Taj Mahal Architecture
The city of Agra is world famous for the Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan in memory of his beloved wife. However, it is also famous for the Agra Fort, which is a veritable treasure trove of the Mughal architectural tradition. The various buildings within this sprawling fort complex represent the assimilation of different cultures, which was the mark of the Mughal period.
MUGHAL STYLE OF ARCHITECTURE
The structure of Taj Mahal adheres to the Islamic style (Mughal style) of architecture, which flourished in India during the medieval period. The Islamic style of architecture is also referred to as the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. This magnificent monument is set around a Charbagh or ‘four garden’ plan, which is split by watercourses - a reflection of the Persian style. The Taj Mahal itself is not set within the Charbagh but is located towards the far end of the enclosure near the bank of river Yamuna.
Taj Mahal is built on a high plinth, which has four tapering minarets at each corner. At the center of this plinth is an octagonal structure comprising of a central hall, with four smaller halls grouped around it. A central bulbous dome stands atop the roof of the Taj that is surrounded by four chhatris (domed canopy, supported by pillars, mainly seen in Hindu or local monuments and sometimes in Islamic buildings). The Taj Mahal is a two-storied structure, each having arched recesses with a highly decorated iwan in the middle. The tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shahjahan are actually located in the basement, while their replicas are placed directly above in the upper hall.
The Taj Mahal is entirely made of white marble and its pure white walls are decorated with exquisite pietra dura (stone inlay) work. It is said that different types of precious and semi-precious stones were used in the intricate inlay work done on Taj Mahal.
In spite of its massive proportions, Taj Mahal looks weightless and airy. Each section of this unique monument blends harmoniously with each other to create a perfect unit. The Taj Mahal and the gardens in front of it can be approached through an arched gateway.
TAJ MAHAL - THE GATEWAY
The garden according to the holy Koran is symbolic of paradise. As Islam was born in the arid region of Arabia, the vision of a lush green, well-laid out and watered garden came to be associated with life and paradise. In the course of time green became symbolic of Islam. Muslims also venerate water because it was scare in the Arabian Desert- the birthplace of Islam. According to Islam there are four rivers in paradise one each of water, milk, wine and honey. The concept of these four rivers flowing through the garden of paradise led to the Charbagh style of garden planning.
Leaving the entrance gateway you can see a sprawling garden in front of you, which goes all the way up to the plinth of the Taj Mahal. The beauty of the Taj Mahal is accentuated by the garden laid out in the Persian Charbagh (four garden plan) style. The entire area of the Taj complex is 580 m (1,902 ft) by300 m (984 ft), while the garden alone makes up an area of 300 m (984 ft) by 300 m (984 ft).
The Mughals originated from the arid regions of Central Asia. They never quiet lost their longing for water and often created well laid out gardens with canals and different waterworks. In the course of time they started building tombs, which were located at the center of beautiful gardens. The Taj Mahal has an impressive watercourse, which neatly divides the garden into four equal parts and heightens the flawless symmetry of the entire complex.
The canals and waterworks within the Charbagh provide a grand reflection of the Taj, further emphasizing the imagery of the paradise. The Muslims regard the Koran as a mirror image of a tablet in heaven, while the ‘Tree of Life’ grows upside down in the garden within the paradise. The architects who built the Taj Mahal made the canals and the waterworks in the garden, with the purpose of generating an upside down image of the Taj, to gel with the divine inspiration.
After the completion of Taj Mahal each garden within the Charbagh was divided into 16 flowerbeds, making a total of 64. It is said that each flowerbed was planted with 400 plants. Trees were planted carefully in accordance with the symmetry of the overall plan. The trees, which were generally preferred, were either cypress (Cuprussus) (signifying death) or different fruit bearing trees (signifying life). These trees housed some of the most exotic birds, all of which added to the breathtaking environs of the Taj. The water channels crisscrossing the garden used to be full of colorful fish of various species. Special care was taken to maintain the garden, its waterworks as members of the royal family frequented it and stayed in the guesthouse (mehmankhana) near it.
