Taj Mahal - Location, Timeline and Architect

Taj Mahal - Location, Timeline and Architect

The Taj Mahal is an enormous mausoleum complex commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his beloved wife. Constructed over a 20-year period on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India, the famed complex is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture, which combined Indian, Persian and Islamic influences. At its center is the Taj Mahal itself, built of shimmering white marble that seems to change color depending on the daylight. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, it remains one of the world’s most celebrated structures and a stunning symbol of India’s rich history.

Shah Jahan

Shah Jahan was a member of the Mughal dynasty that ruled most of northern India from the early 16th to the mid 18th-century. After the death of his father, King Jahangir, in 1627, Shah Jahan emerged the victor of a bitter power struggle with his brothers, and crowned himself emperor at Agra in 1628.

At his side was Arjumand Banu Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal (“Chosen One of the Palace”), whom he married in 1612 and cherished as the favorite of his three queens.

In 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died after giving birth to the couple’s 14th child. The grieving Shah Jahan, known for commissioning a number of impressive structures throughout his reign, ordered the building of a magnificent mausoleum across the Yamuna River from his own royal palace at Agra.

Construction began around 1632 and would continue for the next two decades. The chief architect was probably Ustad Ahmad Lahouri, an Indian of Persian descent who would later be credited with designing the Red Fort at Delhi.

In all, more than 20,000 workers from India, Persia, Europe and the Ottoman Empire, along with some 1,000 elephants, were brought in to build the mausoleum complex.

Design and Construction of the Taj Mahal

Named the Taj Mahal in honor of Mumtaz Mahal, the mausoleum was constructed of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones (including jade, crystal, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise) forming intricate designs in a technique known as pietra dura.

Its central dome reaches a height of 240 feet (73 meters) and is surrounded by four smaller domes; four slender towers, or minarets, stood at the corners. In accordance with the traditions of Islam, verses from the Quran were inscribed in calligraphy on the arched entrances to the mausoleum, in addition to numerous other sections of the complex.

Inside the mausoleum, an octagonal marble chamber adorned with carvings and semi-precious stones housed the cenotaph, or false tomb, of Mumtaz Mahal. The real sarcophagus containing her actual remains lay below, at garden level.

The rest of the Taj Mahal complex included a main gateway of red sandstone and a square garden divided into quarters by long pools of water, as well as a red sandstone mosque and an identical building called a jawab (or “mirror”) directly across from the mosque. Traditional Mughal building practice would allow no future alterations to be made to the complex.

As the story goes, Shah Jahan intended to build a second grand mausoleum across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, where his own remains would be buried when he died; the two structures were to have been connected by a bridge.

In fact, Aurangzeb (Shah Jahan’s third son with Mumtaz Mahal) deposed his ailing father in 1658 and took power himself. Shah Jahan lived out the last years of his life under house arrest in a tower of the Red Fort at Agra, with a view of the majestic resting place he had constructed for his wife; when he died in 1666, he was buried next to her.

Taj Mahal Over the Years

Under Aurangzeb’s long rule (1658-1707), the Mughal empire reached the height of its strength. However, his militant Muslim policies, including the destruction of many Hindu temples and shrines, undermined the enduring strength of the empire and led to its demise by the mid-18th century.

Even as Mughal power crumbled, the Taj Mahal suffered from neglect and disrepair in the two centuries after Shah Jahan’s death. Near the turn of the 19th century, Lord Curzon, then British viceroy of India, ordered a major restoration of the mausoleum complex as part of a colonial effort to preserve India’s artistic and cultural heritage.

Today, some 3 million people a year (or around 45,000 a day during peak tourist season) visit the Taj Mahal.

Air pollution from nearby factories and automobiles poses a continual threat to the mausoleum’s gleaming white marble façade, and in 1998, India’s Supreme Court ordered a number of anti-pollution measures to protect the building from deterioration. Some factories were closed, while vehicular traffic was banned from the immediate vicinity of the complex.


Taj Mahal

Ang Taj Mahal ay isang napakalaking komplikadong mausoleum na kinomisyon noong 1632 ng emperador ng Mughal na si Shah Jahan upang maiwan ang labi ng kanyang minamahal na asawa. Itinayo sa loob ng 20-taong panahon sa katimugang pampang ng Ilog Yamuna sa Agra, India, ang sikat na kumplikadong ay isa sa mga pinakahusay na halimbawa ng arkitekturang Mughal, na pinagsama ang mga impluwensya ng India, Persia at Islamic. Sa gitna nito ay ang Taj Mahal mismo, na binuo ng shimmering white marmol na tila nagbabago ng kulay depende sa liwanag ng araw. Itinalaga ang isang UNESCO World Heritage site noong 1983, nananatili itong isa sa pinakatanyag na istruktura sa buong mundo at isang nakamamanghang simbolo ng mayamang kasaysayan ng India.


