The foremost of many interesting facts about the Taj Mahal is that over 6.9 million people visited the Taj at Agra in India between 2018-2019. And, this UNESCO Heritage monument attracts 7-8 million visitors per year on par with the Eiffel tower and the eclectic Russian city of Saint Petersburg. No, I am not kidding!
The Taj Mahal at Agra does not cease to mesmerise tourists and travellers from around the world. The same holds good for us Indians too, as I am back from my fifth trip to the Taj.
So, I thought why not combine these interesting facts about the Taj Mahal with its unique architectural features, and take you on a virtual tour of one of the ‘Wonders of the World’ in the year 2007. After all, the Taj Mahal is considered “one of the greatest man made structures to be ever built” by many.
But, I beg to differ.
There are other early medieval architectural marvels like the the ones at Gangaikondacholapuram, Tanjore and Darasuram , collectively known as the ‘Great Living Chola’ temples of Tamil Nadu in southern part of India, which predate the Taj Mahal by many centuries, and have exemplary architecture, far more than the Taj Mahal.
Yet, let me promise you, the Taj Mahal complex which we are going to explore together through this virtual tour, is much more than its famed white marbled mausoleum, although, that is definitely an astounding piece of architecture.
Interesting facts about the Taj Mahal and its architecture
Old monuments and buildings fascinate me to no end since my childhood, and so do the doors and windows. I keep wondering what stories and mysteries are hidden encapsulated inside them to be unravelled.
Nah! I am not being intrusive. Just that they pique my inquisitiveness. I am sure, many of you are intrigued by them, too. And, the Taj Mahal is no different.
So, here are some unique and interesting facts about the Taj Mahal that I had observed on my trips, some shared by various tourist guides, and, of course, a few that I read about. Of course, you may be aware of many on this list!
Moreover, some of these facts might be already known to you. So, do feel free to skim through quickly.
Fact 1: Taj Mahal was built under the patronage of Shah Jahan
The monumental Taj Mahal was built under the patronage of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who is also known in history as Prince Khurram ( before his ascent to power). Shah Jahan wanted a memorial for one of his wives Arjumand Banu Begum, popularly called ‘Mumtaz Mahal’.
Of course, it’s altogether another fact that Mumtaz Mahal was the third wife of Shah Jahan and she died giving birth to his 14th child at a place called Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh!
Fact 2: The construction of the Taj Mahal took 22 years
The construction of the Taj involved around 20,000 workers, who worked day-in and day-out to build this magnificent complex in a span of 22 years. The construction of the Taj Mahal started in the year 1632 CE and was completed in 1648 CE.
The milky white marble used was procured from a place called Makrana in Rajasthan, which is famous for a kind of marble called the Makrana marble.
Fact 3: The architecture of the Taj Mahal isn’t purely Islamic
The Taj Mahal is considered to have been built around an Indo-Islamic architecture with strong influences of Persian, Mughal and Rajasthani structural elements. From the lotus symbol on the main dome to the use of chhatris, there are too many Indian architectural elements in the designing of the Taj Mahal.
Fact 4: Ustad Ahmad Lahouri was the architect of the Taj Mahal
We often read that the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan, and forget the architect and the workers who actually conceived the design and built it.
So, it is good to know for a fact that Ustad Ahmad Lahouri, a Persian architect was behind designing of the Taj Mahal. He was supposedly assisted by another Persian architect by name Ustad Isa Sherazi. Well, as any piece of history, the debate over the other original architects still lingers on.
Well, the names of the Hindu craftsmen and architects don’t find a mention anywhere, although from the Rajasthani influences one can conclude that they too were involved in the conceptualization of the Taj Mahal.
Fact 5: Taj Mahal’s design isn’t unique
The construction and the design of the Taj Mahal aren’t unique. It’s modelled after the first of the royal mausoleums of the Mughals in India. Yes, the Taj Mahal mausoleum is designed after the Humayun’s tomb built almost 85 years before the former’s conception.
However, the design prototype is much refined than that of Humayun’s tomb. One can say that the Mughal’s design for a royal mausoleum initially conceived, was perfected with the construction of the Taj Mahal and its beautifully landscaped gardens.
Fact 6: The Taj Complex in Agra sprawls 55 acres
Yes. The sprawling complex of the Taj Mahal is spread across 55 acres of land, with the white mausoleum at its fag end, flanked by the river Yamuna on its north and interspersed with beautiful red sandstone structures around the Charbagh gardens. Apart from the Taj and surrounding structures, the Taj Ganji and the moonlight garden of Mahthab Bagh on the other side of the riverbank are also part of the Taj Mahal complex
Entered through one of the three gates/sides, the monument welcomes every person with symmetrical corridors, beautiful arcades, and lush green well-manicured lawns numbering four at the entrance to the Jilaukhana.
