The Taj Mahal sits on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra, India, was built as a tomb, has architectural features from three different cultures and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The structure is only part of a complex that includes gardens and a mosque.
Emperor Shah Jahan, of the Mughal dynasty, commissioned the building in 1632 as a mausoleum for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth with the pair's 14th child. The name Taj Mahal honors her memory. It took more than 20,000 workers and roughly 1,000 elephants to complete the monument, as well as the architectural skills of Ustad Ahmad Lahouri, an Indian citizen of Persian descent.
The Taj Mahal is influenced by Persian, Indian and Islamic designed. The main dome is 240 feet high and is surrounded by four smaller domes. The four minarets, or towers, sitting at each corner are a traditional Islamic design feature.
The mausoleum is made of white marble that is inlaid with semi-precious gems, such as jade, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise. The intricate designs, known as pietra dura, reflect the sunlight, making the Taj Mahal seem to change color throughout the day. Verses from the Quran were carved above the arched entrances to the mausoleum and throughout the complex.
A false tomb sits inside an octagonal marble chamber that is also adorned with semi-precious gems and carvings. Mumtaz Majal is actually buried in a sarcophagus below the chamber. Emperor Shah Jahan is buried next to her.