Taj Mahal History

The Taj Mahal is a signing symbol of India&rsquos rich history. It is one of the most celebrated historic structures in the world. Not only is the building beautiful, but it has a fascinating history.

The Taj Mahal is located on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India. Construction on the historic site began in 1632. At the time, Mughal emperor Shan Jahan ruled the land. He commissioned the building as a mausoleum for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Shan Jahan loved Mumtaz, whom he married in 1612, the most out of his three wives. Unfortunately, she passed away during childbirth of their fourth child in 1631. Heartbroken, he wanted to construct her burial tomb to be as lovely as what he imagined her afterlife.

The Construction

Ustad Ahmed Lahauri led the architecture team that designed the Taj Mahal. It took twenty years to finish the entire project. The Taj Mahal was finished in 1648, but the mosque, guesthouses, southern gateway, courtyards and cloisters reached completion in 1653.
The Taj Mahal is a marveling piece of architecture. The entire building is made of marble that came from a variety of areas including Rajasthan, Afghanistan, Tibet and China. Inlaid in the walls are 28 varieties of semi-precious stones such as jade, crystal, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise. The architect inscribed verses from the Quran along the entranceways, along with the 99 names of Allah on Mumtaz&rsquos tomb.
The building is perfectly symmetrical. The four minarets, or towers, are further away from the main structure. The formation would allow the towers to fall away from the tomb in case of a disaster such as an earthquake.

The Tomb

Mumtaz Mahal&rsquos tomb is one of the first examples of the historic raised tomb varieties. Her tomb lays in the perfect center of the tomb chamber, and it is inlaid with beautiful flower motifs. Shan Jaban&rsquos bural site is next to his beloved wife. He was laid to rest there after his death in 1666. Shan&rsquos tomb is higher than Mumtaz, according to tradition.
Islamic traditions forbids the decorating of graves. Because of this, the actual crypts of Mumtaz and Shan Jahan, which lay under the inner chambers, are plain.


Who is considered as the chief architect of taj mahal. Ustad ahmad is considered as the chief architect of taj mahal. He is also considered as the chief architect of red fort. 15 facts you might not know about the taj mahal mental floss. Ustad isa shirazi (persian استاد عيسى شیرازی ‎‎ translation master isa) was a persian architect, often described as the chief architect of the taj mahal in agra, india. The lack of complete and reliable information as to whom the credit for the design belongs, led to innumerable speculations. In order to protect the crypt of mumtaz mahal, chief architect ustad ahmad lahauri tilted the towers slightly so that they would fall away from the rest of the taj mahal, preventing the grave from. Who is the main architect of the taj mahal? Quora. Architect of the taj mahal ustad isa shirazi (persian استاد عيسى شیرازی‎ translation master isa) was a persian architect, often described as the assistant architect of the taj mahal in agra, india. Who is the real architect of taj mahal? The taj tours. Several designers and architects thirty seven men in all are mentioned by name in the official mughal histories, and it is probable that they would have worked together to form the creative team that shaped the taj mahal ismail afandi (a.K.A. Ismail khan) who had worked for the great ottomans in turkey as a designer and builder of domes qazim khan, a goldsmith from lahore who cast the gold finial that crowns the dome chiranji lal, a lapidary from delhi chosen as the chief. Futuristic architecture inhabitat. More futuristic architecture videos. Architect of the taj mahal agra india agra tourism. Architect of the taj. Veroneo and ustad isa afandi are the chief contestants proposed for the credit. According to the spanish monk, father sebastian manrique, venetian geronimo veroneo, the famous jeweler was the chief architect. Veroneo is known to have lived in agra for many years and died at lahore in 1640.

