An iconic Indian icon, the Taj Mahal is known as the world’s most famous monument to love. The romantic story of this exceptional building is almost as beautiful as the palace itself. Heartbroken at the death of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the renowned leader Shah Jahan designed the Taj as a monument to his lost love. With more than 20 000 workers, including artisans from all over India and Central Asia, the project took 22 years to complete. Not long after it was finished, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son and imprisoned in the Agra Fort, on the opposite side of the river. It is said that he continued to gaze out the window at his masterpiece until his death in 1666 when he was buried there alongside Mumtaz.
Accessed through an outer courtyard, the entrance to the inner compound is through a majestic red sandstone gateway. Beyond the gateway, the Taj Mahal is visible on a shimmering marble platform surrounded by ornamental gardens and pools. When the four fountains are not flowing, the monument forms the famous reflection that can be seen in so many of its photos.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj is renowned for its exquisite marble screens and pietra dura, a type of marble inlay work made with thousands of semiprecious stones. Exquisitely symmetrical, each façade of the building features high vaulted arches embellished with pietra dura scrollwork and religious quotations inlaid in Jasper. Below the central dome of the building, surrounded by four smaller domes, lies the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan.