written by: Raunekk•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 2/6/2013
The Taj Mahal is the 7th wonder of the world and is considered a civil engineering jewel. Discover more about the design and construction process of one of the greatest architectural achievements of the ancient world.
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The Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is without a doubt an amazing architectural achievement. Built by the fifth Muslim Mogul emperor, Shah Jahan, the Taj Mahal is completely made of white marble and is located at Agra, India. It is said that the architectural jewel was built in memories of Shah Jahan’s beloved late wife who passed away while giving birth.
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The building of Taj Mahal stands on a raised square platform with the main tomb in the center and four minarets or pillars at each corner. Each minaret is 131.23 feet high (40 meters) and is divided into three equal parts by means of two balconies. There are four gates to enter the building. The main gate has 22 domes. Fountains are located exactly at the center of the building premises. A mosque built from red stones is located at the west of the main tomb. There are also sixteen gardens in the whole premises. The main dome at the center of the building has a height of 35 feet and is decorated with lotus designs on the inside. The base of the Taj Mahal consists of several chambers and forms an irregular octagon with each side approximately of length 180.45 feet (55 meters).
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The construction of the Taj Mahal started in 1632 and was completed in 1653. Thousands of skilled laborers and craftsmen worked day in and day out during that time. The principle designer of Taj Mahal was Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, a Persian architect.
Located on the southern part of Agra, the Taj Mahal is built on a land with an area of roughly three acres. The land before construction was dug up, filled with dirt and filling materials to reduce seeping and was leveled around 164 feet (50 meters) above the river water level.
For the main tomb area, deep wells were made and then filled with rocks, stones and other solid materials to make the base of the tomb. Instead of bamboo, which were generally used to support building structures, a temporary arrangement made out of bricks was erected. The design of this arrangement was similar to that of the tomb.
For quicker and easier transportation of raw materials and marbles, an inclined ramp was made by using tightly pressurized earth. This 9.32 mile (15 km) long ramp was the lifeline of the whole construction process. Moreover, to bring marble and other construction materials to the ramp, bullock carts with special wagons were used.
In order to jack up the huge marble pieces, a specially designed pulley system was used. The water needed for the construction was pulled out of the river using a mechanical bucket system attached with ropes and pulled by animals. The water was collected in a massive storage tank and was distributed from there to various smaller storage tanks located at various parts of the construction site.
Out of the total 22 years of construction, the tomb took around twelve years to complete. The structure surrounding it, which includes a mosque, minarets and gateways, took another 10 years. The raw material for the construction was imported from various parts of Asia. Approximately twenty thousand workers worked on this building simultaneously. Sculptors and architects from different parts of India were hired to carve the marble flowers that are found throughout the building.
Estimating the total cost of Taj Mahal is a bit difficult, however it is said that the approximation cost was close of thirty-two million rupees, a very large amount at that time.
The Taj Mahal is now a Unesco world heritage site. An embodiment of genuine architectural skills, beauty and grace. The Taj Mahal stands not only as an architectural achievement but also as a civil engineering wonder, inspiring architects and engineers around the world.
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Asher, Catherine B. "Architecture of Mughal India" in New Cambridge History of India. Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Copplestone, Trewin (ed.). World architecture—An illustrated history. Paul Hamlyn, 1966.
Carroll, David. The Taj Mahal. Newsweek Books, 1971.