Origin and Inspiration
In 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during Mughal's period of greatest prosperity, was griefstricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their fourteenth child, Gauhara Begum.The court chronicles of Shah Jahan's grief illustrates the love story traditionally held as an inspiration for Taj Mahal.
The construction of Taj Mahal begun soon after Mumtaz's death with the principal mausoleum completed in 1648. The surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later.Empror Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:
"Should guilty seek asylum here, Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin. Should a sinner make his way to this mansion, All his past sins are to be washed away. The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs; And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes. In this world this edifice has been made; To display thereby the creator's glory".
The Taj Mahal incorporates and expands on design traditions of Persian 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 use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones and buildings under his patronage reached new levels of refinement.