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Taj Mahal AgraTAJ MAHAL

Built in : 1632-53
Built by : Shahjahan
Location : Agra (Uttar Pradesh)

   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.

   The Taj Mahal, often called the most beautiful building in the world, was built by an emperor as a memorial to his beloved wife.

Prince 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.

Their 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 charitable work.

In 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.

The 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.

In 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.

There 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.

It 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.

   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.

    Though 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.

    At 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.

    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.

   The 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.

   The 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 story’s; 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.

    However, 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.

    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 Jawab (answer).

    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.

    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.

Agra Allahabad Ayodhya Chitrakoot Deogarh Lucknow Varanasi Kanpur Mathura Jhansi Mahoba Sarnath Kushinagar Shravasti Kaushambi Kalinjar Mukteshwar Kapilvastu

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