One of the seven wonders of world is majestically situated in Agra. Taj Mahal is the most beautiful and fascinating monument in India. This is acclaimed as one of the three World Heritage Sites in Agra. It is also a living specimen of romantic love of Shah Jahan and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is located on the banks of river Yamuna which is a masterpiece of great architectural design.
The Taj Mahal covers an area of 42 acres in total with terrain gradually sloping from north to south towards the Yamuna River in the form of descending terraces. The main gateway located at the end of oblong watercourse was built during 1932 – 38. It is decorated with verses taken from Quran. Originally this massive sandstone gateway was made out of solid silver. This was erected to prevent the people from getting a glimpse of the mausoleum till they are right in doorway itself. The main gateway of Taj stands bordered with Arabic calligraphy of Quran verses, made up of black stone.
Taj Mahal’s main tomb stands on the square platform which was raised 50 meters above the river bank. It was leveled with dirt for reducing the seepage from river Yamuna. It has four minarets on each corner of the square which are detached from facing the chamfered angles of the main tomb. These are deliberately kept at 137 feet for emphasizing the spherical and beautiful dome which is 58 feet in diameter and 81 feet high. There is a mosque on the western side of the main tomb and a rest or guest house (Naqqar Khana) on the eastern side of the tomb. These two structures are made up of red sandstone. These not only provide an architectural symmetry but also make for an aesthetic color contrast. Also, these two structures are mirror images of each other.
Taj Mahal Architecture:
Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra. This is one of the most popular structures in the world. Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor built this impeccable tomb in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Taj is considered as the one of the most beautiful monuments in the world and also stands as a symbol of eternal love.
Taj is the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style which combines elements from Indian, Islamic and Persian architecture. The construction of this huge building began in 1632 and was completed in 1653. Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is considered to be the main architect of Taj. Other architects include Makramat Khan and Abdul-Karim Ma’mur Khan.
The tomb is the central focus of the Taj Mahal complex. This beautiful white marble structure is erected on a square plinth and houses of a symmetrical edifice with an Iwan (an arch shaped doorway) topped by a huge dome and finial. The basic elements on this tomb are in Persian language.
The structure of the base is essentially a large and the multi-chambered cube with chamfered corners. This makes it an unequal octagon which is about 55 meters on the four sides. There are huge pishtaqs or vaulted archways on all the four sides. This motif of stacked pishtaqs is repeated on chamfered corners. This makes the design look symmetrical on all sides of the edifice. Also, there are four minarets on each corner of the platform, facing the chamfered corners. The actual graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal are at the lower level, while the main chamber consists of false sarcophagi.
The white marble dome is the spectacular feature of Taj. It is of 35 meters high and is emphasized as it sits on the cylindrical drum which is 7 meters high. It is also called onion dome or guava dome (amrud) because of its shape. The top of the dome is adorned with lotus design that serves to emphasize its height. The dome’s shape is accentuated by 4 small domed chattris (kiosks) placed at the corners. They are open on the roof of the tomb to provide light inside the tomb. Tall decorative guldastas (spires) extend from the edges of base walls. The lotus design is replicated on both the guldastas and chattris. The chattris and dome are topped by a gilded finial. This combines the traditional decorative elements of Hindus and Persians.
The minarets on the four corners of the Taj are more than 40 meters high. Each minaret is divided into 3 equal parts by two working balconies which ring the tower. The final balcony on the top of the tower is surmounted by a chattri which resembles the design on the tomb. All the chattris have the same decorative elements of a lotus.
The interiors of the Taj Mahal are beautified with inlay work called pietra dura. Semi precious stones like sapphire, lapis lazuli, turquoise, jade and jasper were used in these decorative devices. These also have inscriptions from Quran, graceful depictions of plants and flowers, and geometrical designs. The pristine white marble of Taj contrasts with the colors of inlaid work creating a majestic effect.
The exterior decorations of Taj Mahal are one of the finest Mughal architectures. The decorative elements were created by applying paint, stone inlays, carvings or stucco. As anthropomorphic forms are prohibited in Islam, the decorative elements may be grouped into vegetative motifs, calligraphy or abstract forms. On lower walls of the tomb, there are white marble dados which have been carved with realistic bas relief depictions of vines and flowers.
