Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in Agra, where he took the throne in 1628 AD. First conquered by Muslim invaders in the eleventh century, the city had been transformed into a flourishing area of trade during Shah Jahans rule. Situated on the banks of the Yamuna River allowed for easy access to water and Agra soon earned the reputation as a riverfront garden city; on account of its meticulously planned gardens; lush with flowering bushes and fruit-bearing trees in the sixteenth century.
Stretching in front of the Taj Mahal is a monumental char bagh garden. Typically, a char bagh was divided into four main quadrants, with a building along its central axis. When viewed from the main gateway today the Taj Mahal appears to deviate from this norm as it is not centrally placed within the garden, but rather located at the end of a complex that is backed by the river, such as was found in other Mughal-era pleasure gardens.
The garden incorporated waterways and fountains. This was a new type of gardening that was introduced to India by Babur, Shah Jahan’s great great grand father in the sixteenth century. Given the passage of time and the intervention of many individuals in the garden since its construction, it is hard to determine the original planting and layout scheme of the garden beds at the Taj.
The Taj Mahal is one of the world’s great tourist attractions, hosting millions of visitors per year. Though it was designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 AD and is currently overseen by the Archaeological Survey of India, its heavy visitor traffic is just one of the many factors that threaten the integrity of the site.
The Taj Mahal is rightly a top destination for millions of travelers. As global tourism grows and the economic pressures of industry continue to increase, the authorities who oversee the site must strive to implement legal and structural measures to ensure that this irreplaceable monument survives.
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