TAJ MAHAL - THE MAUSOLEUM
The central path within the garden leads you to the Taj Mahal, which is placed on a high plinth (platform). The plinth is 6.7 m (21.98 ft) high and covers an area of 95 sq m (1,022.57 square feet). A double staircase facing the entrance to the tomb is the only way, which takes you on top of it. This plinth or pedestal is an ideal place from where you can have a panoramic view of the surroundings, which includes the lush green Charbagh in the front and the riverfront at the backside. From here, you can also admire the white towering structure of the Taj.
There are four elegant tapering minarets, one on each corner of the plinth. Each of the minarets is 41.6 m (136.48 ft) high and is capped by a small cupola. The minarets, not only balance the main structure of the mausoleum, but are also placed in such a way that in case of a mishap, they do not fall over the main edifice. Each pillar has a letter written on it, which put together spell the word ar-rahman (all merciful) - one of the many names of Allah.
The main structure of the Taj Mahal is square and is beveled at its corners. Each side of the Taj Mahal is 56.6 m (185.69 ft) long. On each facade arched recesses arranged in two stories flank a high iwan in the center. The top border of the iwan on each side rises higher than the rest of façade, thus concealing the neck of the dome behind it.
A central bulbous dome crowns the magnificent structure. This dome is furthersurrounded by four chhatris (domed canopy, supported by pillars/cupola). Each of which is topped by a small finial. The dome is an important component of the Islamic style of architecture, as it is believed to be a link between heaven and earth. While the square structure of the edifice represents the material world, the dome symbolizes the vault of heaven. The octagonal part symbolizes the transitional phase between heaven and earth. The dome is topped by a brass finial, whose tip rises to a height of 73 m above the ground. Above the finial is the realm of transcendence. The entire structure of the dome is designed as a replica of God’s throne in paradise, where a gigantic pearl dome stands supported by four corner pillars. According to Islam the rivers of grace flow through this dome. The outer walls of the Taj Mahal are decorated in a number of places with shallow marble carving apart from the elegant pietra dura work, which can be seen near arched recesses and borders.
The entrance to the tomb leads you to the central hall, which houses the false tombs and has four small octagonal halls, grouped around it. The original graves are located in a crypt, which is directly below the central hall. The four smaller rooms were originally created for housing the graves of other members of the royal family. The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, in whose honor the Taj Mahal was built, lies directly below the dome. The tomb is placed in such a manner that it is in direct alignment with the main entrance. The tomb of Shahjahan is much larger and is placed next to that of his beloved queen.
The tombs are decorated with exquisite pietra dura (stone inlay) work. Apart from unexcelled inlay work the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is inscribed by 99 different names of Allah. It is said that the royal graves once laid inside a gem encrusted gold railing, which was later removed and replaced by an octagonal, all marble lattice (jali-perforated screen) screen of the most exquisite craftsmanship. Delicate inlay work can be seen on the surface of the screen. The floral decorations on the screen are amazing. Some flowers created on the screen are made up of as many as 64 pieces. The different sections of the screen are carved out of a single piece of marble. Various sections of the screen are joined together with gilded fasteners and the entrance is fashioned out of jasper, in the Turkish style.
Apart from the decorations on the tombs and the intricately carved out marble screen in the central hall, the outer walls of the Taj are decorated with low relief marble carving of sheer elegance. But it is the pietra dura or inlay work on the interior of the Taj as well as on its exteriors that is beyond compare. Its beauty, intricacy, flowing lines and floral patterns, belie the fact that all of it had been achieved by the extremely slow and painstaking process involving the use of the chisel on the hard surface of the marble. There is pietra dura work everywhere in the Taj-on the tombs, on the cenotaph and on the main edifice. It is said that as many as 35 different types of precious and semi-precious stones were used in the inlay work done on the Taj. Turquoise, jade, agate, coral, lapis lazuli, onyx, bloodstone, carnelian, jasper, garnet and malachite were used to decorate flowers like lily and honeysuckle. Carnelian and lapis lazuli were preferred for their color and luminosity. Today much is left to imagination as much of the inlay work has been stripped of its precious and semi-precious stones by plunderers down the years.
Enquire Now For Taj Mahal Architecture