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The Taj Mahal

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The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, whose building was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.  (1) The mausoleum was completed in 1648, After 16 years of bu7ilding work. The Taj Mahal, a tribute to Shah Jahans’ favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, is a combination of cultures and views (2) On one aspect is the rhyming of Persian, TURKISH, Islamic and Indian architectural styles, On the other aspect, The Taj Mahal is a “Love story”. François Bernier (1663) says; “Raised the other to the memory of his wife Tega Mehal, that extraordinary and celebrated beauty, of whom her husband was as enamoured it was said that he was constant to her during life and at dea6th was so affected as nearly to follow her to her grave” This celebrated master piece, is love and architecture as a tribute to a departed life, wife and a time, that for the Shah Jahan, could be gone forever.(3)

The setting of the Taj Mahal

            The Taj Mahal structure, is built round a garden is a square (300m by 300m), crossed by raised footpaths that divide each quarter of the garden into 16 sunken parterres or flowerbeds (5) In other regions the garden has a tree lining dotted by fountains.

Significantly though, is a raised marble water tank at the middle of the Charbagh, on the median of the gateway and tomb, and the North axis linear water mass, both of which reflect the Taj Mahal.(6) The raised marble water tank, Hawd – al – Kawthar, means the “Tank of abundance” the promise to Mohammed in th3e Koran. The Charbagh represents the four flowing rivers of paradise. (7) The Taj Mahal is bounded on three sides by red sandstone wall. The side facing the river is not walled. It has tombs belonging to the shah Jahans other wives and favorite servant.(8) The inner side has the wall fronted by columned arcades The wall has an intersperse of domed kiosks and small buildings which are considered watch towers (9) The main gate is primarily marble based, which is borrowed from Mughal architecture, like the dome arcade is borrowed from Hindu culture of temple building.(10) Two buildings sit out the far end of the complex, with the end walls paralleling the Western and Eastern walls. The western building is a mosque. The Eastern one, also called the Jawab, is primarily for architectural balance. The tomb is a base, dome and minaret structure.(11) The Persian, arch – shaped doorway is topped by a large dome on the entry to the tomb.

The tomb is on a square plinth. (12) The tombs base is a large multichambered structure (13) It is on this structure that the main hall with cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, with the actual graves below them, is found. The dome surmounts the tomb at a height of about 35 meters. (14) The dome is in the shape of an onion, and a lotus design decoration is used to accentuate its height. A finish or spine crowns the main dome. The plinth has four minarets, at each corner that accord balance to the structure.(15) The Taj Mahal has interior and exterior decorations. In the form of calligraphy, abstract geometric elements and vegetative motifs. Much of the calligraphy is Qur’an passages; at the entry gate it reads, “O Soul, thou art rest. Return to the lord at peace with Him, and at peace with you” Texts refer to the themes of doom and promises at judgment day. (16) But all this is the architecture; only a visit to Agra can best bring this out. (17)

The inspiration behind the whole complex is mind – boggling but romantic (18) the immediate impact of the Taj is dazzling: a spiritual wonder hovering between the real and unreal, incredibly beyond all the clichés ever written about it (19) by moonlight the monument is utterly beautiful, it glows with a silver effulgence that seems to come curiously from within rather than from without.(20) The four sentinel minarets are masculine, yet something more ; the keep the Taj from being earthbound Remove the four minarets and the tomb at once looses its ethereal aspect ; it is all very odd.(21) The pear – shaped dome is a feminine miracle, made weightless through perfection of for.

The companion tomb of the Shah Jahan improved the site.(22) It’s asymmetry, rudely crowded against the marble screen, typifies the very discord that the Jahan experienced at the death of his wife. It brings out the aspect a historical catastrophe that befell someone in a world “Taj Mahal” perfect. (23)


Many years after Shah Jahan had built the Taj Mahal, he was imprisoned (24) The prison cell had only one window, through which he visioned only the dome, tomb, of the Taj Mahal. He spent endless time, lost in thought as he stared at this monument. Granted, it would be the only solace for the Shah, in death, to lie next to his Love. (25)


1-8Blair, Sheila S, The Art and Architecture of Islam, Yale University press, 1994, (USA)

9-16Bagley W. E, Taj Mahal: The Illuminated Tomb, Cambridge University press, 1989, (USA).

17,18,19Lesley A, The Taj Mahal, Lepner publications, 2003, (USA).

20-25Waldemar H, The peacock Throne: The Diama of Mogul India, Mortinal Banarsidass publishers, 1986, (INDIA)

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