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Taj Mahal, Agra

Information on Taj Mahal
The crowning glory of the Agra is the Taj Mahal, a monument of love and imagination, that represents India to the world. It is the most famous monument in Agra and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Taj Mahal is an enduring monument to love, with a continually fulfilling beauty. This monument is one of the most visited and most photographed places in the world. Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in the memory of his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal was

Taj Mahal, Agra
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the culmination point of Indo-Persian architecture. The Taj Mahal is best visited in early morning and late evening. Regardless of whether you see it ethereally floating in the moonlight, blushing in the rosy glow of dawn or reflected in the pools of its gardens, it is enchanting. Perhaps the most moving view of the Taj Mahal is from a little octagonal tower in the Agra fort across the River Yamuna. It was here the Emperor Shah Jahan spent his last days in imprisonment, gazing at the tomb of his wife.

History of Taj Mahal
Shah Jahan, fifth of the Great Mughals was devoted to his wife Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel of the Palace), though he still insisted that she travel with him in all states of health. Eighteen years after Shah Jahan became emperor, tragedy struck. Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved wife of Shah Jahan died at the age of 39 giving birth to her 14th child in 1630. On her deathbed it is said that she asked him to show the word how much they loved one another. It is also said that his hair went grey almost overnight, and observed a very simple life. At the same time he turned away from running an empire and became more involved with his other great love, architecture. The emperor went into mourning for two years and vowed to built a sublime mausoleum in her memory, unlike any other in the world. He built this mausoleum in her memory and named it as the Taj Mahal (The Crown of the Palace), a peerless monument in pristine marble. About 20,000 labourers built this world renowned monument in about 22 years. When the Taj Mahal was constructed, the Mughal Empire was already past its prime. The Taj, despite its unquestionable beauty was an extravagance which the empire could not pay for. Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb and confined to his marble palace at the Red Fort. Here he lived out his remaining eight years, a prisoner gazing across the Yamuna river at his beloved wife’s memorial. The state of the Taj declined with the fortunes of the Mughal Empire, the gardens becoming quite overgrown with weeds. In the 19th century the Taj was a favourite place for courting couples and open air balls were held by the British outside the tomb itself. Lord Bentinck, Governor General planned to have the Taj dismantled and sold off in pieces by auction in England. In this way, wealthy Victorians could have a bit of the Taj Mahal in their gardens. Cranes were even erected in the garden. The plan was only abandoned when a pilot auction of part of Agra’s Red Fort failed to attract enough interest. Fortunately, Lord Curzon, one of Beatnik’s successors (1899-1905), repaired much of the damage done over the centuries, reset the marble platform around the Taj, and cleaned up the gardens. The Taj can be reached from three directions. The east entrance is often used by groups arriving by coach, the south is from the township that sprang up during the construction of the Taj and the west entrance is that usually used by persons arriving by car or rickshaw from the Red Fort. From these entrances you approach the gateway proper.

Myths surround masterpieces and the Taj Mahal is no exception. On completion it is said that the emperor ordered the chief mason’s right hand to be cut off to prevent him from repeating this masterpiece. According to other legend, Shah Jahan intended to build a replica for himself in black marble on the other side of the river and both should be connected by a bridge made in alternate blocks of black and white marble. Yet another suggests that the inlaid pietra dura work was carried out by Europeans. Although no one knows who drew up the plans, the overall work is so clearly the result of a flowering of architectural development that had been taking place through the Mughal period, fusing the traditions of Indian Hindu and Persian Muslim into a completely distinct form, that there is no escaping the conclusion that its designers must have had long experience on the developing Mughal tradition, working to meet the demands of their Indian Muslim patron.


Construction of Taj Mahal
The height of this lofty monument is 187 feet at the central dome. The material was brought in from all over India and Central Asia. The White Marble was brought from Makrana, near Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Sandstone from Fatehpur Sikri, Jasper from Punjab, Jade and Crystal from China, Turquoise from Tibet, Lapez Lazuli from Afghanistan and Ceylon, Sapphire from Bundelkhand, Crysolite from Egypt, Onyx and Amethyst from Persia, Agate (various colours) from Yemen, 

Taj Mahal Agra

Malachite (dark green) from Russia, diamonds from Golconda in Central India and mother of pearl from the Indian ocean. A 3.2 km ramp was used to lift material up to the level of the dome and because of the river bank site and the sheer weight of the building, boreholes were filled with metal coins and fragments to provide suitable foundations. The skilled artisans inlaid the white marble edifice with precious stones and conjured a lacy stone screen around the cenotaphs of the emperor and his beloved. Ustad Isa Afandi was considered as the designer of the Taj Mahal. This monument was a symbol of Shah Jahan's eternal love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The main interesting places in Taj Mahal are the Jilo Khana at the main red sandstone entrance. The Jilo Khana is about 204 yards long and 150 yards wide.

