Taj Mahal world heritage site in Agra, India.

Taj Mahal world heritage site in Agra, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


India (Photo credit: robynejay)

Shah Jahan on globe, mid 17th century. Mughal ...

Shah Jahan on globe, mid 17th century. Mughal dynasty. India. Color and gold on paper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Español: Taj Mahal, Agra, India - foto con ref...

Español: Taj Mahal, Agra, India – foto con reflejo en el agua. Português: Taj Mahal, Agra, Índia. Foto do monumento e seu reflexo na água. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Français : Taj Mahal, ...

Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Français : Taj Mahal, Agra, Inde. हिन्दी: ताज महल, आगरा, भारत. پښتو: تاج محل, اګره, هند. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TAJ MAHAL, AGRA. The Taj Mahal, an impressive mausoleum located
on the bank of the Yamuna River at Agra in northern India, was
built in 1632–1648 by Emperor Shah Jahan as a funerary monument
for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth in 1631.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the complex consists of a series
of buildings and intricate gardens constructed by many architects
and gardeners, but the principal architect is considered to have been
Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Legends include various stories about how architects
were required to sign contracts testifying that they would not
reveal construction secrets from the mausoleum or design subsequent
similar buildings. This emphasis on architectural secrecy is not
unique but was apparently common in antiquity, although firm documentation
has yet to be found concerning how, specifically, secrets
were maintained about such locations as royal treasuries, burial
tombs, and royal palace layouts.
The Taj Mahal is perhaps the most famous example of Mughal architecture
in India and reveals a dramatic departure from the prior
Hindu and Buddhist architectural monuments constructed throughout
India. Instead, it demonstrates a melding of Islamic, Persian, Indian,
Turkish, and Byzantine architectural styles. Islam was introduced
into India in the AD 700s, yet this initial Islamic settlement around
the Indus River did not become markedly strong until three centuries later, when newly converted Turkish Muslims traveling across Central
Asia began to settle in larger numbers in northern India. Gradually, Turks began to carve out regional centers of Islamic authority
based in Delhi, and from the 1200s onward, these rulers, called sultans,
began to construct monumental palaces, fortifications,
mosques, and funerary monuments. This culture laid the foundation for Mughal advancement into India in the early 1500s. The Mughals
were both Turkish and Mongol, and they unified power in northern
India to become emperors. The first Mughal emperor was Muhammad Zahir-ud-Din, who ruled briefly from 1526 to 1530 after conquering
Delhi and establishing his empire across Central Asia. His
successors unified northern India under Mughal rule. This longstanding
dynasty lasted until 1858, when the last Mughal emperor
was exiled to Burma (Myanmar) by British forces seeking greater
control over India.
Mughal architecture consisted primarily of Islamic structures,
which had already been established in India, but these newer buildings
also reveal such newly introduced stylistic features as the horseshoe
arch and onion dome. These can be found at the Taj Mahal. The
delicately carved white stone building is set into a carefully cultivated
garden that features long rectangular pools and is divided into
four parts, separated by broad paths lined with straight rows of fruit
trees and flowers. The tomb monument rises up at the end of this
formal Persian-styled garden, an unusual feature given that mausoleums
were traditionally located in the center of gardens. New research,
however, reveals the remains of another garden, called the
Moonlight Garden, located behind the mausoleum and across the Yamuna
River. That being the case, the river itself, symbolizing the
River of Paradise, became a part of the complex, with the mausoleum
located in the center of this two-part garden complex. Further excavations
are expected to provide a more definitive understanding of
this interesting discovery.
The mausoleum itself is flanked by a smaller mosque on one side
and a matching resting hall on the other. These structures are linked
to the central tomb by a broad platform that visibly unites all three
parts of the complex into one whole. Yet the side buildings are made
from a red stone that allows the white marble tomb monument to
stand out dramatically from its surroundings and to shine in the sunlight
and be reflected in the water of the shallow pools. The tomb
monument itself has a minaret at each of the four corners of its marble
platform. The minarets are divided into three vertical parts, echoing
the three vertical divisions of the tomb monument. While the
minaret is an Islamic architectural feature used to call the faithful to
prayer, here each minaret is topped by an open porch, or chattri, that
traditionally appeared in earlier Indian palaces. The tomb itself is a
perfectly square building, but the corners are cut at angles to suggest
a subtle octagonal shape.
The façade is further divided into three parts and has a tall curved
and pointed arch niche above the central door. Each side of this door
displays two pairs of these arched niches, one atop the other, for a total
of four smaller arches on each side, with the outer niches set into
the angled corners. This feature differs from the arch shape found in
western Europe and is called an iwan. Cutting into the façade in such
a way causes light and shadows to play off the front of the building,
creating a richer appearance than if the façade were flat. On the top
of the monument, octagonal chattris, located one in each corner of
the building, surround the central onion dome that rises up above
them on a delicately carved drum. The surface of the marble monument
has blind arcades carved into it, while the entrance doors are
framed by black marble inlay of verses from the Koran; very subtle
colored stone inlay is found above the iwan arches. The stone inlay
stands as testament to the far-reaching mercantile prosperity of the
Mughal Empire and consists of sapphire from Sri Lanka, lapis lazuli
from Afghanistan, turquoise from Tibet, jasper from India, and jade
and crystal from China. The stones are set in a delicate floral pattern
that echoes the surrounding garden and symbolizes paradise, thus
contrasting the beauty of the physical world with the funerary context,
as concluded inside the monument, with cenotaphs of the emperor
and his wife.


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