The most famous structure in India is also a tomb. The Taj Mahal was built in 1638 in the Mughal style, an amalgamation of Persian and Indian architectural forms. Located in the northern Indian city of Agra, which was then the capital of the Mughal Empire, the Taj Mahal complex consists of a mausoleum, a main gateway, a garden, a mosque and a jawab, a building that mirrors the mosque. Notable for its Islamic domes and minarets, its symmetry and its refined decorative detail, the all-marble mausoleum and the exquisite gardens are celebrated as much for their elegant design as for the love story behind them.
The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (“Emperor of the World”) built the Taj Mahal as the magnificent eternal burial place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. A description of the relationship between the ruler and Mahal, written by the royal historian, was extraordinary for its time. Recounting the deep and passionate love and friendship between the shah and his wife, the historian called Mahal the shah’s closest confidante and companion and described their extraordinary physical and spiritual compatibility. After she died in childbirth during the birth of their 14th child, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in tribute to his inseparable companion. The shah survived his wife by 35 years and continued to rule the Mughal Empire until 1658, when his own son deposed him and imprisoned him in a fortress across the river from the Taj Mahal. The story of the emperor’s deep love for his wife and the exquisite mausoleum that is a testament to that love has lured visitors to the Taj Mahal from around the world for hundreds of years.