The Basement chambers and a probable Third Grave
It is considered that an underground vault exists below the red sandstone platform (chamli-farsh) containing the third and probably the real set of graves. Two staircases on the northern side of the red sandstone plinth of the Taj lead below into basement chambers which are seventeen in number and have laid out in a line on the riverside of a narrow through-corridor. The rooms and corridor are of arcuate construction in brick and plaster, with stucco and painting ornamentation, distributed aesthetically on the soffits. At the extreme points on both sides thrse are doors sunk in the northern wall. As may be surmised; the set on the northern side could have been repeated on all the four sides below the marble structure, with a rotating corridor, chambers and probably a crypt in the center ? all being interconnected. This crypt would have contained the third and the real set of graves. The custom of providing cenotaphs or replicas had been followed by the Turks and the Mughals alike as we meet with this practice at the Tomb of Iltutmish at Delhi and at the tombs of Saqtd Khan and Akbar at Agra. The tomb of Akbar has three tombstones, one on the grave and two as cenotaphs.As is generally presumed, the real grave was made underground,in which the dead person could wait till the Day of judgement. The tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah and Chini-ka-Rauza too had three tombstone each. The lowest of the former was contained in a crypt which was originally accessible from the riverside and has now been completely blocked up.These examples indicate that the Mughals liked to provide three tombstones in a mausoleum.
At the Taj, the third is traditionally claimed to exist. It is only in these underground vaults that the third set could have been placed. The doors in the basement corridor no doubt exist and must have originally given entry to some underground arrangement of chambers and corridors. Though they are now blocked, their existence lends weights to the legendary version. At least, we have figures,in the Persian manuscripts which contain the account of `third grave, expenditure on the Taj Mahal, of costs of three sets of tombstones. While the two are open to us, the third one is still a mystery.It is possible that the crypt and the passages were closed down in 1652 by Aurangzeb to give additional strength to the base which supported such a huge load above.
That its model was made by a sufi faqir who had seen it in the dream, that Shah Jehan had the hands of the artisans of the Taj Mahal amputtated after it was finished for the fear of their building another Taj Mahal to rival it, that a drop of water; the symbol of a tear of Shah Jehan?s sorrow, drops mysteriously on the tombstone of Mumtaz Mahal every year; and several other romantic tales are circulated by the over-zealois local people.. They hardly distinguish between the fact and fiction. These have no historical content to warrant scrutiny.