Who is the main architect of the taj mahal? Quora. 11 related questions. The 'taj mahal' represents the finest and most sophisticated example of mughal architecture. Its origins lie in the moving circumstances of its commission and the culture and history of an islamic mughal empire's rule of large parts of india. The distraught mughal emperor shah jahan commissioned the project upon the death of one of his favorite wives mumtaz mahal. Today it is one of the most famous and recognizable buildings in the world and while the large, domed marble mausoleum is the most fa. Who is the architect of the taj mahal? Quora. Jdohss ustad isa shirazi. Or. Ustad isa. Was a persian architect, often described as the chief architect of the taj mahal in agra, india. 10 awesome futuristic architecture projects you should know!. Also try.

Taj mahal location, timeline & architect history. The taj mahal is an enormous mausoleum complex commissioned in 1632 by the mughal emperor shah jahan to house the remains of his beloved wife. Who was the architect of the taj mahal answers. Ustad isa shirazi (persian استاد عيسى شیرازی‎ translation master isa) was a persian architect, often described as the assistant architect of the taj mahal in agra, india. The lack of complete and reliable information as to whom the credit for the design belongs, led to innumerable speculations. Futuristic architecture image results. Find and save ideas about futuristic architecture on pinterest. See more ideas about future buildings, modern architecture and modern buildings. Futurist architecture wikipedia. Futurist architecture is an early20th century form of architecture born in italy, characterized by strong chromaticism, long dynamic lines, suggesting speed, motion, urgency and lyricism it was a part of futurism, an artistic movement founded by the poet filippo tommaso marinetti, who produced its first manifesto, the manifesto of futurism, in 1909. Building the taj who designed the taj mahal pbs. The names of the chief architect who worked on the taj have been noted. Ismail afandi, who designed the hemispheres and built the domes was from turkey. Qazim khan came from lahore to cast the gold finial that would top the dome. Chiranji. Mother nature chief architect of tajmahal? Blogspot. But a manuscript from the 1600s claims that the taj mahal's chief architect was a man named ustad ahmad. Also known as isa khan, or ustad ahmad lahouri, ahmad was a "plan drawer" (as architects were known then) in the shah jehan court, and had already worked for him on the red fort at delhi project, laying its foundations.


Current issues

Over the centuries the Taj Mahal has been subject to neglect and decay. A major restoration was carried out at the beginning of the 20th century under the direction of Lord Curzon, then the British viceroy of India. More recently, air pollution caused by emissions from foundries and other nearby factories and exhaust from motor vehicles has damaged the mausoleum, notably its marble facade. A number of measures have been taken to reduce the threat to the monument, among them the closing of some foundries and the installation of pollution-control equipment at others, the creation of a parkland buffer zone around the complex, and the banning of nearby vehicular traffic. A restoration and research program for the Taj Mahal was initiated in 1998. Progress in improving environmental conditions around the monument has been slow, however.

From time to time the Taj Mahal has been subject to India’s political dynamics. Night viewing was banned there between 1984 and 2004 because it was feared that the monument would be a target of Sikh militants. In addition, it increasingly has come to be seen as an Indian cultural symbol. Some Hindu nationalist groups have attempted to diminish the importance of the Muslim influence in accounting for the origins and design of the Taj Mahal.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


Construction, Architecture and Architects of Taj Mahal, India

The Architecture and Design of the Taj Mahal is very impressive. This building is frequently studied by Architecture students in general and students studying Islamic architecture in particular.

It was made by emperor Shah Jahan for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal who died while giving birth to their 14th child after being in labor for 30 hours at the age of 40. Here’s brief documentation about the construction of Taj Mahal.

Architects of Taj Mahal

There are too much controversies for who designed the Taj Mahal and who was the architect of Taj Mahal . But recent researches and ongoing debates have mentioned these 2 great architects who designed the Taj Mahal.

Ustad Ahmad Lahori

Ustad Isa

Builders and Costs involved in the construction of Taj Mahal

Builders were requisitioned from all over the Empire for the construction of Taj Mahal. Besides the local guilds of the Jamuna-Chambal region, artisans from Rajasthan, Malwa, Gujarat and Punjab participated in the work. By a rough estimate, about 20,000 skilled and unskilled workers were engaged for nearly 17 years (1632-48) on this vast project.
Names of only about 40 skilled workers involved in the construction of Taj Mahal : draftsmen, masons, stone-cutters, carvers, inlayers, dome-builders, kalasa-makers, calligraphers, carpenters and garden-designers have traditionally come down to us through Persian sources, which at once raises the question : whether only five masons and five carvers who have been named, for example, could have built this grand mausoleum of white marble with the help of some 20,000 unskilled labourers?

