in : 1632-53
Built by : Shahjahan
Location : Agra (Uttar Pradesh)
TAJ MAHAL - AN OVERVIEW
Taj Mahal One of the modern
seven wonders of the world. It is considered one of the most beautiful
buildings in the world and the finest example of the late style
of Indian Islamic architecture. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan
ordered it built after the death (1629) of his favorite wife,
Mumtaz Mahal. Set in its carefully laid out grounds, it is a reflection
of the gardens of Paradise to which the faithful ascend. The entire
complex, with gardens, gateway structures, and mosque, was completed
in 1653. The Taj Mahal mausoleum stands at one
end of the garden adorned with fountains and marble pavements.
The garden contains four water channels to echo the four rivers
of the Islamic Paradise. It rises from a platform 313 ft (95 m)
on a side, bearing a white marble minaret at each corner; the
enclosure, 186 ft (57 m) on a side, has truncated corners and
a high portal on each side. The white marble exterior is inlaid
with semiprecious stones arranged in Arabic inscriptions (designed
by a local artist Amanat Khan, who was Shah Jahan's calligrapher),
floral designs, and arabesques, and the salient features of the
interior are accented with agate, jasper, and colored marbles.
The roofing dome, on the inside, is 80 ft (24.4m) high and 50
ft (15.2 m) in diameter; outside it forms a bulb, which tapers
to a spire topped by a crescent. The tomb chamber, with its two
sarcophagi, is an octagonal room in the center of the edifice
(the royal couple, however, are buried in an underground vault).
The chamber is softly illuminated by the light that passes through
double screens of intricately carved marble set high in the walls.
MAHAL - HISTORY BEHIND THE TAJ
The Taj Mahal, often called
the most beautiful building in the world, was built by an emperor
as a memorial to his beloved wife.
Khurram, the future Shah Jahan, was born in 1592. His father was
Jahangir, the fourth Mughal emperor of India. According to legend,
the prince met Arjumand Banu Begum, the daughter of his father's
prime minister, at a bazaar when he was 14 and she was 15. Smitten,
the prince bought a diamond from the girl for 10,000 rupees, then
went to his father and announced his desire to marry her.
wedding took place five years later, in 1612. From that time they
were inseparable (although Shah Jahan also had other wives). After
becoming emperor in 1628, Shah Jahan entrusted Arjumand Banu with
the royal seal. He called her Mumtaz Mahal, "jewel of the
palace." She accompanied him on military campaigns, advised
him on affairs of state, and was loved by his subjects for her
1631, Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to their 14th child. Her
heartbroken husband spent approximately two decades, and much
of the money in the royal treasury, fulfilling his wife's dying
wish by building a monument to their love.
Taj Mahal is considered one of the wonders of the world. It stands
amid acres of gardens on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra.
The most famous part of the monument is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal
with its white marble dome, but the 42-acre complex also includes
mosques, minarets and other buildings.
1657 Shah Jahan fell ill, and in 1658 his son Aurangzeb took the
opportunity to imprison his father and seize the throne. Shah
Jahan remained in captivity until his death in 1666. It is said
he spent the last days of his life staring into a small piece
of glass at the reflection of the Taj Mahal,
and died with the mirror in his hand. He is buried in the Taj
Mahal with the wife he never forgot.
are ugly aspects to the legend of the Taj Mahal.
It is said Shah Jahan had the hands or fingers of the craftsmen
who built the Taj Mahal cut off to ensure they
couldn't create another building like it. The chief architect
was supposedly beheaded.
has been suggested that Shah Jahan never intended to be entombed
with his wife, but planned to build a second, black marble Taj
to serve as his mausoleum. However, many scholars doubt this story
and believe the emperor did indeed wish to be buried near Mumtaz
MAHAL - THE CONSTRUCTION
Shahjahan purchased a plot
of land from Raja Jai Singh on the banks of Yamuna River for building
the Taj Mahal. Raja Jai Singh was also instructed by Shahjahan
to provide a regular supply of special, hard and non-porous marble
from the quarries of Makrana. A 2½-mile (4.02 km) road
ramp was built to haul huge pieces of marble to the site of the
construction. Strangely the scaffolding of this magnificent building
was made, not of wood or bamboo, but with bricks. It is probable
that the lack of wood made the architects to make brick scaffoldings.
