tajmahalThe Taj Mahal is big.  In fact, for many centuries, it served as the epitome of big.  While best known for it’s central large domed structure, the Taj Mahal is actually a series of structures.  It was built between 1632 and 1653 by Mughal Emporer Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal.

The massive structure, still impressive today, is even more impressive when you consider the building construction technologies available at the time it was built.  The tomb is the central structure of the complex.  The base is essentially a cube (with chamfered or cut corners) approximately 55 meters on a side composed of millions of bricks faced by huge marble blocks.  Some of the larger marble blocks are estimated to weigh about 6 tons.  They were quarried just south of present day Jaipur–about 200 miles away.  They were carried to the site in wagons drawn by twelve oxen or several elephants.  (In all, over 1,000 elephants were used to transport the building materials.)  Next, the blocks traveled up a 10-mile long ramp of tamped down earth that ran through Agra.  Finally they were hoisted into place by two elephants or a team of oxen via a series of post and beam pulley systems.  The most impressive (and recognizable) part of the site is the huge onion-shaped dome on the central building.  This dome is 35 meters high and is 35 meters in diameter at the base.

In short, this series of buildings is really, really big!  Here’s some stats:

Main Building: 55 meters or about 180 feet by 55 meters

Main Dome: 35 meters (about 115 feet) high with 35 meters diameter

Minarets: each more than 40 meters (130 feet) in height

Scaffolding: Made of brick rather than lighter weight materials.  Legend tells that when the Shah was told it would take several years just to dismantle the scaffolding, he decreed that anyone who worked to dismantle the scaffolding could keep the bricks for themselves.  The legend further states that the scaffolding was removed by peasants “overnight”.

Estimated Weight: 2.5 thousand trillion kilos

Conclusion: The Taj Mahal weighs more than me.

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