The sheer magnitude and multifarious nature of construction of Taj Mahal and its work render this hypotheses impossible. We know that Babur employed 1491 skilled stone-cutters on the construction of his buildings at Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Bayana, Dholpur and Gwalior and 680 on the buildings of Agra alone, which in comparison to the Taj were very minor works. Such details as their specialization, native place and monthly salary have also been given along with their names in the various Persian lists.

For example, Ata Muhammad, sang-tarash (stone-cutter) from Bukhara, Shakir Muhammad, Gul-tarash (carver) from Bukhara, Muhammad Sajjad, merfiar (mason) from Multan and Chiranjilal, pachchikar (in-layer) from Lahore were involved in the construction of Taj Mahal and were paid at Rs.500/-, 400/, 590/- and 800/- per month respectively. This again raises some serious questions.

India is a land of stone-art and stone workers were easily available here from ancient times. Even Timur (Tamerlane) was impressed by their skill and he took a number of them to Samarqand to build there a grand mosque. How is it that stone-cutters and carvers of the Taj came from Bukhara which is hardly famous for stone work? Is it, then, possible that they were paid such high monthly salaries in an age when gold was sold at Rs.15/- per tola? i.e. sometimes more than 50 tolas of gold per month. This is incredible.

Builders and artists were paid wages which never exceeded worth of two tolas of gold per month, at the best. As a matter of fact, this was a Work Assignment System in which the Mir-Imarat (Manager of the Project) assigned the work to a headman or leader of the guild or to the one who engaged them (no matter whether he did or did not do the work himself) on a contractual basis. He had the work done by his men. The amount he received from the treasury was not his personal salary but the whole contracted amount which he disbursed to the artisans who worked under him.

The Mir-Imarat dealt with these headmen only and, therefore, only their names were put on the record while several thousand skilled artisans who actually worked on stone during the construction of Taj Mahal have remained anonymous. Thus, Ata Muhammad and Shakir Muhammad were contractors only, who engaged the stone-cutters and carvers and had the assigned work done by them. Bukhara was their native place, not of the guilds who worked under them.

Ustad ‘Isa Afan di who came from Shiraz was head of the naqshanawis (draftsmen) department for the construction of Taj Mahal. He received Rs.l000/- per month for the men who worked under him. ‘Abdul Haq entitled Amanat Khan Shirazi, himself an expert artist, headed the department of calligraphers. Ran Mal was the garden-designer from Kashmir. Pira was master carpenter from Delhi, Dome-builders worked under Ismail Khan Rumi.

Finial-makers, masons, stone- cutters, carvers and inlayers have been similarly named. Qadir Zaman Khan has been mentioned as dar-har-ek-phan-ustad-e-kamil, an expert of the constructional techniques which included digging and filling of foundations, masonry-work, laying of stones, raising the heavy blocks by ropes and pulleys, handling of the levels, maintenance of drainage and scores of other techniques. Above all, was Muhammad Handif, the Mir-imarat, incharge of the whole construction of Taj Mahal, who managed the purchases and stores recruitment of artisans and labourers and disbursement of wages. He coordinated the whole work.

Building material used in the construction of Taj Mahal

Three type of stones have been used in the construction of Taj Mahal:

The construction of Taj Mahal involves the use of semi precious stones such as Aqiq, Yemeni, FIroza, Lajward, Moonga, Sulaimani, Lahsania, Tamra, Yashab and Pitunia which were used for inlaying during the construction of Taj Mahal rare and uncommon stones as Tilai, Pai-Zahar, Ajuba, Abri, Khattu, Nakhod and Maknatis which were used in bold inlay and mosaic chiefl on floors, exterior dados and turrets, and common stones as Sang-i-Gwaliori (grey and yellow sand stone).

Sang-i-Surkh (red sandstone), Sang-i-Musa (black state) and Sang-i-Rukham (Sang-i-Marmar, white marble) which were used in foundations and masonry and to finish external faces like Mihrab and Minbar. Red stone was brought from the neighbouring Fatehpur Sikri, Tantpur and Paharpur.

White marble was requisitioned from Makrana (Rajasthan) for the construction of Taj Mahal and was duly paid for, as the three firmans on record show. Semi-precious and rare stones were brought from distant places as Upper Tibet, Kumaon, Jaisalmer, Cambay and Ceylon.

