Taj Mahal in Agra
Taj Mahal at Agra – This monument continues to enthrall visitors with its unmatched beauty and precision, ensuring its place in the list of the world’s seven wonders for generations to come. Twenty-two long years were spent on crafting this wonderful masterpiece from white marble and semi-precious stones. Under the supervision of architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri from Persia, sculpture artists from Bukhara, calligraphy experts from Syria and Persia and inlay specialists from southern India translated Shah Jahan’s sentiments on stone.
In 1653, Shah Jahan’s memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal was unveiled. Then and now, symmetry is what strikes the casual visitor to the Taj Mahal, and the exquisite floral carvings and pietra dura inlays. The Taj Mahal is a perfect fusion of Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles.
The tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are encased within. Its white marble dome is its most striking feature, touching almost 35 metres from its base, and topped by a bronze finial which was originally made of gold. Four smaller domes placed on its corners highlight the larger dome in the centre. Highly ornate spires add to the visual appeal of the central structure.
Four forty feet high minarets grace the Taj Mahal’s central structure, with balconies dividing it into three levels, and the top covered by a “chhattri”. The exterior walls of the monument are adorned with calligraphy, floral motifs and geometric, abstract forms. Verses from the Quran carefully selected by the Persian calligrapher have been etched with jasper on the marble pishtaqs.
The interiors of the Taj Mahal display lapidary art using precious and semi-precious stones. The ceiling, intricately carved again with a sun motif is 25 metres high. “Jaali” work on the balcony walls permit the passage of sunlight into the interiors. The “jaali” screens which serve as the walls around the cenotaphs are finely carved.
Keeping the Islamic tradition of a simple grave, these have been left unadorned, though the base and casket are again richly decorated with semi-precious stones and calligraphic inscriptions in praise of Mumtaz. Shah Jahan’s cenotaph, asymmetrically placed to the right of Mumtaz is larger, but similarly embellished with lapidary and calligraphy.
The characteristic “charbagh” or Mughal gardens complement this awesome monument, using raised pathways to divide the four quarters. The marble water tank leading halfway up to the tomb from the gateway adds to the allure of the Taj Mahal as it reflects the entire monument in its shimmering waters. Later date discoveries of a moonlight garden, the Mahtab Bagh behind the monument suggest that the Yamuna perhaps flowed through the Taj Mahal site.
The Taj Mahal complex is enclosed within red sandstone walls, except for the side facing the river. Smaller tombs of Shah Jahan’s other wives lie outside the complex. Within the boundary walls on the far end on either side are a mosque and a guesthouse.