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Myths and Controversies

Since its construction the building has been the source of an admiration that has transcended cultures and geography to the extent that the personal and emotional responses to the building have consistently eclipsed scholastic appraisals of the monument.

A longstanding myth holds that Shah Jahan planned a mausoleum to be built in black marble across the Jumna river. The idea originates from fanciful writings of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a European traveller who visited Agra in 1665. It was suggested that Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb before it could be built. Ruins of blackened marble across the river in Moonlight Garden, Mahtab Bagh, seemed to support this legend. However, excavations carried out in 1990s found that they were discolored white that turned into black. A more credible theory for the origins of the black mausoleum was demonstrated in 2006 by archeologists who resconstructed part of the pool in the Moonlight Garden. A dark reflection of the white mausoleum could clearly be seen, befitting Shah Jahan's obsession with symmetry and the positioning of the pool itself.

No evidence exist for claims that describe, often in horrific detail, the deaths, dismemberments and mutilations which Shah Jahan inflicted on various architects and craftsmen associated with the tomb. Some stories claim that those involved in construction signed contracts committing to have no part in any similar design. Similar claims are made for many famous buildings. No evidence exist on claims that Lord William Bentinck, governor of India in the 1830s, supposedly planned to demolish Taj Mahal and auction off the marble. Bentinck's biographer John Rosselli says that the story arose from Bentinck's fund-raising sale of discarded marble from Agra Fort.

In 2000, India's Supreme Court dismissed P.N. Oak's petition to declare that a Hindu king built the Taj Mahal and reprimanded him for bringing the action. Oak claimed that origins of the Taj, together with other historic structures in the country currently ascribed to Muslim sultans pre-date Muslim occupation of India and thus, have a Hindu origin. A more poetic story relates that once a year, during the rainy season, a single drop of water falls on the cenotaph as inspired by Rabindranath Tagore's description of the tomb as "one tear-drop...upon the cheek of time". Another myth suggests that beating the silhouette of finial will cause water to come forth. To this day, officials find broken bangles surrounding the silhouette.


Nine Unknown Men

Nine Unknown Men are a two millennia-old secret society founded by the Indian Emperor Asoka.