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Taj Mahal (ताजमहल)

Hindi. Name for the famous mausoleum in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh, located at the bank of the Yamuna River in Agra and in viewing distance of Agra Fort (fig.), a walled palace in close vicinity of the Taj and which was the residence of several great moguls, most notably Shah Jahan, the legendary Great Mogul who commissioned the construction of the Taj Mahal (fig.) and who at the end of his life was imprisoned in the fort by his own son Aurangzeb. The Taj, a grand edifice made of white marble, has been voted one of India's Seven Wonders and was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a burial chamber for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal (मुमताज़ महल), who died on 17 June 1631 at the age of 38, while giving birth to her 14th child. It took roughly 22 years to fully complete and this number of years is allegedly incorporated in the rows of dome-shaped spikes above the gates of the darwaza, i.e. the overall pinkish sandstone gateway to the Taj, which on either side has a doorway topped by 11 off-white dome-shaped spikes, i.e. 22 in total and each spike is said to symbolize one year of construction. The four minarets that surround the mausoleum do not stand straight-up, but are pointing somewhat outward, away from the main building. This is done to prevent them falling on the Taj in case of an earthquake. The tombs in the burial chamber are actually cenotaphs, as the actual tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, are kept in a room below the chamber not open to the public. Whereas Mahal, also pronounced Mahel, is the both the name of the beloved wife of Shah Jahan and the term used for a ‘palace’ or ‘grand building’ in India, Taj (ताज) is Hindi for ‘crown’ or ‘diadem’. Taj Mahal hence literally translates as ‘Crown Palace’. See MAP.