One aspect of the unique beauty of the Taj is the way in which subtlety is blended with grandeur and a massive overall design is matched with immaculately intricate execution. All these features contribute to the breath taking first impression you gain as you pass through the arch of the entrance gateway. You will already have seen the dome of the tomb in the distance, looking almost like a miniature, but as you walk through the arcade of shops and into the open square before the main entrance the Taj itself is so well hidden that you almost wonder where it can be. The glorious surprise is kept until the last moment, and before you can experience it you are faced with the massive red sandstone gateway of the entrance, designed to guard the enormous wealth inside as well as to symbolize the divide between the secular world and paradise.

The Gateway completed in 1648, stands, 30 m high. The small domed pavilions on top are Hindu in style and usually signify regality. The huge brass door is recent. The original doors were solid silver and decorated with 1100 nails whose heads were contemporary silver coins. Along with some other treasures, they were plundered by the Jats who ravaged the Mughal empire after its collapse. The engravers skillfully enlarged and lengthened the letters as their distance from the ground increased. This created the illusion of consistency. Although the gateway is remarkable in itself, one of its functions is to prevent you getting any glimpse of the tomb inside until you are right in the doorway itself. That first view suddenly unfolds from the framing archway. At first only the tomb is visible, stunning in its nearness, but as you move forward the minarets come into view. Beyond the entrance and into the sunlight, it is a good idea to move either right or left to avoid the inevitable crowds. From here, see how the people walking around the tomb are dwarfed by the 70 m high dome.

The Taj garden, well kept though it is nowadays, is nothing compared with its former glory. The whole of the Taj complex measures 580 x 300 m and the garden 300 x 300 m. The guiding principle is one of symmetry. The four quadrant lawns, separated by the watercourses (rivers of heaven) emanating from the central, raised pool, were divided into 16 flowers beds, making a total of 64. Each bed was planted with 400 plants. The trees, all carefully planted to maintain the symmetry were either cypress (signifying death) or fruit trees (life). The channels were stocked with fish and the gardens with nightingales, peacocks and other colourful birds. Guards dressed in white robes patrolled the area, reputedly scaring off birds of prey with pea-shooters. Nobles visited them for picnics and celebrations – that is why there are stables and guesthouses in the forecourt area. It is well worth wandering along the side avenues for not only is it much more peaceful but also good for framing photos of the tomb with foliage.

On the east and west sides of the tomb are identical red sandstone buildings. On the W (left Hand side) is a mosque. The replica on the other side is known as the Jawab (Answer). This cannot be used for prayer as it faces away from Mecca. The four minarets (41.6 m high) at each corner of the plinth provide balance to the tomb. On each pillar is written a letter (R,H,M,N) which together spell the word ar-Rahman (The All Merciful). This is one of the 99 names of Allah. There is only one point of access to the plinth (6.7 m high and 95 m square) and tomb, a double staircase on the S side (facing the entrance). Here, visitors must either remove their shoes or have cloth covers tied over them. The tomb is square with beveled corners. Each side is 56.6 m long with a large central arch flanked by two pointed arches. At each corner smaller domes rise while in the centre is the main dome topped by a brass finial. The dome is actually a double dome.

The interior of the mausoleum comprises of a lofty central chamber, a crypt immediately below this and four octagonal corner rooms originally intended to house the graves of other family members. Shah Jahan’s son and usurper, Aurangzeb, failed to honour this wish. The central chamber contains replica tombs, the real ones being in the crypt. It was customary to have a public tomb and a private one. The public tomb was originally surrounded by a jewel encrusted silver screen. Aurangzeb removed this fearing it might be stolen and replaced it with an octagonal screen of marble and inlaid precious stones, the cost being Rs. 50,000. The lattice (jail) screens are carved from one block of marble. The entrance to the tombs and the finials surmounting the screen have been inlaid, a most difficult task. Some flowers have as many as 64 pieces making up the petals on the borders of the screen. Hanging above the tombs is a cairene lamp whose flame is supposed to never go out. The original was stolen by the Jats. This one was given by Lord Curzon, Governor General of British India, who had it made in Egypt. The tomb of Mumtaz rests immediately beneath the dome. Shah Jahan’s tomb is larger and to the side, marked by a ‘male’ pen-box which was the sin of a cultured or noble person. Not originally intended to be placed there but squeezed in by Aurangzeb, this flaws the otherwise perfect symmetry of the whole complex. Both tombs are exquisitely inlaid with semi-precious stones. Identical, real ones are in the crypt below. The domed ceiling is being designed to echo chants from the Koran and musician’s melodies.


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