AGRA, India — Aside from the legend of the Taj Mahal’s Italian architect — nothing more than baseless European folklore — there are a few other myths that surround Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s eternal monument to love.
One of them is the Black Taj Mahal.
The legend holds that the emperor had planned to build an identical mausoleum for himself across the Yamuma, connected to the tomb of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child.
One source writes:
A European traveler by the name of Jean Baptiste Tavernier who visited Agra in 1665 first mentioned the idea of Black Taj in his fanciful writings. And considering Shah Jahan’s obsession with symmetry, the idea certainly seems plausible. More credibility to the story is added by an observation made by archeologists in 2006, when they reconstructed part of the pool in the moonlit garden and it reflected a dark reflection of the white mausoleum. The writings of Tavernier mention that Shah Jahan began to build his own tomb on the other side of the river but could not complete it as he was deposed by his own son Aurangzeb.
The problem with the story is that there is little evidence to support the theory, either in the writings of the emperor, or the physical black marble found at the supposed site of the Taj Mahal’s twin — which wasn’t black at all, just discolored from having been exposed to the elements.