Persian lists give some figures along with the names of stones. e.g. Aqiq 340, Lajward 240, Moonga 147, Sulaimani 559, lahsunia 52, Tamra 398, Ajuba 850, Yashab 54, Pitunia 542 and Maknatis 77. These figures do not denote the number of stones in each case, which would be too little a figure for such a vast project. These figures, in fact, denote a ‘phari or ‘dheri’ each of one cubic zira (=32). It denoted ‘tank’ in case of precious stones.

These lists also provide a theoretical qualitative table used by the Purchase Department to maintain a standard of quality. It must be borne in mind that for making the core or skeleton of the building brick masonry was used in the construction of Taj Mahal with which stone has been reinforced according to the headers-and-stretchers system.

Bricks were locally manufactured and chemically treated for strength and stability. Such ingredients as molasses, batashe, belgiri-water, urad-pulse, curd, jute and kankar were mixed with lime mortar to make it a perfect cementing agent.

Funds for the construction of Taj Mahal

Funds for the construction of Taj Mahal were provided by the Royal Treasury of the Emperor and the Government Treasury of the Province of Agra (subah Akbarabad) and accounts were scrupulously maintained with annas and pies by Lala Rudra Das. Main item of expenditure were the cost of stones and wages paid to the workers.

Cost of every part of the complex has been separately calculated, e.g. the cost of the marble plinth (chhakka) with the four minarets is given Rs. 51,77,674-7 annas 6 pies, of the main tomb Rs. 53,45,361-10-0 and of the Jhajjhari (Mahjar or Muhajjar), or inlaid and jalied white marble curtain around the cenotaphs in the main hall Rs. 4,68,855-2-6. About 50 entries have thus been made and the total cost of the construction of Taj Mahal comes to Rs. 4,18,48,426-7-6. This is besides the cost of 40,000 tolas (466.55 kilograms) of gold supplied by the Royal Treasury.

Cost of doors of wood and brass, brass-chains for repairs gold-plated kalasa and sandalwood coffins (to contain the dead bodies) have also been given. Curiously, we come across costs of three sets of tombstones. So where is the third one?

While two sets exist, the third one seems to have been contained in the central underground chamber which has no been permanently closed up for reasons which are not known to us. It is one of the several mysteries with which the Taj Mahal and its construction are associated.


Taj Mahal Historical Facts and Pictures

Taj Mahal, the iconic white marble mausoleum and one of the most photographed historical monuments in the world, is located in the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh, India. Mughal emperor Shah Jahan promised Mumtaz Mahal, his third wife and soul mate, that he would build a magnificent monument for her and Taj Mahal was the result, still bearing the mark of their true love. The construction of Taj Mahal, literally meaning the “crown of palaces”, began around the year 1632 and completed in around 1653. Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the renowned architect of the Mughal Empire is considered the principal designer while the whole project was handled by an architectural board, comprising of the likes of Abd ul-Karim Ma’mur Khan and Makramat Khanunder, under imperial supervision.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal Pictures

Taj Mahal Inside

Inside of Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal Inside Pictures

Taj Mahal Inside

Taj Mahal Inside Dome

Taj Mahal at Night

Night in Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal at Night

Taj Mahal Garden Aerial View

Taj Mahal Garden Aerial View

Taj Mahal Calligraphy

Taj Mahal Calligraphy

Taj Mahal Old Photos

Taj Mahal Old Photos (1860)

Old Taj Mahal Images

Taj Mahal has been mentioned in the works of many notable poets, composers and artists all over the world. Famous Indian poet and composer Rabindranath Tagore described the palace as a teardrop on the cheeks of eternity.


Best Architecture Universities In New Zealand

What is the taj mahal architecture history photo timings. The taj mahal is one of the best creations of mughal architecture. It was built by shah jahan (mughal emperor) from 16321653. It took near about 20000 artists to construct taj mahal under the guidance of ustad ahmad lahauri (architect). Construction, architecture and architects of taj mahal, india. Construction, architecture and architects of taj mahal, india. It was made by emperor shah jahan for his third wife mumtaz mahal who died while giving birth to their 14th child after being in labor for 30 hours at the age of 40. Here’s a brief documentation about the construction of taj mahal. Was the architect of the taj mahal blinded image results. More was the architect of the taj mahal blinded images. 15 facts you might not know about the taj mahal mental floss. In order to protect the crypt of mumtaz mahal, chief architect ustad ahmad lahauri tilted the towers slightly so that they would fall away from the rest of the taj mahal, preventing the grave from. Myths and legends about taj mahal india tour packages. Myth no. 1 it is said that shah jahan was so blinded by his obsession to build something absolutely celestial and unique in the memory of his wife that as soon as construction of taj mahal finished, he ordered to cut off the hands of each sculptor, artisan and architect who contributed in building the monument. 10 awesome futuristic architecture projects you should know!. 10 futuristic architecture projects that will blow your mind! #1. Aequorea, the floating city. #2. Biopyramid. #3. Ecorium, south korea. #4. Cobra towers, kuwait. #5. Underwater hotel. #6. Dragonfly skyscraper, new york. #7. Nomad skyscrapers on mars. #8. Cloud capture. #9. Dawang.

