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The Taj Mahal was commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1631, to be built in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died on 17 June that year, while giving birth to their 14th child, Gauhara Begum. Construction started in 1632, and the mausoleum was completed in 1648, while the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. The imperial court documenting Shah Jahan’s grief after the death of Mumtaz Mahal illustrates the love story held as the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.
The name Agra is explained by different derivations, all of which have low verifiability. The most accepted one is that it had its origin from the Hindi word agar meaning salt-pan, a name which was given to it because the soil in the region is brackish and salt used to be made here once by evaporation.The Taj Mahal has faced significant damage due to air pollution and sewage discharge into the nearby Yamuna river. The white-marble Taj Mahal is turning yellow and green because of filthy air in the world’s eighth-most polluted city. The Taj Mahal flanks the garbage-strewn Yamuna river and is often enveloped by dust and smog from smokestacks and vehicles.
The most spectacular feature is the marble dome that surmounts the tomb. The dome is nearly 35 metres (115 ft) high which is close in measurement to the length of the base, and accentuated by the cylindrical “drum” it sits on, which is approximately 7 metres (23 ft) high. Because of its shape, the dome is often called an onion dome or amrud (guava dome). The top is decorated with a lotus design which also serves to accentuate its height. The shape of the dome is emphasised by four smaller domed chattris (kiosks) placed at its corners, which replicate the onion shape of the main dome. The dome is slightly asymmetrical. Their columned bases open through the roof of the tomb and provide light to the interior. Tall decorative spires (guldastas) extend from edges of base walls, and provide visual emphasis to the height of the dome. The lotus motif is repeated on both the chattris and guldastas. The dome and chattris are topped by a gilded finial which mixes traditional Persian and Hindustani decorative elements.
Most Mughal charbaghs are rectangular with a tomb or pavilion in the centre. The Taj Mahal garden is unusual in that the main element, the tomb, is located at the end of the garden. With the discovery of Mahtab Bagh or “Moonlight Garden” on the other side of the Yamuna, the interpretation of the Archaeological Survey of India is that the Yamuna river itself was incorporated into the garden’s design and was meant to be seen as one of the rivers of Paradise. Similarities in layout and architectural features with the Shalimar Gardens suggests both gardens may have been designed by the same architect, Ali Mardan. Early accounts of the garden describe its profusion of vegetation, including abundant roses, daffodils, and fruit trees. As the Mughal Empire declined, the Taj Mahal and its gardens also declined. By the end of the 19th century, the British Empire controlled more than three-fifths of India, and assumed management of the Taj Mahal. They changed the landscaping to their liking which more closely resembled the formal lawns of London.