Taj Mahal, Agra, India
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Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq
(Copyright 1990, 1997, All Rights Reserved)
Text Source: Taj
Mausoleum of Mumtaz Mahal
Taj Mahal is regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world, and some Western
historians have noted that its architectural beauty has never been surpassed. The Taj is
the most beautiful monument built by the Mughals, the Muslim rulers of India. Taj Mahal is
built entirely of white marble. Its stunning architectural beauty is beyond adequate
description, particularly at dawn and sunset. The Taj seems to glow in the light of the
full moon. On a foggy morning, the visitors experience the Taj as if suspended when viewed
from across the Jamuna river.
Taj Mahal was built by a Muslim, Emperor Shah Jahan (died 1666
in the memory of his dear wife and queen Mumtaz Mahal at Agra, India. It
is an "elegy in marble" or some say an expression of a
"dream." Taj Mahal (meaning Crown Palace) is a Mausoleum that houses the grave
of queen Mumtaz Mahal at the lower chamber. The grave of Shah Jahan was added to it later.
The queens real name was Arjumand Banu. In the tradition of the
Mughals, important ladies of the royal family were given another name at their marriage or
at some other significant event in their lives, and that new name was commonly used by the
public. Shah Jahan's real name was Shahab-ud-din, and he was known as Prince Khurram
before ascending to the throne in 1628.
Taj Mahal was constructed over a period of twenty-two years, employing twenty thousand
workers. It was completed in 1648 C.E. at a cost of 32 Million Rupees.
The construction documents show that its master architect was Ustad Isa,
the renowned Islamic architect of his time. The documents contain names of those employed
and the inventory of construction materials and their origin. Expert craftsmen from Delhi,
Qannauj, Lahore, and Multan were employed. In addition, many renowned Muslim craftsmen
from Baghdad, Shiraz and Bukhara worked on many specialized tasks.
The Taj stands on a raised, square platform (186 x 186 feet) with its four corners
truncated, forming an unequal octagon. The architectural design uses the interlocking
arabesque concept, in which each element stands on its own and perfectly
integrates with the main structure. It uses the principles of self-replicating geometry
and a symmetry of architectural elements.
Its central dome is fifty-eight feet in diameter and rises to a height of 213 feet. It
is flanked by four subsidiary domed chambers. The four graceful, slender minarets are
162.5 feet each. The entire mausoleum (inside as well as outside) is decorated with inlaid
design of flowers and calligraphy using precious gems such as agate and jasper. The main
archways, chiseled with passages from the Holy Quran and the bold scroll work of
flowery pattern, give a captivating charm to its beauty. The central domed chamber and
four adjoining chambers include many walls and panels of Islamic decoration.
The mausoleum is a part of a vast complex comprising of a main gateway, an elaborate
garden, a mosque (to the left), a guest house (to the right), and several other palatial
buildings. The Taj is at the farthest end of this complex, with the river Jamuna
behind it. The large garden contains four reflecting pools dividing it at the center. Each
of these four sections is further subdivided into four sections and then each into yet
another four sections. Like the Taj, the garden elements serve like Arabesque, standing on
their own and also constituting the whole.