Twenty facts about the taj mahal my india. The architecture of the taj mahal is a combination of indian, persian and islamic styles of architecture. The name of the architect of the taj mahal is ahmed lahauri. Futurist architecture design & characteristics study. Futurist architecture wikipedia. Futurist architecture is an early20th century form of architecture born in italy, characterized by strong chromaticism, long dynamic lines, suggesting speed, motion, urgency and lyricism it was a part of futurism, an artistic movement founded by the poet filippo tommaso marinetti, who produced its first manifesto, the manifesto of futurism, in 1909. Futurist architecture. · located in beijing, china, h house is a 2009 project by open architecture about interior and renovation. This leave a comment on h house complete renovation and interior fitout for a townhouse with “connection” concept. 30+ amazing futuristic architecture that can inspire you. 10 futuristic architecture projects that will blow your mind! #1. Aequorea, the floating city. #2. Biopyramid. #3. Ecorium, south korea. #4. Cobra towers, kuwait. #5. Underwater hotel. #6. Dragonfly skyscraper, new york. #7. Nomad skyscrapers on mars. #8. Cloud capture. #9. Dawang. Neofuturism wikipedia. This avantgarde movement is a futuristic rethinking of the aesthetic and functionality of rapidly growing cities. The industrialization that began worldwide following the end of the second world war gave wind to new streams of thought in life, art and architecture, leading to postmodernism, neomodernism and then neofuturism.


Taj Mahal Garden

The complex of the Taj Mahal is set about a large 300-metre (980 ft) four-sided charbagh or Mughal Garden. The garden uses elevated trails that distribute each of the four-quarters of the lawn into 16 sunken parterres or plots. There is a raised marble water tank with a sparkly pool located on a north-south axis to replicate the appearance of the tomb midway between the tomb and entry in the middle of the garden.

The garden is placed out with streets of plants labelled conferring to communal and scientific designations and fountains. The charbagh garden, a schemeenthused by Persian gardens, was presented to India by Babur, the very first Mughal emperor. It represents the four graceful rivers of Jannah (Paradise) and reproduces the Heaven garden resulting from the Persian paridaeza, signifying 'walled garden'.

In mystical Islamic manuscripts of the Mughal era, Paradise is labelled as aperfect garden of profusion with four rivers graceful flow out from a dominant spring or mountain, unravelling the garden into north, west, south and east.

Read more information about Taj Mahal Garden


The Taj Mahal

Shah Jahan was the fifth ruler of the Mughal dynasty. During his third regnal year, his favorite wife, known as Mumtaz Mahal, died due to complications arising from the birth of their fourteenth child. Deeply saddened, the emperor started planning the construction of a suitable, permanent resting place for his beloved wife almost immediately. The result of his efforts and resources was the creation of what was called the Luminous Tomb in contemporary Mughal texts and is what the world knows today as the Taj Mahal.

In general terms, Sunni Muslims favor a simple burial, under an open sky. But notable domed mausolea for Mughals (as well as for other Central Asian rulers) were built prior to Shah Jahan’s rule, so in this regard, the Taj is not unique. The Taj is, however, exceptional for its monumental scale, stunning gardens, lavish ornamentation, and its overt use of white marble.

Taj Mahal and Yamuna River (photo: Louis Vest, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The location

Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in Agra, where he took the throne in 1628. First conquered by Muslim invaders in the eleventh century, the city had been transformed into a flourishing area of trade during Shah Jahan’s rule. Situated on the banks of the Yamuna River allowed for easy access to water, and Agra soon earned the reputation as a “riverfront garden city,” on account of its meticulously planned gardens, lush with flowering bushes and fruit-bearing trees in the sixteenth century.