Shahjahan provided the vision behind the entire concept, he was
assisted in his endeavor by a number of architects. The name of
the architect, which is often mentioned during the building of
Taj Mahal, is that of Muhammad Isa Khan, who
hailed from Shiraz in Iran. It is also said that a creative nucleus
of 37 people formed the core advisory group behind this gigantic
project. The construction of Taj Mahal commenced
in 1632. Work on the mausoleum started in frenzy with thousands
of artisans and laborers toiling ceaselessly day after day. It
is said that Taj Mahal took 21 years to complete, with the help
of an army of 20,000 laborers, who worked under the guidance of
Shahjahan. It is also said that the royal coffers went dry after
this project was over.
the end of the first year of construction the mausoleum had taken
shape and the crypt chamber along with its surrounding works were
also completed. The body of Mumtaz Mahal was ceremoniously interred
into the tomb. Six years of extensive labor saw the main building
of the mausoleum complete and crowned with a majestic guava shaped
dome. According to some historians the major construction of Taj
Mahal was completed in about 10 years time.
MAHAL - THE PLAN
Perfect piece of architecture,
the Taj Mahal is built according to a predefined
plan. It is built according to the Islamic concept of Paradise,
where an enormous, shimmering pearl white dome stands supported
by four corner pillars, from which flow the rivers of grace.
massive plinth on which the Taj Mahal stands
is representative of the material world, while the octagonal main
structure signifies the transitional phase. Finally the dome is
symbolic of being the vault of the heaven. To complete the illusion
of the paradise, the tomb has been ornamented with splendidly
calligraphy of verses from the holy Koran, in flowing Arabic.
An inscription written on the massive front gateway leading to
the gardens in front of the Taj reads, O soul that art at rest,
return to the lord, at peace with Him and He at peace with you.
So enter as one of His servants and enter into His garden.
Taj is marked by perfect symmetry and harmony, be it the shape
of the four towering minarets; the cupolas (chhatris); the central
arch in the façade; the perfectly arranged arched recesses
on both the storys; the intricate pietra dura (stone inlay
work); the delicate lattice work on marble windows or the magnificent
dome. Even the mosque and the guesthouse (mehmankhana) are a mirror
image of one another.
there is one thing, which breaks the perfectly harmonious plan
of the Taj Mahal - its position. Instead of locating the Taj Mahal
in the middle of the Charbagh (four garden plan), Shahjahan built
the mausoleum at the far end of the garden, with the back wall
falling straight down to the bed of Yamuna River.
MAHAL - MONUMENTS WITHIN THE TAJ COMPLEX
One can see two identical
buildings on either side of the Taj. These monuments are entirely
made of red sandstone. While both these buildings are mosques,
the one towards the west (left side of the Taj) is important and
used for offering prayers, as it not only sanctifies the Taj but
also faces Mecca. The replica on the other side is known as the
Taj Mahal serves
as a backdrop for the annual Taj Mahotsav (Taj festival), which
is usually held in the month of February. The Taj Mahotsav is
a celebration of traditional Indian art forms and crafts. The
main events of this festival include classical dance performances
by leading dance exponents and musical recitals by maestros, apart
from display of various craft products and cultural shows.
MAHAL - HOW TO REACH
Agra is on the popular
tourist route and is well connected by air, road and railways
with most parts of India. A normal flight reaches Agra from New
Delhi in about 30 minutes. The road from Delhi to Agra is one
of the most well constructed highways of India. A journey by road
can take about 5 hours. As Agra lies on the main railway line
between Delhi and Varanasi a number of trains pass through the
city. The fastest train to/from Delhi is the Shatabdi Express,
while you can also take the Taj Express, from Delhi both of which
provide a daily service from Delhi to Agra and back the same night.