One of the most famous buildings in the world, the white marbled Taj Mahal in Agra, India changes color depending on the time of day, from soft yellows to a stark white. One of the Wonders of the Modern world, this UNESCO heritage site is renowned as an enduring monument to deep love and sorrow. It was built by the 5th Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century as a fitting mausoleum for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Millions of visitors see it every year (except for the pandemic ones). Its beautiful architecture and carefully laid out grounds is simply stunning. The story of its conception and the design itself inspires many today including jewelry designers. Shown below are some wonderful examples from around the world which vary from minimalist all the way to statement pieces.

First up is the sterling silver Taj Mahal pendant shown above by Thai designer, Nattapat of VINTZsilverdesign.

Taj Mahal Picture Source

The gold plated pendant below has the minarets of the building as the attachment points for the chains. This makes it such a balanced symmetrical design. The designer is Californian metalsmith, Lillian of  LilPepperJewelry.

This onyx gemstone depicting a hand painted Taj Mahal can be made into a pendant. Available from Saa, an Indian supplier at TheTrendyVilla

This minimalist gold pendant has the shape of the Taj Mahal cut out. The Michigan based designer is Zudo of SHOPZUDO.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee is a well known Indian fashion and jewelry designer whose work is sold under the Sabyasachi brand name. Shown here is his statement Taj Mahal inspired necklace and earrings handmade from brass and copper. It is available from New York based Samiya of SharifAdornment

So very different is the adorable cat with the Taj Mahal enamel pin from South Korean designer,  PANDORAPIA

Let's not forget talented beadwork designers who have also been inspired by this magnificent monument.  This beaded fringe earrings pattern is by UK designer, Alex of EndlessBeadsCo. Alex also sells kits. I have featured her amazing work before here

Florida based Edita of RebelSoulEKpatterns has a peyote beaded bracelet featuring the main Taj Mahal building as well as the lovely pool in front of it. 

Shah Jahan's Enduring and Loving Monument

Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire was a Central Asian chieftain from what is today, Uzbekistan. He was a descendant of both Timur/Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. The Mughal (derived from Mongol) emperors, who were Muslim, ruled over much of India from 1526-1857.  Intermarriage with Hindu royalty and major influences from Persia and the Muslim world beyond influenced the rich cultural and artistic legacies of this powerful dynasty. Persian was actually the court language. 

The fourth Mughal emperor, Jahangir (1569-1627) and his heir, Shah Jahan (1592-1666), were known to be strong patrons of the arts. While he was still a prince, his father gave Shah Jahan the invaluable experience of overseeing the construction of several monuments and he proved quite good at it.

Portrait miniature of Shah Jahan by Bichitr, c.1630

He became engaged to the love of his life, a Persian noblewoman, Arjumand Banu Begum (1593–1631) when they were both teenagers. They were married when they were 20 and 19. 

She was also called Mumtaz Mahal which meant the "Exalted One of the Palace", in Persian. 

Mumtaz Mahal, Watercolor on ivory,17th century

Theirs was a very, very rare royal marriage. They were soulmates, compatible in every single way and their deep love was enduring. Royalty generally married for political reasons as well as to produce heirs.  Shah Jahan had to take two other wives for the sake of alliances. But he basically ignored them after dutifully producing a child with each of them.  

Mumtaz Mahal was known to be beautiful, graceful and compassionate. She was also his confidante and trusted advisor. She travelled everywhere with him, even on military campaigns. It was while on one of his campaigns that she died of postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth to their 14th child. She was 38.

Her death devastated him. He went into total seclusion for a week. For months after, he would weep and his hair and beard turned white. Construction on the Taj Mahal, her mausoleum, began soon after her death. The Taj Mahal was not just a monument to her memory but also a show of Mughal power and wealth.   

Designed by the finest architects and engineers of the age with an exquisite mixture of both Persian and Indian styles, the building was completed by 20,000 artisans and 1000 elephants in 22 years. Dozens of different gemstones were inlaid into the decorative parts of the building. He spared no expense, sourcing materials from far and wide. 

He fell gravely ill about 8 years before his death. His 4 surviving sons viciously fought each other over the succession - this was a real life Game of Thrones and it was to the death. His third son, Aurangzeb, won and became the next Emperor. This son imprisoned Shah Jahan in the nearby Agra Fort for the rest of his life. He couldn't visit the Taj Mahal but he could gaze upon it from his room until he died, age 74.  This is the view from that very room :

Picture source

He was buried beside her. But that was clearly not his original plan. The Taj Mahal is a very symmetrical design except for one location - the cenotaphs (both were buried one level below these). As you can see, Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph is centrally placed but his is to one side. 

Picture source

Watch this wonderful video on the Taj Mahal, a short travelogue and history documentary by bmstyle. It showcases the whole complex as well as the decorative parts. This is armchair travel at its best!

Taj Mahal Myths

1. There are a number of myths about the Taj Mahal and one of them was mentioned by the tour guide in the above video. The British Raj did NOT take the original gold clad spire or finial and replace it with one made from bronze. (Update : Dr  Mehreen Chida- Razvi, and art and architectural historian, emailed me to say that is a total myth. The spire was all brass from the get-go). One 19th century British official did plan on dismantling the Taj Mahal and selling off the marble. But that fortunately never happened as the bids were too low.

2. Also NOT true is the story about the mutilation or killing of the architects, engineers and artisans supposedly so they would not be able to create another building as beautiful. Think about it. It would be utter folly to lose such talent. There are historical records which show these architects going on to build other monuments for the Mughals. Perhaps the basis of this myth might have been the workplace injuries of the artisans and workers? Occupational health and safety measures did not exist back then. Surely working with white marble in glaring sunlight for years on end also cannot be good for the eyes? 

3. The Taj Mahal was built by a Muslim ruler in a country where the majority of the population are Hindus. Today, it is India's most recognizable monument and it's biggest tourist draw.  So this does not sit well with some hardline Hindu nationalists who are attempting to revise history. The claim that there are ruins of an old Hindu temple beneath the Taj Mahal is completely untrue.  The building of the Taj Mahal was very well documented and in great detail by no less than 3 Mughal court historians. There are also Rajasthani records which chronicled the land sale. 

R. Nath, an Indian historian specializing in the Mughal era said, “It is absolutely wrong and absurd. We know exactly how the land was acquired, how the foundations were laid and how it was built. There is not a single piece of evidence to support this theory that it was a Shiva temple.” The Taj Mahal is now omitted from official brochures but the fame of this beautiful building is already so widely known, that the gesture is meaningless. 

The Taj Mahal is beautiful monument for all humanity. Just like the other 7 Wonders of the Modern World - Petra, Jordan, - Machu Picchu, Peru - the Great Wall of China - Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Colosseum, Rome - Chichén Itzá, Mexico - these and the Taj Mahal are indeed wonders of human endeavor and achievement. Some sorrowfully involved lives lost during their construction. They can and should be appreciated by everyone.

Additional References
Before You Go :

jewelry making supplies

This blog may contain affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation. 
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM