Gazing on the architectural perfection of the Taj Mahal is one of India’s most iconic experiences. Indeed, it’s often the first place people visit after landing in Delhi.
In a country studded with magnificent Mughal tombs, the Taj stands out as something special – the perfect marriage of design, craftsmanship and symmetry.
Here is an introduction to the history and legends surrounding India’s most famous building, and tips for making the trip of a lifetime.
Often described as the greatest monument built for love, the Taj Mahal is actually a memorial to tragedy. Mumtaz Mahal, the chief consort of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, died in childbirth in 1631.
Then, the heartbroken emperor devoted years and a fortune to constructing a tomb worthy of his love. The mausoleum was completed after two years by the most skilled craftsmen in the Mughal empire.
The queen consort was interred inside in a private chamber at the heart of the monument. Shah Jahan was later buried alongside his wife when he died in 1666.
While the Mughals built hundreds of other tombs, palaces and fortresses, nothing would come close to the Taj. Today, it’s the most famous sight in India, and maybe the world's most famous building.
The tomb’s eight rooms representing the hasht bihisht (eight paradises) and the Yamuna representing the rivers of milk and honey that wait for the virtuous.
The only break in symmetry is found in the burial chamber, where the grave of Shah Jahan sits just to one side of the grave of Mumtaz Mahal set at the geometric centre of the monument.
While it shines white from a distance, up close it's adorned with elegant filigree scrollwork, leaves, flowers and Islamic motifs, executed in marble, jasper, lapis lazuli, carnelian and more.
The script increases in size as it climbs the walls of the monument, but appears to be a uniform size when viewed from the ground.