Why Did Shah Jahan Build the Taj Mahal?

did-shah-jahan-build-taj-mahal Credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan constructed the Taj Mahal from 1632 until 1654 as a monument and mausoleum for his wife, Arjumand Banu Begum, also known as Mumtaz Mahal. In 2005, former Indian Bharatiya Janata Party official Vinay Katiyar claimed the building was a Hindu temple to Shiva built by Raja Jai Singh, and that the mausoleum is called Tejo Mai Mahal. The party quickly distanced itself from Katiyar's controversial claim.

Mumtaz Mahal, which means "Chosen One of the Palace," was Jahan's most cherished of his three wives. The couple married in 1612, and the queen died giving birth to Jahan's 14th child in 1631. The grief-stricken emperor built the Taj Mahal as a monument to his love for his favorite wife.

Jahan employed more than 20,000 artisans to work on the complex. More than 1,000 elephants were used to transport materials such as sandstone, marble, lapis lazuli, jade, crystal, amethyst and turquoise. The Taj Mahal is regarded as one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture, a style the combined Indian, Islamic and Persian styles. As a mosque, the Taj Mahal has a minaret at each corner of the complex, and verses from the Holy Qu'ran are inscribed at the entrance. The central dome rises 240 feet above the floor.

As of September 2014, nearly 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal annually. During the peak tourist season, around 45,000 people visit the mausoelum per day.