Posted by: Johan Normark | May 12, 2009

The new Seven Wonders of the World – Taj Mahal

In my latest post on the new Seven Wonders of the World I forgot to mention that I consider the Khufu pyramid worthy of the title (the Christ statue should be erased from that list in my view). Another worthy building is Taj Mahal, undoubtedly one of my favorite buildings. I visited Agra (the city where Taj Mahal is located) in January 1992 as part of my trip around Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra. This is me in jeans and t-shirt, maybe not the most appropriate clothing.

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Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built during the reign of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666, emperor 1628-1658). It was built to contain his third wife Mumtaz Mahal who died when giving birth to her 14th child in 1631. The construction began 1 year later and took 16 years to complete (21 years if one include the surrounding buildings and gardens). This is the mausoleum seen from one of its lateral buildings.

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A little closer one can see the main iwan (the vaulted hall or space, which is walled on three sides, with one end entirely open). This is a Persian style that traces its origin back to the Sassanid architecture and since the Arabic conquest of Persia it has been popular in Islamic architecture. The dome of Taj Mahal is 35 m high.

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The mausoleum is constructed out of white marble and is decorated with semi-precious stones. These decorations come in the shape of calligraphy in the thuluth script, abstract forms and vegetative motifs.

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Like many other places, Taj Mahal has its share of myths. The best known is the belief that Shah Jahan planned a mausoleum in black marble for himself across the Yamuna River. These buildings would have been connected by a bridge. This is now believed to be nothing but a myth. Both Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal are buried in the mausoleum.

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