[Gateway of the Taj Mahal] (about April 1859) by Felice BeatoThe J. Paul Getty Museum
Across centuries, the Taj Mahal has presented an irresistible site for tourists. It was a popular destination throughout the British occupation of India, and was captured by many early photographers. In this 1859 photo, the gardens are seen in their original condition.
Today, the building is known worldwide and is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of India. Click and drag to take a look around the grounds of the Taj Mahal and then scroll on for a five-stop-tour of its history...
"Shah Jahan on a Terrace, Holding a Pendant Set With His Portrait", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album "Shah Jahan on a Terrace, Holding a Pendant Set With His Portrait", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album (recto: 1627–28; verso: ca. 1530–50) by ChitarmanThe Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, pictured in this ornate painting, had the Taj Mahal built as a grand monument to his second, and favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631. The building would later be used as his own mortuary, uniting the couple for eternity.
One of the buildings that is said to have inspired the architect of the Taj Mahal is the tomb of the Mughal emperor Humayun. A striking resemblance is seen in the layout of the gardens, and the use of domed pavilions called chhatris and arched windows known as iwan.
Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah
While this building, dating to 1622, is considered by historians to be a prototype of the Taj Mahal, as such it's sometimes known by the name, 'The Baby Taj'. One of the most significant features is the white decorated marble, in contrast to earlier red sandstone buildings.
Arabic calligraphy decorates surfaces of the Taj Mahal. Here, a passage from the Qur'an is written in elaborate thuluth style script, made from inlaid black marble.
While Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal's sarcophagi lie under the lofty dome of the Taj Mahal, their actual graves rest below ground in this plain crypt - following Islamic custom to have simple graves.
Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar PradeshIncredible India!