TAJ MAHAL - AGRA - FEBRUARY 2008
Prince Khurram, as Shah Jahan was known before becoming the fifth Mughal Emperor, fell in love with the beautiful Arjumand Bano Begum (later known as Mumtaz Mahal - the Chosen One) and married her, making her his third (and favourite) wife.
Muntaz Mahal died while giving birth to their fourteenth child. Whether she asked for it or not, the emperor decided to build an immense mausoleum to honour the memory of his beloved. The result is an elegy in marble, the finest example of Mughal architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, a symbol of endless love and a magnificent monument that astonishes anyone who experiences a visit there!
Built between 1631 and 1653, the entire complex consists of five major components, namely Darwaza (the main gateway), Bageecha (the beautifully laid out walled gardens), Masjid (the mosque), Naqqar Khana (the rest house) and Rauza (the mausoleum). Soon after the Taj Mahal's completion, Shah Jahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort, from where he could see the Taj Mahal. Upon Shah Jahan's death, Aurangzeb buried him in the Taj next to his wife.
The white marble structure acquires different shades at different times of the day and with changing seasons. And of course, the top experience would be, according to the chronicles, the moonlit night view of the Taj. However, that seems to be impossible, as the monument is closed for public viewing at night. A true fairy tale!
"DARWAZA - The Taj gateway is a tall niche doorway in the shape of an ogival arch that rises till the mid-height of the structure"
"DECORATION - With a vertical symmetry, the main gateway stands bordered with Arabic calligraphy of verses from the Quran, made up of black stone. Flowers, leaves and vines ornament the sides of the niche. These motifs were formed by semi-precious stones inlaid in the marble"
"DARWAZA - The main gateway seen from the middle platform in the gardens. A bit misty..."
"MOSQUE - On the western side there is a red sandstone mosque used for prayer purposes. Adorned with pietra dura on the outside, the mosque has four octagonal towers and three domes"
"NAQQAR KHANA - Opposite to the mosque, on the eastern side, there is the rest house, a twin of the mosque. It is built exactly like the mosque, and people believe that it was constructed to conserve the symmetry of Taj Mahal"
"THE COLOURS OF INDIA"
"COMING CLOSER - The tomb stands on a square plinth and consists of a symmetrical building with an arch-shaped doorway, topped by a large dome"
"MAIN IWAN - An iwan is defined at Wikipedia «as a vaulted hall or space, walled on three sides, with one end entirely open». A trademark of the Persian Sassanid architecture, iwans became a fundamental unit in Islamic architecture"
"EXTERIOR DECORATION - Borrowing from Wikipedia «The exterior decorations of the Taj Mahal are among the finest to be found in Mughal architecture. [...] The decorative elements were created by applying paint or stucco, or by stone inlays or carvings. In line with the Islamic prohibition against the use of anthropomorphic forms, the decorative elements can be grouped into either calligraphy, abstract forms or vegetative motifs. The calligraphy found in Taj Mahal are of florid thuluth script[...]. Higher panels are written slightly larger to reduce the skewing effect when viewing from below. Throughout the complex, passages from the Qur'an are used as decorative elements. [...] As one enters through Taj Mahal Gate, the calligraphy reads «O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you». Abstract forms are used especially in the plinth, minarets, gateway, mosque, jawab, and to a lesser extent, on the surfaces of the tomb. [...] Vegetative motifs are found at the lower walls of the tomb. [...] The dado frames and archway spandrels have been decorated with pietra dura inlays of highly stylised, almost geometric vines, flowers and fruits. The inlay stones are yellow marble, jasper and jade, levelled and polished to the surface of the walls». No photos allowed inside the tomb..."
"MINARET AND DOME"