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Great IndiaSecrets of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal: a national icon of India, a masterpiece of architecture, and monument to a passionate love, built by Shah Jahan, ruler of the Mughal Empire in 17th-century India. Under Mughal rule, India was reunited for the first time since the days of Ashoka. The invaders from the North led India into an age of splendor. And they brought a new religion along that would from now on play a key role in Indian history: Islam.

As a young prince, Shah Jahan – his name meaning “King of the World” – had already been engaged to and later married Mumtaz Mahal, the “Chosen One of the Palace.” Poets rhapsodized over her grace and beauty that supposedly caused even the moon to hide in shame. Their deep love for each other would last all through her life. Mumtaz Mahal became Shah Jahan’s companion, confidante, and advisor. This documentary tells the story of the Taj Mahal, as it reflects the dramatic turning points in this famous love story.

In 1631, the “Chosen One of the Palace,” although far advanced in her pregnancy, accompanied her husband on a military campaign against insurgents, but Mumtaz Mahal would not survive the complications during the birth of her latest child. On her deathbed, the mother of now fourteen expressed her final wish: to have a mausoleum built for her, unlike any the world had ever seen. Soon after her death, construction began on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra. It was an undertaking of enormous proportions: 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants labored for eleven years.

In conversations with leading historians and architects, this documentary analyzes the master plan and the aesthetics of one of the world’s most recognizable structures. A fascinating aspect are the optical illusions that helped the builders bestow upon this massive edifice an aura of weightlessness. Hadi Teherani, an architect from Hamburg with clients all over the world, explains the secrets behind the construction of the foundations and the self-supporting dome. Animated 3 D computer graphics and holograms illustrate the development of this structure. Professor Ebba Koch, the only Western scientist ever permitted to work and do research inside the Taj Mahal, will explain the cosmopolitan and religious symbolism of the building and its gardens in this documentary.

In the process, viewers will learn about an important result of the art historians’ research: India’s Muslim rulers employed European experts and were quite fond of an international taste. Theirs was an open-minded, liberal Islam. The visual opulence of the documentary reveals the creative spirit of a “Golden India” that was in love with the arts.


1 × 50′
Produced by
Gruppe 5 for ZDF and ZDF Enterprises in association with Arte and National Geographic Channels International
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