The Taj Mahal is an integrated complex of structures that include a white marble mausoleum containing the tombs of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1592 - 1666) and his third wife Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631). The Mughal dynasty built many mausoleums in the Indian subcontinent but the Taj Mahal is undoubtedly the finest. The mausoleum is built entirely of white marble, set on a high base or plinth which includes four tall minarets, one on each corner. On either side of the tomb are a mosque and a guest house, while the tomb faces a garden laid out in the "charbagh" style, with a central walkway with fountains and viewing platforms with green spaces and trees on either side. The entrance to the complex is through a grand ornamental gateway, inscribed with Quranic inscriptions and the calligraphed line "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you."
Taj Mahal, synonymous with India’s identity, is the crowning jewel of Mughal architecture in India. The Mughal tradition of erecting majestic mausoleums in memory of Royal members found its culmination in the Taj’s majestic form. The Humayun’s tomb built in 1562 was a major influence over Taj’s design. An architectural marvel, the structure incorporates elements of Persian influences like the design of the Dome and incorporation of arched entrances or ‘Iwans’ along with inspiration from contemporary Hindu design elements like chhatris and copious incorporation of the lotus motif. Described by Tagore as “the tear-drop on the cheek of time”, the monument embodies funereal austerity turned into the most beautiful reminder of eternal love.
Taj Mahal is part of an elaborate complex consisting of a decorative gateway, a beautifully designed garden, a wonderful water system and a mosque. The complex is situated on the southern banks of river Yamuna. The complex stretches in a south to north incline towards the river and is constructed in steps.