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insider guide: the taj mahal

Despite all the attention that its white-domed marble front gets, the Taj Mahal is much more than that: a string of structures. The merry mash-up of Islamic, Indian and Persian styles is widely seen as the finest architectural statement made by that imperial dynasty known as the Mughals.

Built over two decades in the mid-17th century as a memorial to a bereaved emperor's wife, the Unesco World Heritage Site stands apart from the obvious Indian megacities. Its location: Agra, the old imperial capital on the banks of the river Yamuna in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Here are some more odd facts, gossip and mystery surrounding one of the world's most photographed buildings. 

1. Taj Mahal simply means 'Crown Palace'.

2. The labor involved in creating Indo-Islamic architecture's crowning jewel was intense. For the transportation of construction materials, over a thousand elephants were deployed. As many as 28 different varieties of semi-precious and precious stones were used in the exquisite inlay work.

3. According to one theory, the dazzling burial complex was designed by an Italian jeweler memorably named Geronimo Veroneo.

4. According to another theory, the tomb's changing colors depict the different moods of a woman.

5. Ranked among the top seven or eight wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal may well be the world's most extravagant romantic gesture. Its creator, the emperor Shah Jahan built it for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth. In her last breath, Mumtaz apparently secured a promise from Shah Jahan that he would build a monument in her memory.

6. According to legend, Shah Jahan planned to build a mirror image black marble Taj Mahal on the other side of the river, but a war with his sons interrupted plans.

7. According to another legend, after the Taj Mahal was built, Shah Jahan ordered amputation of the hands of all the workers. Supposedly, he wanted to make sure that no person could recreate its magic.

8. During her 1992 trip to India with Prince Charles, Diana was pictured alone at the world's most romantic symbol on a bench later dubbed Lady Di’s Chair. The visit happened as her marriage to Prince Charles was crumbling. A comment on her solitude, the photograph shifted public sympathy away from the prince and would come to embody the couple’s estrangement.

9. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore called the Taj Mahal, "a teardrop on the cheek of eternity".

10. The Taj Mahal may be tilting and sinking. "Dangerous tilts in its minarets, first noticed in 1942 and mentioned in various reports, have continued to increase over the years," Ram Nath, a former head of history at Rajasthan University, told the Hindustan Times. The drying up of the river Yamuna may well be to blame.





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