniformity of shapes set in the hierarchical accent. The Shahjahani column is used in the complete complex, which also boasts of shafts, miniature arches, etc.
The mausoleum is the main building with naturalistic ornamentation but the cenotaphs that you see in the honour of the king and the queen, enclosed in an eight-sided chamber and marble lattice screen, is only for show. The coffins are deep below in a room at the garden level.
Precious gems used in the Taj Mahal
Precious gems were set in the Taj Mahal, which were procured from different places. These gems include Cornelian from Qandahar, Lapis lazuli from Ceylon, Onyx, Patunja from the river Nile, Gold from Basra and the sea of Ormuz, Khatu from the hill of Jodhpur, Ajuba from the hill-rivers of Kumaon, Marble from Makrana, Maria ma from the city of Basra, Ba/U-stone from the river Banas, Vamini from Yemen, Mnngah from the Atlantic Ocean, rhoii from Ghor-band, Tamrah from the river Gandak, Beryl from the hill of Baba Budhan, Masai from Mount Sinai, Giraliori from the river of Gwalior, Red sandstone, Jasper from Persia and Dalehana from the river Asan.
(Precious stones and gems. Source: Asian Highlights)
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15 interesting facts about the Taj Mahal
- Islamic culture does not allow decoration of graves and that is why only the exteriors are decorated and not the graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz.
- Mumtaj was initially buried in Burhanpur and then the body was shifted to Agra where it was buried in the Taj Mahal complex for 12 years before finally moving it to the basement of the Taj Mahal.
- Throughout the day, the Taj ‘changes’ its colour due to the effect of the sun and may appear as grey, pale pink, pure white or even orange-bronze. During the nights, it appears translucent blue.
- The garden outside represents paradise on earth.
- It is said that the Taj Mahal was to have a similar twin monument, in black colour in which Shah Jahan’s body was to be buried but this did not happen.
- The chief architect of the Taj Mahal was a Persian, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, who laid the foundation of the Red Fort too.
- The story that all the artisans were amputated after completing the Taj Mahal is not backed by any proof. In fact, the emperor shifted the artisans to other projects.
- The Taj Mahal is 240 ft tall – i.e., five ft taller than the Qutub Minar.
- The Taj Mahal was initially planned in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh where the queen died and not in Agra. However, the site was shifted owing to the lack of white marble supply in Burhanpur. The tomb contains 99 different names of Allah as calligraphic inscriptions.
- The other wives of Shah Jahan and his favourite servants are also buried in mausoleums outside the Taj but within the same complex.
- Over 20,000 labourers, 1,000 elephants and almost 22 years of toil resulted in the iconic Taj Mahal.
- The Taj Mahal is a no-aircraft zone and flights cannot fly over the Taj.
- During World War II, the Archaeological Survey of India had to conceal the Taj.
- The octagonal interior hall is 58 ft in diameter and 80 ft in height and the Taj is spread over 17 hectares.
In pictures: Taj Mahal
(The central dome. Source: Pinterest)
(Lattice work. Source: Elissa Reddet)
(The main hall. Source: Treebo)
(Distant view of the Taj. Source: Unsplash)
(Intricate flower pattern on the wall. Source: Unsplash)
How much does the Taj Mahal earn annually?
In 2019, reports suggested that in the last three years, the Taj Mahal earned Rs 200 crores, through ticket sales. In spite of a rise in ticket prices, there was no dip in the number of visitors. In the three years, two crore tourists visited the Taj – both domestic and international. At the same time, the government spent Rs 13.3 crores on the conservation of the Taj.
|2016-17||Rs 55.09 crores||61.77 lakhs|
|2017-18||Rs 58.76 crores||65.65 lakhs|
|2018-19||Rs 86.48 crores||70.9 lakhs|
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How many tourists visit Taj Mahal every year?
About 65 lakh tourists visit the Taj Mahal every year.
How is tourism in Agra after Coronavirus?
The Taj Mahal reopened post the COVID-19 lockdown, on September 21, 2020 but tourists are in dismal numbers with the permissible daily limit of 5,000 tourists being a farfetched target. Pre-COVID-19, the footfall was 25,000 tourists per day.
How is pollution in Agra?
With an Air Quality Index of 474, Agra is one of the most polluted cities in Uttar Pradesh and the seventh-most polluted city in India.