The person who really designed the Taj Mahal is an artist unknown to all of history.

The Taj Mahal of India is indeed one of the most recognizable structures in the world. It’s one of the New Seven Wonders of the World — alongside the Great Wall of China and the Christ the Redeemer of Brazil; and has since … been a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site. If you happen to be a fan of the Taj Mahal, it would be a surprise to also know that nobody really knows who designed it.

Related media: The Real Reason The Taj Mahal Was Built

Once Upon A Designer

The Taj Mahal is a combination of Indian, Persian, and Islamic innovation, that makes it a magnificent example of classic Mughal architecture in existence today. The Mughals (not to be confused with the Mongols) were an Islamic dynasty that claimed descendent from Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, which established their diverse religious community and ruled much of India from the 16th to the 19th centuries — which was thought of as India’s last Golden Age.

The Taj Mahal represents pivotal moment in the identity of the Mughal empire. Although they were proud of their Persian and Timurid descent, the design of the Taj Mahal itself is really a deceptive showcase of cultural diversity — with a touch of Muslim heritage. One dominant feature about the Taj Mahal is the critical role it played in Mughal hierarchy, reflecting their religion and philosophy throughout much of the 17th century.

The History Of The Taj Mahal

Image: Go India Yatra | Painting of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal

The Taj Mahal was commissioned by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, to be built as a mausoleum for Mumtaz Mahal, his favorite wife, who died tragically after the birth of their 14th child. Shah Jahan was the overseer of the designing and construction of the Taj Mahal, personally takin advantage of witnessing almost every aspect of the construction of the building. Of course, Shah Jahan was very interested in fancy architecture, and takes much of the credit for the Taj Mahal’s construction, yet he could not have solely designed the building.

Obviously, looking at an edifice as sophisticated as the Taj Mahal, then it was certainly engineered by a team of professional architects, and that’s probably why their names are lost to history. Its quite unfair (though deserving) that Shah Jahan is the only poster boy taking credits, and his undying love for his wife might have not been the only interest in building such a wonderful work of art. It could be that he also wanted to cement his imperial legacy, and the Taj Mahal is a testament to that, as well.

So Who Designed It?

That’s the multimillion-dollar question we know not an answer. According to the official Mughal historical archives, the Taj Mahal was designed by 37 designers and architects who contributed to the commission for Shah Jahan. But the person who played a pivotal role as the chief architect was probably Ustad Ahmad, an Indian of Persian descent from Lahore who designed the Red Fort at Delhi. Modern historians agree that the Taj Mahal was a collaborative effort by several artisans. 

For instance, the famous Turkish dome-builder Ismaili Afandi probably played a role, alongside the master calligrapher Amanat Khan of Shiraz, whose signature boldly captions the gateway of the Taj Mahal. So its likely the case that Shah Jahan played the role as an artistic orchestrator, gathering and directing a world class of renowned artisans with special tasks in achieving a goal such as the Taj Mahal — performing according to his schedule plan line of action.

Its estimated that more than 20,000 workers across the Eurasian continent — Indians, Persians, and the Ottoman Empire — contributed to the construction of the Taj Mahal, and not forgetting the thousands of elephants who did the heavy lifting tasks. So if someone is taking credit of all that, he or she better be one colossal heck of a creature.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Tue, Jul 30, 2019.

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