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The Taj Mahal in Agra, also known as ‘The Jewel of Muslim Art in India’, is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was built by Shah Jehan, the Mughal Emperor, in memory of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Construction began in 1631; masons, stone cutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome builders and other craftsmen from the Indian Empire, Central Asia and Iran worked together under the supervision of architects Abd-ul-Karim Ma’mur Khan, Makramat Khan and Ustad Ahmed Lahquvi (the principal designer). The entire complex, which comprises the Taj Mahal and several gardens, took 22 years to build at a cost of approximately Rs 32 million.

Shortly after its completion, Shah Jehan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and was eventually buried in the Taj Mahal next to his beloved wife.

Although the Taj Mahal was built in the style of Mughal and Persian architecture, the use of the breathtaking pure white marble, embellished in certain places with nearly 28 precious and semi-precious stones (including carnelians, lapis lazuli, sapphires and turquoises), was extraordinary and a novel idea at the time.

What also made the Taj Mahal unique was the fact that prior to its construction, most Mughal and Persian buildings, such as Jahangir’s tomb, were surrounded by four lawns.  In the case of the Taj Mahal, the gardens led to it instead of surrounding it. In a way, the gardens became a procession which culminated in the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal’s architectural style was then used in other Mughal structures and remains a very strong architectural statement today. As much as we would like to duplicate that architecture, the cost and sheer size make it very difficult to do so. However, we do see gestures in our mosques, particularly those in the Middle East, where the Taj Mahal’s architectural style is clearly visible.

Ultimately, the Taj Mahal is an edifice of one man’s love for the woman he loved. Never again in history have we seen such a monument built for love.

– Adil Kerai

The writer is an architect and partner at Habib Fida Ali, Architects.

First published on February 12, 2012, in Real Estate Section of the DAWN National Advertiser.

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