First came the 7 ancient wonders, but once their glory faded, the world selected a new group of wonders that stand with unmatched engineering prowess. This is the Taj Mahal.
In terms of modern wonders, there is arguably no civil engineering feat greater than the Taj Mahal. Designed as a Mausoleum in Agra, India, it rises to the height of 240 feet. The beautiful structure is made in its entirety of white marble on a raised platform within a 42-acre complex.
Being that it is a mausoleum, the main tomb housing the Fifth Muslim Emperor’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal, is in the center of the structure. Most notable is the center domed structure, but there also exists 4 minarets on each corner of the larger square foundation. The elaborate nature of the structure is not lost in its architecture or the pure white marble it otherwise brings to the green landscape. The magnitude of the structures elegance can only be grasped when understanding what is contained within the footprint of the Taj Mahal’s grounds.
There exists a main gate with 22 domes. A variety of fountains present themselves at the center of the building and a mosque built from red stone is next to the main tomb. There are 16 gardens within the complex all kept to pristine condition. The main dome itself is 35 feet tall covered with elaborate decorations on the inside of the building. Rather than the external dimensions being constructed as a square, architects designed the building to be an irregular octagon.
Construction began in 1632 and took only 21 years, which is impressive considering the time period and material used.
Designed by a Persian architect, care was taken to lay a perfect foundation for the structure, which diverges from the construction of many previous stone wonders. The base structure was dug out and backfilled with dirt and rock, then stabilized through the toil of many workers. The structure exists right next to a river, so care was taken to build the foundation up to 164 feet above water level to protect against flooding and erosion.
Sourcing such a large quantity of pristine white marble was not easy. A ramp that stretched 9.32 miles was created to bring the marble to the site using wagons and carts. This length was determined based upon both the necessary incline and distance to the source material. Once the stone arrived on site, skilled workers sculpted the marble into its final shape. Water needed for construction was drawn from the nearby river using a mechanical bucket pulley system which was powered by animals.
In total, 20,000 workers were involved in the 20+ year construction of this mausoleum, with only a small subset of that group being skilled laborers.
There’s nothing necessarily astounding about the stone construction of the Taj Mahal, apart from its obvious opulence and extravagant design. What stands to be impressive is both how the construction process was maintained through material sourcing and mechanical pumping. Today, the architecture of the structure has inspired many an engineer and architect during the design process. There are not many other structures in existence throughout the world that stand as notable as the Taj Mahal.