For much of the 17th century, the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan was the sovereign over northern India, Bangladesh and most of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But in 1631, despite his absolute power over some 100 million subjects, the « King of the World » was not spared by fate when he lost his dearest love known as Mumtaz Mahal. Afflicted by sorrow, the Emperor ordered the construction in Agra--one of the three capitals of the dynasty with Delhi and Lahore--of a mausoleum suggesting the “Gates of Heaven” to honour her memory. According to legend, the Emperor commanded the murder of his head architect’s fiancée in order for him to feel the same pain as his master. That architect went on to design what is now considered to be the world’s most beautiful monument, the Taj Mahal.
For over twenty years, from 1631 to 1653, the best craftsmen of the Empire and of neighbouring Persia--over 20,000 marble cutters, masons, sculptors and decorators--toiled at the construction of the architectural jewel. It is said that no description can render justice to the majesty of the edifice. The poet Edward Lear once wrote: “ The population of the world is divided into two categories. Those who have seen the Taj Mahal, and the others”.