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The Taj Mahal | The Symbol of Love

Written by Architecture Student.

Introduction

Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his dear wife and queen Mumtaz Mahal at Agra, India. Taj Mahal (meaning Crown Palace) is a Mausoleum that houses the grave of queen Mumtaz Mahal at the lower chamber. The grave of Shah Jahan was added to it later.



The Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. It is situated on the banks of river Yamuna.

Taj Mahal is built entirely of white marble. Its stunning architectural beauty is beyond adequate description, particularly at dawn and sunset.

Timeline

Building began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, and employed thousands of artisans and craftsmen. The construction of the Taj Mahal was entrusted to a board of architects under imperial supervision. Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer of the Taj Mahal.

Structure Details

Taj Mahal is an integrated complex of many structures and a large garden. The Taj Mahal complex is surrounded on three sides by red sandstone walls, with the river-facing side left open.

Exterior of Taj Mahal

This large, white marble structure stands on a square plinth and consists of a symmetrical building with an iwan (an arch-shaped doorway) topped by a large dome and finial (decoration on the spire).

The base structure is essentially a large, multi-chambered cube with chamfered corners, forming an unequal octagon that is approximately 55 metres (180 ft) on each of the four long sides. On each of these sides, a massive pishtaq, or vaulted archway, frames the iwan with two similarly shaped, arched balconies stacked on either side. This motif of stacked pishtaqs is replicated on the chamfered corner areas, making the design completely symmetrical on all sides of the building. Four minarets frame the tomb, one at each corner of the plinth facing the chamfered corners. The main chamber houses the false graves of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; the actual graves are at a lower level.

The marble dome that surmounts the tomb is the most spectacular feature. Its height of around 35 metres (115 ft) is about the same as the length of the base, and is accentuated as it sits on a cylindrical "drum" which is roughly 7 metres (23 ft) high. Because of its shape, the dome is often called an onion dome or amrud (guava dome). The top is decorated with a lotus design, which also serves to accentuate its height. The shape of the dome is emphasised by four smaller domed chattris (kiosks) placed at its corners, which replicate the onion shape of the main dome. Their columned bases open through the roof of the tomb and provide light to the interior. Tall decorative spires (guldastas) extend from edges of base walls, and provide visual emphasis to the height of the dome. The lotus motif is repeated on both the chattris and guldastas. The dome and chattris are topped by a gilded finial, which mixes traditional Persian and Hindu decorative elements.

The minarets are each more than 40 metres (130 ft) tall and are symmetrical. They were designed as working minarets for a mosque. Each minaret is effectively divided into three equal parts by two working balconies that ring the tower. At the top of the tower is a final balcony surmounted by a chattri that mirrors the design of those on the tomb. The chattris all share the same decorative elements of a lotus design topped by a gilded finial.

Interior of Taj Mahal

The inner chamber is an octagon with the design allowing for entry from each face, although only the south garden-facing door is used. The interior walls are about 25 metres (82 ft) high and topped by a "false" interior dome decorated with a sun motif. Eight pishtaq arches define the space at ground level and, as with the exterior, each lower pishtaq is crowned by a second pishtaq about midway up the wall. The four central upper arches form balconies or viewing areas, and each balcony's exterior window has an intricate screen or jali cut from marble. In addition to the light from the balcony screens, light enters through roof openings which are covered by chattris at the corners. Each chamber wall has been highly decorated with dado bas relief, intricate lapidary inlay and refined calligraphy panels, reflecting in miniature detail the design elements seen throughout the exterior of the complex. The octagonal marble screen or jali which borders the cenotaphs is made from eight marble panels which have been carved through with intricate pierce work. The remaining surfaces have been inlaid in extremely delicate detail with semiprecious stones forming twining vines, fruits and flowers.

The Garden

The complex is set around a large 300 metre square Mughal garden, which was inspired by Persian gardens. The garden uses raised pathways that divide each of the four quarters of the garden into 16 sunken flowerbeds. A raised marble water tank at the center of the garden, halfway between the tomb and gateway with a reflecting pool on a north-south axis, reflects the image of the mausoleum. Elsewhere, the garden is laid out with avenues of trees and fountains.

Materials Used

The Taj Mahal is almost entirely built using the finest White Marble in the world. The marble has been polished to emphasise the exquisite detailing of the carvings and the dado frames and archway spandrels have been decorated with inlays of vines, flowers and fruits. The inlay stones are of yellow marble, jasper and jade, polished and leveled to the surface of the walls.

In the Interior, the inlay work displays a fine workmanship of precious and semiprecious gemstones.
Taj Mahal happens to be one of the most widely recognized monuments in the world, and is the number one destination for tourists coming to India.

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