One cannot resist but admire the thought process that went into conceptualizing the whole design plan of the Taj Complex.
Fact 7: The TajMahal at Agra isn’t all white
On my recent visit, I restrained myself from falling into the trap of the white monument of the mausoleum that lures the visitors and engulfs them by its awesomeness. Instead, I ventured and explored the red-sandstone structures that stood majestically in silence across the complex.
These red sandstones are a reminder of the contribution of Indian workers, the scores of prayers rendered under its domes by the Muslims, the influence of the Rajputs, and the sea of visitors who were sheltered in these corridors. They are also the first structures that welcome the thousands of tourists who visit TajMahal at Agra every day, telling their own tales to the ones who listen.
Fact 8: Domes on the Darwaza represent total years taken for the Taj to be built
The main archway called the ‘Darwaza‘ is a combo of both red sandstone and marble with Mughal architecture reflected in its engraved calligraphy and geometric ceilings. There are 22 small domes on the archway that represent the number of years it took to build the Taj.
Supposedly, after every year, a dome was constructed to keep track of the time. This archway is like the portiere that opens to a spectacle!
Fact 9: Taj’s facilities from the bygone era
The wall around the complex encompasses huge corridors that would have provided stay for the scores of visitors and in-house workers in the immediate years of the completion of the Taj. Now, they provide the required respite from the heat by providing shade and a place to rest for the visitors.
It’s said that many dignitaries often visited the Taj Mahal for its beauty even when the Mughals were ruling India. They were supposedly housed and entertained at the ‘Jawab’.
On the right side of the main archway, there is a cookhouse that once had satisfied the hunger of the visitors. However, now, it lies closed reminiscing its past glory.
Fact 10: Taj Mahal houses the graves of both Shahjahan and Mumtaz Mahal
The white marble mausoleum of the Taj with its typical Islamic pishtaq, known as the Rauza-i-Munawara houses the graves of both Shahjahan and Mumtaz Mahal. The cenotaphs that are thrown open to the public are duplicates and elaborately decorated. The original graves of both -Shahjahan and Mumtaz Mahal is actually situated on the floor below the one that the visitors enter.
Apart from them, the complex also is home to the graves of the other wives and servants of Shah Jahan.
Fact 11: The Taj complex has a functioning ‘mosque’
The white mausoleum of the Taj is flanked on either side by structures in red stone. The one onto the West is the ‘masjid’ or the mosque, whereas the right side structure is the guesthouse termed the ‘jawab'(answer) to balance and fulfill the architectural needs of symmetry.
Fact 12: The mosque has 569 prayer mat outlines
The black marble flooring of the mosque has the outlines of prayer mat numbering 569. The masjid and the jawab look the same, barring these differences.
On Fridays, the masjid brims with Muslim men who visit it to offer their prayers. Hence, the Taj complex remains closed for tourists on Fridays.
Fact 13: The fountains are naturally connected to the river Yamuna
As one moves further from the entrance towards the white mausoleum, you come across a water body with numerous fountains. The fountains are said to be naturally connected to the River Yamuna on the banks of which the TajMahal is constructed. So, the flow of the river controls the water in the fountains. (so said my guide!)
And, the gardens and orchids of the Charbagh were re-landscaped during the British rule to resemble the lawns back in England.
Fact 14: There was to be a Black Taj Mahal
The other side of the riverbank, opposite to the Taj Mahal, has remnants of the foundation structure that was laid for the construction of a Black TajMahal, as a complement to the one in white.
This was conceptualized by Shah Jahan for himself. He wanted his mausoleum to overlooking the Taj. However, the construction never took off, as he was imprisoned by his son and subsequently, was buried alongside Mumtaz Mahal when he died.
Last week, it rained heavily and one can see the Yamuna gushing with water flowing majestically behind the TajMahal at Agra. Are you able to get a glimpse of the Agra Fort in the below pic?
Fact 15: Shahjahan could only view the Taj from his palace room at Agra fort
Just a year after the Taj Mahal’s construction was completed, Aurangazeb imprisoned his father Shah Jahan. It is widely believed that – post his imprisonment by his own son Aurangzeb, Shahjahan spent his last years cherishing his time with Mumtaz and gazing at the TajMahal from his prison room in the Agra Fort or maybe he visited his wife’s grave stealthily through the tunnel…
Fact 16: The mystery of various doors inside the TajMahal complex
There are numerous doors inside the complex and one such door which is sealed is said to lead to a tunnel connecting the TajMahal and the Agra Fort. I wonder if it is constructed like the labyrinth at the Bada Imambara, in Lucknow.
