Taj Mahal: Poetry Etched in White Marble

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Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal! Isn’t it like some poet has penned down the most graceful four-line poetry on a piece of land, only here it is white marble that did the job. It is an architectural marvel and an emotion cherished by many, who admire this monument for the grace and charm that it exudes. It is not only one of the Seven Wonders of the world but an architectural wonder that every art admirer would want to visit at least once. And, if you are not an art admirer, you will become one after you visit the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal

Completed in 1653 by around 20,000 workers, the Taj Mahal was conceived as a token of Love by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan to immortalize his favorite wife Begum Mumtaz, who died while giving birth to one of their children. The conceptual thought behind it was to carve a replica of Mumtaz’s home in heaven on earth. It is a mausoleum complex located on the southern bank of the river Yamuna in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. There are other Mughal constructions in its proximity, Agra Fort being one of them which is located around 1.5 km away.

Taj Mahal

It is considered one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture, with a proportionate blend of Persian, Islamic, and Indian styles. The major five elements of the Taj Mahal Complex are the main gateway, gardens, Mausoleum with its four minarets, Mosque, and Jawab (it is a replica of the mosque just on the opposite side, Jawab means answer).

Taj Mahal is considered to have been designed by Ustad Ahmad law, who was an Indian of Persian descent. It is believed that all units were designed as a single entity and no alterations later were allowed. The workers employed were from Persia, India, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe, who first completed the Mausoleum, and later the other elements and gardens were completed.

Taj Mahal

Architectural Characteristics of Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal
The Layout of the Taj Mahal

Spread across an area of 22acres, the highlight of the complex is the white marble mausoleum with a 35 m high dome, which seems to touch the sky with the lotus and a finial on top.The char-bagh pattern that is the basis of the planning was inspired by the traditional Persian rug design that symbolizes symmetry in design and how aesthetically pleasing that can be. A similar criterion was implied with two perpendicular lines represented by water channels and divided the front space into four equals where the baghs(gardens) were designed later.

Persian Rug 

The mausoleum has nearly similar facades on all four sides with small arches on the chamfered corners connecting to a large central arch rising to 108 ft. The grand central dome is surrounded by four smaller ones and the interior of the dome creates a reverberation effect of around 5 times. The interior space of the Taj Mahal is planned around an octagonal chamber with low-relief carvings that encloses the cenotaphs of Mumtaz and Shahjahan. The tomb of Mumtaz has 99 different names of Allah (God) inscribed on it. The mausoleum stands on a raised plinth with four minarets on every corner. The mirrored mosques on both sides were designed to create a sense of balance in the design.

Taj Mahal
Tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Emperor Shah Jahan

Taj Mahal is visible as a white structure from distance and that is attractive but reaching closer would stun you more as pietra-dura takes over; Pietra-Dura is the art of embedding colorful marbles into the stone, so the marbles intricately put in the Dome exaggerates its beauty. The marbles used were of 28 different types, sourced from Tibet, China, Sri Lanka, and other parts of India.

The other parts of the mausoleum are adorned with verses from the Holy Quran in Thuluth script in black color. The Quran verse calligraphy writing was done under the supervision of Amānat Khan al-Shīrāzī. To ensure clear vision from a distance, the size of lettering increases as the relative height and distance from the viewer increases.

Taj Mahal
Pietra Dura details on the mausoleum

The pools, ornamental trees, water channels, and fountains are significant elements of Mughal architecture, and similarities are reflected in the planning of this ostentatious heritage. The southern end of the Taj Mahal complex is decorated with a gateway in red sandstone adorned with floral designs and Quran verses on the white marble part. The four corners of the gate have octagonal towers with a chattri on top (chattri is a cupola-like structure) and the top of the southern and northern sides of the gate is topped with 11 smaller chattris in a row with small minarets at the corners.

Taj Mahal
Southern Red Sandstone Gateway

The fact that is surprising is, how splendid the craftsmanship would have been around 350 years back from now, as it is bare handwork by labor and it instills a sense of pride in being a dweller of such heritage-rich land. And, now this monument is so much appreciated and loved worldwide that the name of the city Agra and Taj Mahal go hand-in-hand.

Who would have thought that a mere act of love would be itched in history for its Lifetime!  

Image Credits: To the respective owners

Written by Aastha Trivedi

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