Taj Mahal,One of the modern seven wonders
of the world.
It is considered one of the most beautiful buildings
the world and the finest example of the late style of Indian Islamic
architecture. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan
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
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 Taj Mahal, often called the most beautiful building in the world,
was built by an emperor as a memorial to his beloved wife.
, 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
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
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.
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
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. Taj Mahal - The Plana
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
. 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.