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Taj Mahal

[tahj muh hahl'] a tomb built to honor an emperor's wife

The Taj Mahal was built by the Mugal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third (and favorite) wife, Arjumand Banu, who died in 1631 while giving birth to the couple's fourteenth child. It is believed that the structure's familiar name comes from the empress's popular name, Mumtaz-i-Mahal, which means Pride of the Palace. It stands on the bank of the Yamuna River, in Agra, India.

Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632, and was completed in 1653. About 20,000 workers were employed in the project. So much material had to be hauled to the building site that 1,000 elephants were required to act as pack animals. Total cost of the structure and surrounding landscaping was about 32 million rupees (or about $68,000 in 17th century U.S. dollars).

site plan
site plan

The mausoleum is the focal point of a rectangle 2,000 feet long by 1,000 feet wide. The southern third of the rectange includes service structures and ends at a monumental gateway that leads into the walled section, which comprises the other two-thirds of the rectangle. Within the walls is an impressive 1,000-foot-square garden that is bisected along its axis by a narrow reflecting pool. Along the river side of the rectangle is a raised platform with minarets at each of its four corners. A mosque stands at the west side of the platform, a reception hall at the east.

gateway into the walled section
gateway into the walled section

The tomb itself is at the center of the raised platform. It is square in plan, with chamfered corners. Within its massive marble walls is a circumambulatory corridor marked by octagonal chambers within each corner angle. The octagonal tomb chamber at the center, in which the the cenotaphs of the Shah and his wife are located, is crowned by a shallow dome. The Shah and his wife are interred in a vault below the tomb chamber.

actual tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife
actual tombs of Shah Jahan and his wife

building material white marble
length of each side 130 ft (39.6 m)
height of minarets 133 ft (40.5 m)
diameter of dome 70 ft (21.3 m)
height of dome 120 ft (36.6 m)
total acreage of site 42


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The Robinson Library >> Mausoleums and Related Structures

This page was last updated on 08/28/2018.