Most of these doors have been sealed, for now, barring few that are used to stock items used for Eid celebrations. Another door that lies to the right of the Main Darwaza must have been an entry point for the animal carts that had brought in loads of marbles and sandstone for the construction of the Taj.
Fact 17: Taj Mahal has its replica at Aurangabad
Bibi-ka-maqbara is a mini version and a replica of the Taj Mahal. It was built by Aurangazeb for his first wife Dilras Banu Begum as a symbol of his loyalty in their relationship. And, he had three wives. So much for his loyalty…haha!
Like many of the Mughal era monuments in India, the Taj too is widely believed to have been built by destroying a Hindu temple. However, there is not much evidence to prove this belief. In spite of all these controversies, it is undeniable that TajMahal at Agra is indeed the pride of India.
Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if ever in the future it is proved that the monument was built over a temple.Because Mughals were anyways adept at destroying Hindu temples and converting them into royal graves.
Fact 18: The Taj Mahal gets its share of protection!
During outbreaks of war, the monument gets its share of protection through extra scaffolding around it. This happened during World War II, and also during the wars that India fought with Pakistan and China.
After all, the Taj is one of the most important architectural pride of India.
Fact: There is more to India’s architectural splendour beyond the Taj
Yes. This is a fact. Tourists often land in India wanting to see just the Taj or visit ‘God’s Own Country’, Kerala. There is no doubt that the Taj Mahal has no parallels in the world and watching a LIVE Kathakali performance in Kerala is an experience itself.
However, an ancient land like India once called Bharat, has more to offer to its guests exploring its culture, architecture, and traditions. It’s time, travellers and tourists also explore the ancient temples and caves in the south of India, that have inspired many cultures across South-East Asia. If you want to understand and appreciate the real India, do venture beyond Delhi and Agra!
Did you know?
- That the Brihadisvara temple at Gangaikondacholapuram is close to 1000-year-old.
- That the scared spaces of Darasuram temple have thousands of micro-carvings and rare sculptures unheard of.
- The serene and breathtaking Dalhousie had inspired Nobel laureates
- The Mumbai Chattrapati Shivaji airport houses one of the largest airport museums in the world
These are just a few of the many thousands of wonders that this ancient nation of ours takes pride in apart from the Taj Mahal. So, plan your next India itinerary for a longer period!
Taj Mahal and its brilliant architectural features – my thoughts
The very first time I came face to face with this teardrop, I was spellbound. It looked like a delicate piece of milk chocolate flanked and protected by brown choco chunks on either side. Pardon me for this weird analogy, however, these were my first impressions of this monument almost a decade back. I discovered that it looked a little pale with a yellow tint, as I went nearer. This paleness is attributed to the dismal level of pollutants in the air over and around the monument.
It is interesting how these monuments end up revealing themselves in layers on every visit. Maybe because, on our first visit we end up seeing through the eyes of a tourist, during the second visit we see through the eyes of a traveller, the third visit makes us explorers, fourth transforms us into historians, the fifth turn one into a detective, haha!
Taj Mahal travel tips and suggestions
- Visit the Taj Mahal in the morning to avoid heavy crowds. And, I mean early morning, as it is open to the public 30mins prior to sunrise every day barring the Fridays. Visit the official website for further details as well for entry fees.
- You can either buy the tickets at the counters physically or book them online
- There are three entry points or gates to the Taj Mahal. Avoid the south gate, as it opens late, and sometimes owing to the footfall may be closed for entry. The East gate would be my recommendation, as it has got ticket counters and visitor amenities in the Shilp Gram at a walkable distance of around 500metres.
- Either opt for authorized tour guides or official Incredible India audio guides
- Night viewing of Taj Mahal is available on five days in a month i.e. on full moon night and two nights before and two nights after the full moon night. And, the timings are 8:30 pm to 12:30 am. You may want to read more about the Night viewing experience of the Taj
I am yet to soak in the beauty of the TajMahal during the dawn and dusk, as I have always ended up visiting it at around 10 AM. Even on my latest trip, it was pretty hot and much of the Taj Mahal complex and its architectural features could not be explored. And for the record, I am still yearning to visit the TajMahal at Agra on a full moon day.
So, hope you found this write-up around interesting facts about the Taj Mahal and its architecture, actually ‘interesting’ and informative. Also, have you been to the TajMahal at Agra, yet? If yes, what mesmerised you? Did it meet your expectations or do you think it is over-hyped? I would love to hear your views on this…Please express your thoughts in the comment section below….Until next time, Ciao!
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