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A Walk through the Historic Lane of the illustrious Taj Mahal!
Agra's Taj Mahal is indeed one of the 'Seven Wonders of the World', a spectacle in its own right, for reasons that are more than just its brilliant architecture and inlay work. It's the intriguing history of the Taj that adds a sense of whimsicality and yet makes one believe that magic does exist – magic that is replete with eternal love, affection as well as misfortune and regret alike.
Had it not been for eternal love then the world would have never been able to marvel at a spectacle called 'The Taj Mahal'. Just one glance and we are instantly hooked and transported to a world of delight, romance, affection and true love. We become a part of this eternal bliss, so much so that we don't want to or wish to come out of it ever. It is this profound after-effect that the Taj leaves on everyone and makes us crave for more – for that one more visit... that one more glance...
The Taj is a perfect personification of the true love a man had for his beloved wife that even after her death, he wanted to immortalize her name for future generations and centuries to remember – he made sure that the name, 'Mumtaz Mahal' remains etched on people's minds forever and her memory never fades away. This man, whom we all know as Moghul Emperor Shahjahan was head-over-heels in love with his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, and left no stone unturned to keep her name and memory intact and eternal.
So, who was Mumtaz Mahal?
Arjumand Banu Begum was the real name of Mumtaz Mahal before she was betrothed to Shahjahan. She was a Persian Princess and Shahjahan was a Prince (Grandson of Emperor Akbar and son of Emperor Jahangir – both were powerful leaders during the Moghul reign in India.)
At 14, a very delicate age for any girl, Mumtaz met Shahjahan. The moment he lay eyes on her, he fell deeply in love with her and marveled at her pristine beauty. Soon, they were betrothed to be married and it was only after five years that they tied the knot in 1612.
Mumtaz Mahal was an inseparable companion, partner, lover, wife, and confidante to Emperor Shahjahan. She kicked the bucket while she was giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. It was to immortalize her memory that Shahjahan commissioned the making of an unforgettable mausoleum as a tribute to her – one that we know today as the 'Taj Mahal'.
It was in 1631 that the construction of the Taj began. Carpenters, Sculptors, Stonecutters, Bricklayers, Painters, Inlayers, Calligraphers, Dome experts, and various other artisans of different skillset were commissioned from the entire realm that spanned from across Iran and Central Asia alike. It took around 22 years to shape up and put together this spectacle – The Taj – which is, to date, considered as one of the most stunning architectural marvels that anyone could have ever witnessed. Moreover, it symbolizes eternal love which tugs at anyone's heartstrings. Close to twenty-two thousand laborers and a thousand elephants were on their toes and greatly contributed to erecting one of the world's most awe-inspiring structures - the Taj. A massive chunk of the monument was carved out of a single pearl-ivory colored marble, which was custom-ordered from Rajasthan. For the other sections of the Taj, marble was acquired from other parts of India as well as Central Asia. After a lavish expenditure of close to Rs. 32 million, the Taj was completed in 1653 AD.
It was just after the completion of the Taj that Emperor Shahjahan was imprisoned by his son, Prince Aurangzeb, at a residence close to Agra Fort. Shahjahan was buried in this catacomb alongside his wife. Moving further, it was towards the end of the nineteenth century that British Viceroy Lord Curzon requested the Taj rebuilding project, which was finished in 1908. This was a measure taken to restore what was lost and vandalized during the 1857 Indian Sepoy Mutiny.
The Taj Mahal was blemished by the British authorities who denied this monument of its beauty by extracting semi-precious and precious stones and the Lapis Lazulis (blue gems) from its walls. Likewise, the British-styled gardens that we see today were also rebuilt around the same time. Despite the dominant controversies, World War II threats, and perils from Indo-Pak war as well as the damage from present-day climatic conditions and air pollution, this embodiment of eternal love still stands formidably and sparkles, pulling tourists to its abode from every corner of the globe only to be awestruck with its extraordinary beauty and simplicity.