The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum in Agra in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. It was built by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan in memory of his great love, his deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal. The construction of the Taj Mahal was begun in the year 1631. The date of its completion is disputed and is dated during the period between 1644 and 1654.
The symmetrically built mausoleum stands on a 100 x 100 metre marble platform and is surrounded by 18 hectares of garden in which there is a large water basin. The architecture features Indian and also Persian elements. The building materials were brought from many different parts of India and Asia. More than 1,000 elephants were deployed for the transport of these materials. The building was built entirely of marble and in addition, 28 different precious and semi-precious stones were used. The minarets were constructed at a slight angle so that they would not fall onto the building should there be an earthquake.
Many legends have grown around the Taj Mahal mausoleum: for example, it is said that the craftsmen who were involved in the construction of the building had one of their hands chopped off and the architects were executed so that no-one could recreate the building. There is however no proof of this. Another legend tells that in the 19th century British colonial rulers had planned to sell the Taj Mahal to England piece by piece. However, this story is most probably based on the fact that other archaeological finds from the area around Agra were to be sold.
Nowadays the Taj Mahal is used as a place of prayer for Muslim citizens. Since the bomb threat to the building in 2006, it can only be entered after massive security measures. The marble walls of the building are turning yellow because of air pollution. In order to avoid further damage, planes were banned from flying over the Taj Mahal and cars and buses are not allowed to get nearer than two kilometres.
Today the Taj Mahal is considered to be the most beautiful and most important building from the time of the Mughal Empire. It has achieved worldwide fame. In 1983 it was classified as a world heritage site by the UNESCO. In 2007 the building was put on a new list of seven wonders of the world which had been put to the vote on the Internet.