Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan erected the Taj Mahal in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan (then Prince Khurram) met Mumtaz Mahal (then Arjumand Banu Begum) at the age of fourteen and they fell in love at first sight. She was a Muslim Persian princess and Shah Jahan was the son of the Mughal Emperor (Muslim rulers of India), Jehangir. After a five year courtship, they were married in 1612.
Mumtaz Mahal, an inseparable companion of Shah Jahan, died in 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child. It is believed that during her last moments, Shah Jahan promised Mumtaz Mahal that he would build for her the world’s most beautiful monument which we today know as the “Taj Mahal”. Shah Jahan, himself also, lies entombed in this mausoleum along with his wife.
The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631 and it took approximately 22 years to build it. A symbol of love, it made use of the services of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. It was built entirely out of white marble, which was brought in from all over India and central Asia. the Taj Mahal was finally completed in the year 1653.
The Taj Mahal incorporates and expands on design traditions of Persian architecture and earlier Mughal architecture. Specific inspiration came from successful Timurid and Mughal buildings including; the Gur-e Amir (the tomb of Timur, progenitor of the Mughal dynasty, in Samarkand), Humayun’s Tomb, Itmad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb (sometimes called the Baby Taj), and Shah Jahan’s own Jama Masjid in Delhi. While earlier Mughal buildings were primarily constructed of red sandstone, Shah Jahan promoted the use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones, and buildings under his patronage reached new levels of refinement.