As per common knowledge, construction of Taj Mahal was taken up by Shah Jehan, the 5th Mughal Emperor of India, as a fond memorial to his beloved 3rd wife Mumtaz Mahal (Beloved Jewel of the Palace) and was completed by 1648 AD. However, her death had been sudden, as she had expired unexpectedly during her fourteenth childbearing and thus it was a shattering blow to the doting husband, who was not even at the bedside of his wife during her last days.

Agra Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal – Pride of India

In view of these circumstances, preserving the memory of his beloved wife in a manner befitting her beauty became his sole obsession. This passion, combined with Shah Jehan s zest for building excellence, gradually gave way to an evolutionary process, finally culminating in this masterpiece of Mughal Architecture. However, the design and concept of Taj Mahal apparently was not a result of any flash of creativity, but grew over time during interaction with various advisers, experts, engineers, architects, stone carvers and various other craftsmen.

Though there are not many indigenous historical resources, but details about various people associated with this gigantic project have come down through scattered Persian sources. These information sources inform that Ismail Khan, an expert on domes, came all the way from Turkey. Qazim Khan came from Lahore to mould the solid gold finial for the dome. A local lapidary Chiranjilal was requisitioned from Delhi as the chief sculptor, while Amanat Khan came from Shiraz to work as chief calligrapher. Other specialized craftsmen were recruited from faraway Bukhara, Syria, South India and Baluchistan etc. In total, there was an expert council of thirty seven experts which functioned as the creative core, which was entrusted to together supervise a gigantic force of twenty thousand labor recruited locally, besides, a contingent of one thousand elephants, apart from countless bullock carts, mules, donkeys and other supporting men and animals.

Just as with the manpower, the construction material was mobilized from diverse sources. Major quantities of red sandstone were quarried from the surrounding region, while white marble was resourced from Makrana, near Jaipur. Nephrite Jade and Crystal came from Chinese Turkestan, Turquoise from Tibet, Yellow Amber from Burma, Lapis lazuli from northeast Afghanistan, Chrysolite from Egypt, Coral and Mother-of-pearl from Indian Ocean, while forty three varieties of precious gems like Topaz, Onyx, Garnet, Diamond, Sapphire and Bloodstone etc. were sourced from within India from sites as diverse as Himalayan to Golconda.

As per Islamic practice, the first constructions were the tomb proper and two adjoining mosques. They required consummate skill, as Islamic traditions prohibit any alterations once the tomb has been completed. This core was later supported by the four minarets, the gateway and other auxiliary buildings.