Cost of Taj Mahal: Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

[] Construction of the Taj Mahal may have cost Shah Jahan what is nearly Rs 70 billion today! One of the jewels of Islamic art in India, the Taj Mahal is the mausoleum of Mughal King Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz. It is counted among the Seven Wonders of the World.

While we can by no means attach a price tag to the Taj Mahal, it would be interesting to know what it would take, if it were to be constructed today. In his book titled ‘Studies in Mughal India’, author Jadunath Sarkar reveals that the Taj Mahal was completed in January 1643, at a cost of around 42 million rupees. Some estimates show that the Taj Mahal, at that time, may have cost Rs 9.17 crores. Independent estimates claim that Shah Jahan may have spent what is nearly Rs 70 billion or around USD 1 billion today, centuries ago, to construct the Taj Mahal for his wife Mumtaz. The 21st century or even the next will never see a marvel like a second Taj.

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Cost of Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal’s cost was approximately 42 million rupees. Artisans were drawn up to calculate these costs. These lists, once lost, reappeared, and had a Persian origin. There is a series of around forty artisans with their origins and monthly wages for executing a given job. The documents of follow-up of the finances were held by Muhammad Handif, who was the in charge of construction or the Mir Imarat.

For the construction work, the Taj Mahal was cut into numerous slices. The overall cost was estimated element by element. For example, Marble base and four minarets 5177 674 rupees, 7 annas, the two main graves of Taj Mahal had a cost of 5,345,361 Rupees and 10 annas, and the Mausoleum marble balustrade of the Taj Mahal had a cost of about 468,855 rupees, 2 annas.

The construction works for the Taj Mahal were funded by the Royal Treasury of the Emperor and the Treasury of the Government of Agra Province (subah Akbarabad). The accounts were maintained by those in charge of finances. The major sources of expenses involved in Taj Mahal construction were the cost of stones and salaries given to workers. The cost of making Taj Mahal may have been equivalent to around 466.55 kg of gold drawn from the royal treasury.

Taj Mahal maintenance cost

Shah Jahan encouraged the waqf, which is a religious or charitable foundation formed by an endowed trust fund. The waqf funded 300,000 rupees and about one-third of this amount came from 30 villages in the Agra district. The remaining amount was from taxes gained from the commerce of the bazaars or markets and roadside inns constructed long ago. The Emperor would distribute the surplus amount. Further, the waqf would take care of the routine maintenance and also fund the cost incurred for the agents of the grave and the Hafiz.

The units of measurement

The unit of weight in earlier days was tola. It is equivalent to 11.33 grams. In the16th century during the construction of Taj Mahal the gold tola was Rs 15. Also, the unit of currency in earlier days besides the Rupee was the Anna which was worth 1/4 rupees, the Pais which was equivalent to 4 Anna and the Pie equivalent to 4 Pais. The Taj mahal’s construction cost in rupees was estimated to be 41,848,426 Rupees, 7 Annas.

Taj Mahal earnings per year

In 2019, reports suggested that in the last three years, the Taj Mahal earned Rs 200 crores, through ticket sales. In spite of a rise in ticket prices, there was no dip in the number of visitors. In the three years, two crore tourists visited the Taj – both domestic and international. At the same time, the government spent Rs 13.3 crores on the conservation of the Taj.

Year Taj Mahal Earnings Tourists
2016-17 Rs 55.09 crores 61.77 lakhs
2017-18 Rs 58.76 crores 65.65 lakhs
2018-19 Rs 86.48 crores 70.9 lakhs

In 2018-19, the revenue from Taj Mahal in Agra had increased nearly four times in a span of five years. In 2019-20, there were about five crore visitors at the centrally protected ticketed monuments whereas the footfall had reduced to 1.19 crore in 2020-21 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Ticket sales at Taj Mahal and other monuments like Red Fort, and Ajanta and Ellora Caves dropped from Rs 336 crore in 2019-20 to a little over Rs 40 crore in 2020-21 due to lockdown restrictions and travel bans amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, as the data by the Ministry of Culture.

Check out property prices in Agra

Taj Mahal History

Besides the staggering cost of Taj Mahal, the iconic structure also has an interesting history.

In 1607, a 15-year-old Shah Jahan (then, prince Khurram) was betrothed to Arjmand Banu Begum, later known as Mumtaz. At 20, Shah Jahan married her and lived together for the next 19 years after which the queen died during childbirth. It is said that the king was so overpowered by grief that he would spend hours in solitude and gave up the use of colours, scents, jewels and would have even given up on kingship, had he not considered it as his sacred duty. The king had two other wives but these were through political alliances. It is said that on her deathbed, Mumtaz asked Shah Jahan to build a mausoleum in her remembrance, ‘the likes of which may not be seen anywhere else in the world’ and that is how India is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Taj Mahal Agra

(Source: Taj official website)

Taj Mahal valuation

(Day view and night view of the Taj Mahal. Source: Taj official website)

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Taj Mahal Architecture and design

The ‘Shahjahani’ architecture is visible in the uniformity of shapes set in the hierarchical accent. The Shahjahani column is used in the complete complex, which also boasts of shafts, miniature arches, etc.

