Tops of the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Arjumand Banu Begum, Taj Mahal, Agra 1808
Watercolour of the tops of the cenotaphs of the Emperor Shah Jahan and the Empress Arjumand Banu Begum in the Taj Mahal, Agra, c.1820-1822.
The Taj Mahal was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan (r.1628-58) for his favourite wife Arjumand Banu Begum upon her death in 1631. Constructed of India’s finest marble, quarried at Makrana near Jodhpur, it took 12 years to build involving 20,000 craftsmen from all over Asia. The tomb and accompanying buildings are organised around a garden divided into four parts by raised walkways with water channels at their centres. The pietra dura was done with thousands of imported precious and semi-precious stones arranged in floral designs that embellish the exterior and interior of the building. The domed white marble mausoleum stands on a plinth with tapering minarets on each corner. Its harmonious proportions and exquisite craftsmanship have made the Taj Mahal one of the wonders of the world. The cenotaph of Arjumand Banu Begum can be seen on the left, covered with caligraphy, with Shah Jahan's floral motif pietra dura on the right.