West side of the Taj Mahal, Agra, with plan on reverse
Water-colour drawing of the west side of the Taj Mahal at Agra, dated 1808-1820. Inscribed on the back in Persian characters: '[R]audah i munauwarah az birun' (The mausoleum from the outside).
The Taj Mahal was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan (r.1628-58) in memory of 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 domed white marble mausoleum stands on a plinth with tapering minarets on each corner. There is a high recessed arch or 'pishtaq' at the centre of each of the building's four facades; each central niche is flanked by further small double arches. Inlaid coloured marbles and gemstones in floral designs embellish the exterior and interior of the building. Its harmonious proportions and the high quality of its craftsmanship have made the Taj Mahal one of the most famous buildings in the world.