The Taj Mahal, located near Agra in northern India, is a tomb constructed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Arjumand Bano Begum. She is popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, which in Persian means "the light of the palace". She died in 1630 while giving birth to their fourteenth child. Construction began in 1632 and ended in 1648. Among the 20,000 persons who worked on the monument were master craftsmen from Europe and Central Asia. The main architect was Usad Ahmad from Lahore.
The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. Over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials during the construction. The white marble was brought from Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab and the jade and crystal were from China. The turquoise was from Tibet, the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphires were from Sri Lanka and the cornelian from Saudi Arabia. In all, 28 types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble.
The central dome of the tomb is surrounded by four identical minarets, which slant outwards so that in the event of an earthquake, they will fall away from the tomb. To the left of the monument is a mosque made of red sandstone. It was constructed in order to sanctify the area and provide a place for pilgrims to worship. On the right is an exact duplicate of the mosque, known as the jawab ("answer"), which serves to maintain architectural symmetry but is not used as a mosque because it faces away from Mecca. Finally, the front of the monument had featured a traditional Persian char-bagh ("four gardens") display of lush flowers and densely grown trees.
The architectural complex of the Taj Mahal comprises of five main elements: the Darwaza or main gateway, the Bageecha or garden, the Masjid or mosque, the Naqqar Khana or rest house, and the Rauza or the Taj Mahal mausoleum. The actual Tomb of Mumtaz is situated inside the Taj. The unique moghal style architecture combines elements & styles of Persian, Central Asian, and Islamic architecture. Most striking are the black and white chessboard marble floor, the four tall minarets (40 m high) at the corners of the structure, and the majestic grand dome in the middle. The impressive pietra dura artwork includes geometric elements & style, plants & flowers, which are common in Islamic architecture.
An identical complex was originally supposed to be built on the other side of the river, and in black stone instead of white. This project was never completed.
By the late 19th century, parts of the Taj Mahal had fallen badly into disrepair, including having some of the cut marble stolen for reuse elsewhere. British viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a restoration project. At the same time the traditional garden was replaced with the more English-looking lawns that are visible today.