How the dispute of a father and son may have deprived us of another Taj Mahal: The ‘Black Taj’


A visit to the Black Taj Mahal that never got built

Yes you heard it right, the Black Taj Mahal. Everybody on earth is pretty aware of Shah Jahan’s extravagant display of love for his wife Mumtaz, the seventh wonder of the world, The Taj Mahal. But according to legends Shah Jahan had a much bigger plan than this that would give the concept of love a new definition.

Shah Jahan had planned to a build mirror image of the white Taj Mahal he built for Mumtaz, though in black, on the other side of the river and the two would be connected by a bridge. This Black Taj was to be a dedication to Shah Jahan himself. Even a European traveler named Jean Baptiste Tavernier who visited Agra in 1665 has first mentioned about this Black Taj in his spectacular writings.

There are many points that support this belief such as:

  • Shah Jahan’s obsession with symmetry was pretty evident through the way the ‘White’ Taj Mahal was created. The octagonal internal room, a clear designer border around Mumtaz’s cenotaph, the four minarets and so on. The Taj Mahal has been a perfect example of symmetry. But there have been many things that seem to be out of plan, that go off symmetry. Such as the placement of Shah Jahan’s cenotaph (that was done much later) disassembles the symmetry of the burial chamber. The view from up clearly shows the off center placement of the cenotaphs.

Figure 1: Picture clearly shows the marble carved border was not meant to have two cenotaphs within it. Mumtaz’s cenotaph is in the center. Whereas Shah Jahan’s cenotaph seems to pushed to the corner left.

black taj 1

  • Again following up the idea of ‘Shah Jahan’s obsession with symmetry’, the much later placed Shah Jahan’s cenotaph it is bigger in size when compared to the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal. This again justifies that the emperor never had a plan to have his cenotaph placed in here; otherwise he would have made the Mausoleum built according to that.

Plus there is something more that cannot go unnoticed. The cenotaph of Mumtaz has its separate border. Whereas the emperor’s cenotaph, not only is without one but also overlaps the queen’s cenotaph border. This, in whole is very ‘off the plan’ stuff making the entire idea of Black Taj Plan more and more credible.

Figure 2: The difference in size in apparent in the picture along with the overlapping of Mumtaz cenotaph’s border by Shah Jahan’s cenotaph.

black taj 2

  • More credibility was added to the story when an observation was done over layout of the area where the present day ‘white’ Taj Mahal is standing. Several traces have been found on the other side of the river Yamuna which were probably the foundation of the Black Taj Mahal. The Mehtab Burj and the wall adjacent to it opposite the Taj Mahal are said to be the left over remains of the anticipated plan.
  • Several writings of Tavernier included that that Shah Jahan began to put up his own tomb on the opposite side of the river but could never complete it as he was ousted by his own son Aurangzeb.

Whatever be the fact, one thing is for sure; if this Black Taj Mahal would have got built it would have been one of the most beautiful creations on earth and India would have added on another feather on the cap of having two greatest wonders of the world.