Shahjahan purchased a plot of land from Raja Jai Singh on the banks of Yamuna River for building the Taj Mahal. Raja Jai Singh was also instructed by Shahjahan to provide a regular supply of special, hard and non-porous marble from the quarries of Makrana. A 2½-mile (4.02 km) road ramp was built to haul huge pieces of marble to the site of the construction. Strangely the scaffolding of this magnificent building was made, not of wood or bamboo, but with bricks. It is probable that the lack of wood made the architects to make brick scaffoldings.
Though Shahjahan provided the vision behind the entire concept, he was assisted in his endeavor by a number of architects. The name of the architect, which is often mentioned during the building of Taj Mahal, is that of Muhammad Isa Khan, who hailed from Shiraz in Iran. It is also said that a creative nucleus of 37 people formed the core advisory group behind this gigantic project. The construction of Taj Mahal commenced in 1632. Work on the mausoleum started in frenzy with thousands of artisans and laborers toiling ceaselessly day after day. It is said that Taj Mahal took 21 years to complete, with the help of an army of 20,000 laborers, who worked under the guidance of Shahjahan. It is also said that the royal coffers went dry after this project was over.
At the end of the first year of construction the mausoleum had taken shape and the crypt chamber along with its surrounding works were also completed. The body of Mumtaz Mahal was ceremoniously interred into the tomb. Six years of extensive labor saw the main building of the mausoleum complete and crowned with a majestic guava shaped dome. According to some historians the major construction of Taj Mahal was completed in about 10 years time.
Taj Mahal - The Plana
Perfect piece of architecture, the Taj Mahal is built according to a predefined plan. It is built according to the Islamic concept of Paradise, where an enormous, shimmering pearl white dome stands supported by four corner pillars, from which flow the rivers of grace.
The massive plinth on which the Taj Mahal stands is representative of the material world, while the octagonal main structure signifies the transitional phase. Finally the dome is symbolic of being the vault of the heaven. To complete the illusion of the paradise, the tomb has been ornamented with splendidly calligraphy of verses from the holy Koran, in flowing Arabic. An inscription written on the massive front gateway leading to the gardens in front of the Taj reads, O soul that art at rest, return to the lord, at peace with Him and He at peace with you. So enter as one of His servants and enter into His garden.
The Taj is marked by perfect symmetry and harmony, be it the shape of the four towering minarets; the cupolas (chhatris); the central arch in the façade; the perfectly arranged arched recesses on both the story's; the intricate pietra dura (stone inlay work); the delicate lattice work on marble windows or the magnificent dome. Even the mosque and the guesthouse (mehmankhana) are a mirror image of one another.
However, there is one thing, which breaks the perfectly harmonious plan of the Taj Mahal - its position. Instead of locating the Taj Mahal in the middle of the Charbagh (four garden plan), Shahjahan built the mausoleum at the far end of the garden, with the back wall falling straight down to the bed of Yamuna River.