Probably one of the most distinctive buildings on the planet is the world-famous Taj Mahal in India, an incredible building that inevitably takes a spot on the ‘must-see’ lists of travellers around the world. Built (or rather commissioned) by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the building is essentially a mausoleum for the Emperor’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631 giving birth to the couple’s 14th child. Legend has it that in her dying breath, she urged Shah Jahan to build a mausoleum for her, a building more beautiful than anything the world had seen before. The project began in 1632, a monument to love which stands out even today as one of the world’s most famous structures.
But it wasn’t quite as lovey-dovey for the 20 000 builders and craftsmen who had to build the thing. It took 22 years to complete the entire complex, which includes the surrounding gardens, pool and elaborate patterns made up of semi-precious stones which decorate the marble. What’s more, the entire Qur’an is inscribed word for word upon the enormous onion-shaped dome above the tomb! I’d be quite proud if I’d been involved. I mean, 22 years is a long time but surely the feeling of accomplishment would be worth it? Not so much – legend has it that the artisans and craftsmen involved had their thumbs, or in some cases their hands amputated, to ensure that the splendour of the building could not be replicated anywhere else. Being a master craftsman in those days certainly had its drawbacks!
Nonetheless it is an utterly remarkable building, a fitting tribute to the love the Shah had for his wife. Inside, their bodies rest side by side, with flowered mosaics made of black marble and semi-precious stones decorating the floors and walls.
Visit the Taj Mahal on our tours & holidays to India!