The Taj Mahal



The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in the memory of his deceased queen Mumtaz Mahal. It is hard to write about Taj Mahal without talking about the King and the Queen.


Taj Mahal...and its image in the reflecting pool..

At the age of fifteen, Prince Khurram  met a highborn young girl named Arjumand Banu Begum at a bazaar within the walls of the royal palace in Agra. She was the niece of the Empress Nur Jahan (Shah Jahan’s stepmother). It was love at first sight for both of them but it wasn’t until after five years that they got married. Though the Prince had two other wives, he and Arjumand became inseparable companions.


Empress Mumtaz Mahal and Emperor Shah Jahan...

Prince Khurram was the third son of the Emperor Jahangir and soon became his favorite.  At his father's command, Prince Khurram led many military campaigns to consolidate the empire, and in honor of his numerous victories, Jahangir granted him the title "Shah Jahan", "King of the World", a tribute never before paid to an as yet uncrowned Mughal king. But when Jahangir's health failed, his sons rivaled for succession to the throne. Ultimately, after years of battle and the deaths of his brothers under suspicious circumstances, in 1628, Shah Jahan ascended the throne in a ceremony of unrivaled splendor. Beside him stood his queen, his comrade and confidante. He titled her Mumtaz Mahal, "Chosen One of the Palace”. 

The reign of Shah Jahan was a peaceful era of prosperity and stability. It was also an age of outrageous opulence, and a time when some of the world's largest and most precious gems were being mined from India's soil. He had immense wealth and tremendous power and palaces all over the country. Inscribed in gold on the arches of his throne were the words, "If there be paradise on earth, it is here."

Even during her pregnancies, Mumtaz travelled with Shah Jahan's entourage throughout his earlier military campaigns and the subsequent rebellion against his father. She was his constant companion and trusted confidante, and their relationship was intense. In their nineteen years of marriage, they had fourteen children together, seven of whom died at birth or at a very young age.

Mumtaz died in Burhanpur in 1631 AD while giving birth to their fourteenth child. She had been accompanying her husband while he was fighting a campaign in the Deccan Plateau. Her body was temporarily buried at Burhanpur in a walled pleasure garden. After her death, Shah Jahan was inconsolable and went into secluded mourning for a year. When he appeared again, his hair had turned grey, his back was bent, and his face worn. It is believed that in her dying moments, Mumtaz Mahal had expressed a wish of a grand mausoleum to be built in her memory. The Emperor decided to commemorate his love for her in the most wonderful structure the world had ever seen, thus Taj Mahal was built.


Rear View of Taj...image reflecting in river Yamuna....with red sandstone mosque and guesthouse on either side

Situated on the banks of river Yamuna, Taj Mahal is the finest example of Mughal architecture, as it combines elements from Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles. Shah Jahan moved Mumtaz’s body to Agra  and buried in a domed building temporarily on the construction site of the unique mausoleum in 1632.

Red sandstone mosque on the western, and Mehman-Khana (Guest House) on the eastern side of the tomb creates a beautiful color contrast that is simply a pleasure to look at. The Taj Mahal showcases exquisite specimens of polychrome inlay art both in the interior and exterior, which is finely crafted to perfection.


Interior of the mosque


Exterior of the mosque

The tomb is comprised of white marble. The doorway is arched shaped. There are four minarets around the tomb, each set on the corners. The main chamber of Taj Mahal houses the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan while their graves are located on lower level.


Cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan

 


Detail shot of the Jail Gate around the 
Cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan

At the southern point of the complex lies the forecourt with the main gate in front. It also houses the tombs of two other queens of Shah Jahan. The complex is set around a 300-meter square garden called the Charbagh garden. The garden is called so since it is divided into four equal sections by pathways. These four sections are further subdivided into sixteen sunken flower beds by raised pathways, which makes for a beautiful view. There is a marble water tank at the center of the garden with a reflecting pool on North-South axis that mirrors the beautiful image of the Taj Mahal.


Ariel View of the Taj and the gardens...

Some intresting facts…

  • The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The word 'Taj' means crown and 'Mahal' means palace.


Exterior view of the Taj

  • Its construction began in 1631 and went on for the next 22 years.
  • Around 22,000 people were employed to complete this remarkable building.
  • 1000 elephants were believed to have carried the marble to the construction site.
  • Its main entrance gate is 151 × 117 feet and has a height of 100 feet.
  • The structure is built on a raised platform with a 24.5 m high inner dome of 17.7 m diameter. The four minarets on each of its corner are 41 m high.
  • Symmetry is one of the main elements of the Taj. The tomb itself is essentially a cube with chamfered corners, to give it an octagonal cross section. The four sides are identical, each one featuring a huge vaulted archway. Symmetry is found in the patterns and designs on the walls, in the garden, also in image of Taj in the reflection pool.


Interior view of the Taj

  • Ustad Ahmad Lahouri was the chief designer of the Taj Mahal. He also designed the Red Fort in New Delhi.
  • The calligraphy in Taj Mahal is in the florid thuluth script, which was created by a Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan who was the only artist to sign his works on the Taj.


Art work in detail...

  • It was originally studded with precious stones like nephrite jade and amber brought from Central Asia, and its interior intricately designed with marble work. Other components that adorned the structure were, sapphire, garnets, topaz and corals from China, Burma and Central Asia, sandstone brought from Fatehpur Sikri, gemstones like lapiz lauzli and sapphire from Sri Lanka and diamonds from Panna.
  • During the Indian uprising of 1857, Taj Mahal faced defacement by the British who plucked out precious stones from its walls.
  • In the 19th century the British viceroy Lord Curzon, declared a restoration project for Taj Mahal, which was completed by 1908. The British remodeling of the garden is still evident in the lawn styling.
  • In 1942, the government erected scaffolding in anticipation of an air attack by Germany and Japan. Scaffoldings were again erected to mislead bomber pilots, during the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971.


Scoffolding..

  • The Taj Mahal displays its different moods through its varied shades, a pinkish glow in the morning, milky white in the evening, golden when the moon shines and the intermediary variants during different hours of the day and during different seasons in a year.


In the eveing light...

In 1657, Shah Jahan, fell ill and rumors of his imminent death spread. His sons rivaled for succession to the throne. His third son Aurangzeb eventually claimed the empire, in 1658. Though Shah Jahan recovered from his illness, he was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb, in the Agra Fort. There he remained in house arrest watching the magnificent monument he had built for his beloved wife Mumtaz. Shah Jahan died in the year 1666, at the age of 74, eight years after losing his throne to his son. He was buried, next his beloved wife in the Taj Mahal thus breaking the symmerty (the coffin of the empress was placed in the mausoleum first and was placed in the center of the room, but when the emperor died, the coffin was squeezed beside hers).

It is impossible to write about the entire glory of Taj in a blog post...and no amount of pictures can show its the true shades....It is a must visit place...

 

Sources
pbs.org
tajmahal.com
buzzle.com

 

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