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Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, located near Agra[?] in northern India, is a tomb constructed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Arjumand Bano Begum[?]. She is popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, which in Persian means "the light of the palace". She died in 1630 while giving birth to their fourteenth child. Construction began in 1632 and ended in 1648. Among the 20,000 persons who worked on the monument were master craftsmen from Europe and Central Asia. The main architect was Usad Ahmad[?] from Lahore.

The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. Over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials during the construction. The white marble was brought from Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab and the jade and crystal were from China. The turquoise was from Tibet, the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphires were from Sri Lanka and the cornelian[?] from Saudi Arabia. In all, 28 types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble.

The central dome of the tomb is surrounded by four identical minarets, which slant outwards so that in the event of an earthquake, they will fall away from the tomb. To the left of the monument is a mosque made of red sandstone. It was constructed in order to sanctify the area and provide a place for pilgrims to worship. On the right is an exact duplicate of the mosque, known as the jawab ("answer"), which serves to maintain architectural symmetry but is not used as a mosque because it faces away from Mecca. Finally, the front of the monument had featured a traditional Persian char-bagh ("four gardens") display of lush flowers and densely grown trees.

By the late 19th century, parts of the Taj Mahal had fallen badly into direpair, including having some of the cut marble stolen for reuse elsewhere. British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a restoration project. At the same time the traditional garden was replaced with the more English-looking lawns that are visible today.

The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourism destination.


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