Paradise on Earth

Entrance, Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632-53

Entry to the Taj Mahal complex via the forecourt, which in the sixteenth century housed shops, and through a monumental gate of inlaid and highly decorated red sandstone made for a first impression of grand splendor and symmetry: aligned along a long water channel through this gate is the Taj—set majestically on a raised platform on the north end. The rectangular complex runs roughly 1860 feet on the north-south axis, and 1000 feet on the east-west axis.

Aerial view from Google Earth, Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632-53

The white-marble mausoleum is flanked on either side by identical buildings in red sandstone. One of these serves as a mosque, and the other, whose exact function is unknown, provides architectural balance.

The marble structure is topped by a bulbous dome and surrounded by four minarets of equal height. While minarets in Islamic architecture are usually associated with mosques—for use by the muezzin who leads the call to prayer—here, they are not functional, but ornamental, once again underscoring the Mughal focus on structural balance and harmony.

The interior floor plan of the Taj exhibits the hasht bishisht (eight levels) principle, alluding to the eight levels of paradise. Consisting of eight halls and side rooms connected to the main space in a cross-axial plan—the favored design for Islamic architecture from the mid-fifteenth century—the center of the main chamber holds Mumtaz Mahal’s intricately decorated marble cenotaph on a raised platform. The emperor’s cenotaph was laid down beside hers after he died three decades later—both are encased in an octagon of exquisitely carved white-marble screens. The coffins bearing their remains lie in the spaces directly beneath the cenotaphs.

Cenotaphs, Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632-53 (photo: Derek A Young, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Carving and inlaid stone, Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632-53 (photo: Martin Lambie, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Qur’anic verses inscribed into the walls of the building and designs inlaid with semi-precious stones—coral, onyx, carnelian, amethyst, and lapis lazuli—add to the splendor of the Taj’s white exterior. The dominant theme of the carved imagery is floral, showing some recognizable, and other fanciful species of flowers—another link to the theme of paradise

Some of the Taj Mahal’s architecture fuses aspects from other Islamic traditions, but other aspects reflect indigenous style elements. In particular, this is evident in the umbrella-shaped ornamental chhatris (dome shaped pavillions) atop the pavilions and minarets.

And whereas most Mughal-era buildings tended to use red stone for exteriors and functional architecture (such as military buildings and forts)—reserving white marble for special inner spaces or for the tombs of holy men, the Taj’s entire main structure is constructed of white marble and the auxiliary buildings are composed of red sandstone. This white-and-red color scheme of the built complex may correspond with principles laid down in ancient Hindu texts—in which white stood for purity and the priestly class, and red represented the color of the warrior class.

The gardens

Stretching in front of the Taj Mahal is a monumental char bagh garden. Typically, a char bagh was divided into four main quadrants, with a building (such as a pavilion or tomb) along its central axis. When viewed from the main gateway today, the Taj Mahal appears to deviate from this norm, as it is not centrally placed within the garden, but rather located at the end of a complex that is backed by the river, such as was found in other Mughal-era pleasure gardens.

View from the Mahtab Bagh, Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632-53 (photo: Steve Evans, CC BY-NC 2.0)

When viewed from the Mahtab Bagh, moonlight gardens, across the river, however, the monument appears to be centrally located in a grander complex than originally thought. This view, only possible when one incorporates the Yamuna River into the complex, speaks to the brilliance of the architect. Moreover, by raising the Taj onto an elevated foundation, the builders ensured that Shah Jahan’s funerary complex as well as the tombs of other Mughal nobles along with their attached gardens could be viewed from many angles along the river.

The garden incorporated waterways and fountains. This was a new type of gardening that was introduced to India by Babur, Shah Jahan’s great great grandfather in the sixteenth century. Given the passage of time and the intervention of many individuals in the garden since its construction, it is hard to determine the original planting and layout scheme of the garden beds at the Taj.

