In the seventeenth century, Shah Jehan ruled a vast Muslim empire in India.
His capital of Agra was one of the richest and most magnificent cities in the world at the time. When Shah Jehan’s wife Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631, the emperor set out to build a tomb for his wife that would be more beautiful than any structure the world had ever seen.
Shah Jehan brought craftsmen to Agra from all over the world, along with boatloads of silver, pearls, and precious gems. For almost 20 years, hundreds of workers toiled on the structure. Completed in 1648. it was known as the Taj Mahal, or “Crown of the Palace,” in honor of Mumtaz Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is an eight-sided structure mounted on a marble platform more than 300 feet on a side. Four slender towers, called minarets, rise to a height of 138 feet in each corner of the building. The 70-foot-high walls are made of white marble, inlaid with precious stones in many designs.
The Taj Mahal is crowned by a huge dome whose peak is 243 feet above the platform. The entire structure is surrounded by beautiful gardens, fountains, and pools. Many people believe that the Taj Mahal is, as Shah Jehan had planned, the most beautiful building, in the world.
Shah Jehan originally planned to build another Taj Mahal, just like the first. He planned to build it across a river from the first Taj Mahal. The two buildings were going to be connected by a silver bridge.
This second Taj Mahal was to serve as Shah Jehan’s tomb. It was to be built of black marble instead of white. But Shah Jehan was dethroned before he could carry out his plan. When he died, he was buried instead in the Taj Mahal, beside his wife.