The Taj Mahal has been called one of the wonders of the world and indeed it is a marvel in stone.Its also a World Heritage Site visited by thousands of tourists from both India and abroad throughout the year. It was built by Emperor Shah Jehan in the 17th century in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal and contains the graves of the couple and also other family members.
Its said that the Mughal rulers had a penchant for building massive structures in rememberance for the dead and the Taj Mahal is one of them. A novel idea indeed as the various structures have withstood time and tide , Humayun's tomb in Delhi being one of them. More of that later .
There are several romantic stories associated with Shah Jehan and Mumtaz Mahal who were known as Prince Khurram and Arjumand Banu in their younger days. Its said that young Khurram glimpsed Arjumand in a bazaar and fell in love with her in 1607 and married her in 1612, both were teenagers at the time.
It was not as if Mumtaz was Shah Jehan's only wife, he had other wifes too, maybe for political reasons! But Mumtaz was his one and only eternal love and this has been re-enforced by Hindi films depicting their love story.
Tragically Mumtaz Mahal died in childbirth in 1631 while having their 14th child and Shah jehan promised to make a grand monument for her. This resulted in the Taj Mahal which took 22 years,22,000 workers and craftsmen from far and wide to construct this beautiful mausoleum in white marble.Intricate plant carvings, calligraphy , lattice work and much more make this an architectural wonder.
I remember visiting the Taj Mahal with my parents as a child and do not have many memories. Its my later visits which made me realise just how gorgeous it looked framed in the blue skies.The beautiful well laid out gardens with water channels and the lush green gardens surrounding the structure are seen to be believed and looks ethereal when viewed on a full moon night.
Several stories float around this awesome monument,its said that Shah Jehan ordered that the hands of the artisans be cut-off so that they would never be able to make another one.