The garden near the Taj alone covers 300 meters by 300 meters out of 580 meters by 300 meters. The perfect symmetry with which this garden has been laid out can be experienced anywhere in the garden. This garden has been designed in Islamic style. According to the Quran, a garden which has lush green and well watered system is the symbol of Paradise. The garden is divided into 4 quarters which are again divided into 16 flowerbeds with nearly 400 plants in each bed.
The trees in Taj garden are either fruit bearing type (signifying life) or that of Cyprus (signifying death). These trees are also arranged in the symmetrical pattern. Taj Mahal is located on the north-end corner of garden, rather being in the center. In fact, there is a raised lotus-tank with a cusped border in the center, which reflects Taj in its water. The four walkways which are identical are differentiated from their context. In fact, one can clearly experience an unhindered view of the tomb from any spot as the garden is laid and organized symmetrically.
Taj Mahal at Night:
It does not matter at what time of the day it is when you are looking at Taj, you know it is going to be an experience to remember and share. But looking at Taj on a silent night on a full moon day is the most memorable moment about which you will not be able to maintain silence till you have literally stalked and recommended each and every person in your sight to visit the magnificent mausoleum when the sun is down, that is when the rays of the moon light up the entire monument and lend it a faint silvery glow. Taj Mahal looks fantabulous on a full moon night.
• Shah Jahan was known as Prince Khurram before accessing the throne
• More than 1000 elephants were employed to transport construction materials
• Nearly 28 varieties of precious and semi-precious stones were used for adorning the Taj with elegant inlay work
• Taj Mahal appears to be in different colors, based on what time of the day and whether moon is there or not in the night. Some people say that the changing color patterns depict different moods of a woman
• On the sides of mausoleum, one can find 99 names of Allah in calligraphic inscriptions
• The complex was decorated by carving Quran passages on the wall
• This attraction was built in different stages. The tomb and plinth took nearly 15 years and minarets, jawab (a building to the right of Taj Mahal), mosque and gateway took another 5 years
• In 1857, during the Indian rebellion, the British ripped off many precious stones and a semi-precious stone, Lapis Lazuli from the walls of this attraction
• Various types of marbles were used in constructing the Taj. These marbles were brought from Arabia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, Punjab and Rajasthan
• This attraction is built from precious white marble with delicate mosaic and inlaid precious stones
• 32 million Rupees were spent on building this beautiful tomb
• Usually the Taj is considered as the finest example of Mughal architecture. This is a style which combines the elements of Indian, Persian, Turkish and Islamic architectural styles
• For constructing this beautiful monument, sculptors, masons, craftsmen and calligraphers were called from Ottoman Empire, Persia and Europe
• The architectural complex of Taj comprises of five main buildings: the main gateway or Darwaza, the garden or Bageecha, the mosque or Masjid, the rest house or Naqqar Khana amd the mausoleum or Rauza
• This monument attracts nearly 2 – 4 million visitors every year with more than 200,000 foreign visitors
• Ismail Afandi of the Ottoman Empire is the designer of main dome
• Isa Muhammad Effendi and Ustad Isa of the Ottoman Empire played a vital role in the architectural design of the Taj
• Amanat Khan from Shiraz (now a part of Iran) is the chief calligrapher
• Chiranjilal is a lapidary from Delhi is the chief mosaicist and sculptor
Myths of Taj Mahal:
• Shah Jahan thought of constructing a replica of Taj Mahal in black marble on the other side of river Yamuna for himself. He thought of connecting the two Taj Mahals with a bridge, by decorating it beautifully. But unfortunately he could not fulfill his dream as his son Aurangzeb imprisoned him in Musamman Burj in Agra Fort
• There is a myth regarding the name of the Taj Mahal. Some people say that it was named after Mumtaz Mahal while some say it was derived from the Persian language
• Some say that Shah Jahan cut off the hands of the sculptors and architects who built Taj Mahal, so that they would never build a monument as beautiful and significant as Taj. He also pulled out their eyes so that they would never be able to witness anything beautiful than this monument which they built in their lifetime
• Even after taking necessary precautions, cracks were discovered within the 4 years after constructing the monument. It is also said that, the tomb was tilting towards the riverside. The northern side of the tomb is lesser than the southern side by 3.5 cm