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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials – Taj Mahal

The vast white marble mausoleum of the Taj Mahal is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Built in the Indian city of Agra between 1631-1653, the Taj Mahal is recognized today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The grandeur of the Taj Mahal’s Mughal architecture amazes millions of tourists every year, but at the monument’s heart is a personal story of grief and loss. Continue reading to learn more about this crown jewel of world architecture. 

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer questions. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at its five most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on the Taj Mahal.  


The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the construction of the Taj Mahal. Like his grandfather, Akbar the Great, Shah Jahan was very interested in architecture. He expended massive amounts of funds on new forts in Agra and moved the Mughal capital to Delhi where he embarked on further renovations. In an ironic twist, Shah Jahan would end his life imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in the same Agra Fort he had helped to renovate. 


Shah Jahan was often considered a haughty man by his contemporaries, but he had a soft spot for certain people. One such person was his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz died while accompanying her husband on a military campaign in the Deccan Plateau. Shortly after her death, Shah Jahan began to plan for a suitable monument to commemorate her. This monument would become the Taj Mahal. 


Ustad Ahmad was the principal architect Shah Jahan appointed to design the Taj Mahal. Although he had Persian ancestors, Ustad Ahmad grew up in Mughal territory. Ahmad was Shah Jahan’s favorite architect, and he was also involved with the construction of multiple buildings in the new imperial city in Delhi. 


The Yamuna River is one of the largest rivers of Northern India. The Taj Mahal sits on the Southern banks of the river Yamuna. The mausoleum is separated from the river by red sandstone walls. 


The Taj Mahal is regarded as a classic of Indo-Muslim art. The tomb, where both Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are interred, is the focus of the complex. The inside of the tomb is accessed via an arched doorway called an Iwan, a feature often associated with Islamic architecture. The tomb is covered by a massive white dome capped with a single finial. Further signs of Islamic architecture are the four white minarets that flank the tomb. A reflecting pool lies in front of the tomb as well. 


Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out: 

  • In addition to his architectural achievements, Shah Jahan enjoyed several military victories as well. Learn more about those here.

  • The Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. What other sites made the cut? 

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