From the outset, the Taj was conceived of as a building that would be remembered for its magnificence for ages to come, and to that end, the best material and skills were employed. The finest marble came from quarries 250 miles away in Makrarna, Rajasthan. Mir Abd Al-Karim was designated as the lead architect. Abdul Haqq was chosen as the calligrapher, and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri was made the supervisor. Shah Jahan made sure that the principles of Mughal architecture were incorporated into the design throughout the building process.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1632-53 (photo: LASZLO ILYES, CC BY 2.0)

What the Taj Mahal represents

When Mumtaz Mahal died at age 38 in 1631, the emperor is reported to have refused to engage in court festivities, postponed two of his sons’ weddings, and allegedly made frequent visits to his wife’s temporary resting place (in Burhanpur) during the time it took for the building of the Taj to be completed. Stories like these have led to the Taj Mahal being referred to as an architectural “symbol of love” in popular literature. But there are other theories: one suggests that the Taj is not a funeral monument, and that Shah Jahan might have built a similar structure even if his wife had not died. Based on the metaphoric specificity of Qur’anic and other inscriptions and the emperor’s love of thrones, another theory maintains that the Taj Mahal is a symbolic representation of a Divine Throne—the seat of God—on the Day of Judgment. A third view holds that the monument was built to represent a replica of a house of paradise. In the “paradisiacal mansion” theory, the Taj was something of a vanity project, built to glorify Mughal rule and the emperor himself.

If his accession to the throne was smooth, Shah Jahan’s departure from it was not. The emperor died not as a ruler, but as a prisoner. Relegated to Agra Fort under house arrest for eight years prior to his death in 1666, Shah Jahan could enjoy only a distant view of the Taj Mahal. But the resplendent marble mausoleum he built “with posterity in mind” endures, more than 350 years after it was constructed, and is believed to be the most recognizable sight in the world today. Laid to rest beside his beloved wife in the Taj Mahal, the man once called Padshah—King of the World—enjoys enduring fame, too, for having commissioned the world’s most extravagant and memorable mausoleum.

Backstory

The Taj Mahal is one of the world’s great tourist attractions, hosting millions of visitors per year. Though it was designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and is currently overseen by the Archaeological Survey of India, its heavy visitor traffic is just one of the many factors that threaten the integrity of the site.

One of the biggest risk factors for the Taj Mahal is air pollution, which discolors the exterior and, some experts think, causes acid rain that deteriorates the marble. Air pollution is caused by a multitude of factors including industry, vehicle emissions, and the burning of household waste. The government of India designated an area called the Taj Trapezium Zone (named for its trapezoidal shape), a 10,400 square kilometer swath (about 4,000 square miles) of Agra encompassing the Taj Mahal as well as the Agra Fort and the historic Mughal settlement of Fatehpur Sikri. Oil refineries and coal-burning industries have been ordered to regulate their emissions or switch to natural gas within this zone, and most have complied.

There has also been a ban on auto traffic near the Taj Mahal, air quality monitors have been installed, and the Archaeological Survey of India has proposed a tourist cap and increased fees to limit visitor impact.

Another potential risk for the Taj Mahal is the drying up of the Yamuna River, which flows along the rear of the complex. The river has been partially dammed upstream from the Taj Mahal in order to augment municipal water supplies, and some argue that the changes in the soil due to the lower water table may be threatening the structural integrity of the monument. Various activists and scholars have claimed to have found cracks in the marble platform, sinking of the structure, and tipping of the minarets, though UNESCO asserts that

The physical fabric is in good condition and structural stability, nature of foundation, verticality of the minarets and other constructional aspects of Taj Mahal have been studied and continue to be monitored.

The Taj Mahal is rightly a top destination for millions of travelers. As global tourism grows and the economic pressures of industry continue to increase, the authorities who oversee the site must strive to implement legal and structural measures to ensure that this irreplaceable monument survives.

Backstory by Dr. Naraelle Hohensee

Additional resources:

Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor, translated, edited and annotated by Wheeler M. Thackston (Oxford University Press, 1996).

Milo C. Beach and Ebba Koch, King of the World: The Padshahnama, with new Translations by Wheeler Thackston (Thames and Hudson, 1997).

Wayne Begley, “The Myth of the Taj Mahal and a New Theory of its Symbolic Meaning,” Art Bulletin, vol 61, no 1, March 1979, pp. 7-37.

Vidya Dehejia, Indian Art (Phaidon, 1997).

Ebba Koch, Mughal Architecture: An Outline of its History and Development (1526-1858) (Neues Publishing Company, 1991).

______, The Complete Taj Mahal and the Riverfront Gardens of Agra (Thames and Hudson, 2006).

______, “The Taj Mahal: Architecture, Symbolism and Urban Significance,” Muqarnas, vol. 22, 2005.

George Michell, George and Amit Pasricha, Mughal Architecture and Gardens (Antique Collectors’ Club, 2011).

D. Fairchild Ruggles, “A Garden in Landscape,” in Islamic Gardens and Landscapes: Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).


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