The mausoleum is the main building with naturalistic ornamentation but the cenotaphs that you see in the honour of the king and the queen, enclosed in an eight-sided chamber and marble lattice screen, is only for show. The coffins are deep below in a room at the garden level.

Taj Mahal architecture

(Source: Pinterest)

Precious gems used in the Taj Mahal

Precious gems were set in the Taj Mahal, which were procured from different places. These gems include Cornelian from Qandahar, Lapis lazuli from Ceylon, Onyx, Patunja from the river Nile, Gold from Basra and the sea of Ormuz, Khatu from the hill of Jodhpur, Ajuba from the hill-rivers of Kumaon, Marble from Makrana, Maria ma from the city of Basra, Ba/U-stone from the river Banas, Vamini from Yemen, Mnngah from the Atlantic Ocean, rhoii from Ghor-band, Tamrah from the river Gandak, Beryl from the hill of Baba Budhan, Masai from Mount Sinai, Giraliori from the river of Gwalior, Red sandstone, Jasper from Persia and Dalehana from the river Asan.

Taj Mahal cost

(Precious stones and gems. Source: Asian Highlights)

Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(Source: Shutterstock)

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15 interesting facts about the Taj Mahal

  • In 1983, the Taj Mahal was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being the jewel of Muslim art in India and one among the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.
  • Islamic culture does not allow decoration of graves and that is why only the exteriors are decorated and not the graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz.
  • Mumtaj was initially buried in Burhanpur and then the body was shifted to Agra where it was buried in the Taj Mahal complex for 12 years before finally moving it to the basement of the Taj Mahal.
  • Throughout the day, the Taj ‘changes’ its colour due to the effect of the sun and may appear as grey, pale pink, pure white or even orange-bronze. During the nights, it appears translucent blue.
  • The garden outside represents paradise on earth.
  • It is said that the Taj Mahal was to have a similar twin monument, in black colour in which Shah Jahan’s body was to be buried but this did not happen.
  • The chief architect of the Taj Mahal was a Persian, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, who laid the foundation of the Red Fort too.
  • The story that all the artisans were amputated after completing the Taj Mahal is not backed by any proof. In fact, the emperor shifted the artisans to other projects.
  • The Taj Mahal is 240 ft tall – i.e., five ft taller than the Qutub Minar.
  • The Taj Mahal was initially planned in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh where the queen died and not in Agra. However, the site was shifted owing to the lack of white marble supply in Burhanpur. The tomb contains 99 different names of Allah as calligraphic inscriptions.
  • The other wives of Shah Jahan and his favourite servants are also buried in mausoleums outside the Taj but within the same complex.
  • Over 20,000 labourers, 1,000 elephants and almost 22 years of toil resulted in the iconic Taj Mahal.
  • The Taj Mahal is a no-aircraft zone and flights cannot fly over the Taj.
  • During World War II, the Archaeological Survey of India had to conceal the Taj.
  • The octagonal interior hall is 58 ft in diameter and 80 ft in height and the Taj is spread over 17 hectares.

[] Rashtrapati Bhavan: Key information, valuation and other facts

Taj Mahal: In pictures

Mumtaj Mahal

(The central dome. Source: Pinterest)

Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(Lattice work. Source: Elissa Reddet)

Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(Source: Flickr)

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Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(Source: Flickr)

Taj Mahal pictures

(Source: Pinterest)

Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(The main hall. Source: Treebo)

Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(Source: Unsplash)

Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(Distant view of the Taj. Source: Unsplash)

Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(Intricate flower pattern on the wall. Source: Unsplash)

Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(Source: Unsplash)

Shah Jahan may have spent nearly Rs 70 billion to build the Taj Mahal

(Source: Unsplash)


How many tourists visit Taj Mahal every year?

About 65 lakh tourists visit the Taj Mahal every year.

How is tourism in Agra after Coronavirus?

The Taj Mahal reopened post the COVID-19 lockdown, on September 21, 2020 but tourists are in dismal numbers with the permissible daily limit of 5,000 tourists being a farfetched target. Pre-COVID-19, the footfall was 25,000 tourists per day.

How is pollution in Agra?

With an Air Quality Index of 474, Agra is one of the most polluted cities in Uttar Pradesh and the seventh-most polluted city in India.

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Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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