...who designed the Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal

Though the Taj Mahal is considered to be the zenith of Mughal architecture, the identity of its architect remains a mystery, in part perhaps because Shah Jahan seems to have played such an active role in its design. In his obsessive drive for perfection, he may have served as his own artistic director, making the personal overseeing of his artists part of his daily routine.

According to art historian Milo Beach, "This is something we simply have to speculate about. We know Shah Jahan was interested in architecture. We know he was interested in architectural decoration and design. Clearly, he was consulted. He was probably very interested in continually seeing the plans as they developed and commenting on them, and suggesting changes that might be made. The idea that he did any more than that, in terms of the design, is unrealistic. Clearly it's a building that was designed by professional architects who knew what they were doing, not by a prince and an amateur. But an architect was, in a sense, a kind of functionary. Architects and painters never achieved the kind of acclaim that placed them within the ranks of the nobility, for example. They were recognized, but they were never given an enormous amount of importance."

It has often been suggested that a European architect was responsible for building the Taj
layout of Taj Mahal complex
, but this is contradicted by the existence of the monuments previously constructed in India. "First of all, I can't imagine that there was one architect for the Taj Mahal or for any of these buildings," adds Beach. "I mean, it had to have been a team effort for such an enormous undertaking. Second of all, a building like the Taj grows out of the earlier artistic traditions in India, and in Iran as well, traditions that a European architect would know virtually nothing about. So I think it's extremely unlikely – there's certainly is no historical evidence whatsoever – that there was a European architect."

Several designers and architects – thirty seven men in all – are mentioned by name in the official Mughal histories, and it is probable that they would have worked together to form the creative team that shaped the Taj Mahal:

Ismail Afandi (a.k.a. Ismail Khan) who had worked for the great Ottomans in Turkey as a designer and builder of domes;
Qazim Khan, a goldsmith from Lahore who cast the gold finial that crowns the dome;
Chiranji Lal, a lapidary from Delhi chosen as the chief mosaicist;
Amanat Khan from Shiraz, the master calligrapher whose signature is inscribed on the Taj gateway;
Mohammed Hanif, Multan and Quandhar, master masons from Delhi; and
Mukrimat Khan and Mir Abdul Karim from Shiraz, chief supervisors and administrators.

Ustad Ahmad (a.k.a. Isa Khan), an architect in the court of Shah Jahan from Lahore, is most often credited as the chief architect (or plan drawer) of the Taj Mahal, based on a seventeenth century manuscript which claims that Ustad Ahmad was the architect of both the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort at Delhi.

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