Welcome to a new architectural masterpiece presentation! Today’s objective will drive us back to the magnificent Indian building that is widely considered among the greatest samples of architecture of all times – Taj Mahal. Not only the sheer epic grandeur of this mausoleum, but also the story kept behind the white marble walls are, maybe, the best reasons for its uniqueness – let’s find out about this jewel of Islamic architecture!
The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal is widely recognized as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. Taj Mahal is regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian and Indian architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen. The construction of the Taj Mahal was entrusted to a board of architects under imperial supervision, including Abd ul-Karim Ma’mur Khan, Makramat Khan, and Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. Lahauri is generally considered to be the principal designer.
The tomb is the central focus of the entire complex of the 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. Like most Mughal tombs, the basic elements are Persian in origin. On each of the four sides, a huge pishtaq, or vaulted archway, frames the iwan with two similarly shaped, arched balconies stacked on either side. For this reason, the design is symmetrical on all sides of the building. Four minarets frame the tomb, one at each corner of the plinth facing the chamfered corners.
The dome is considered to be the most spectacular feature of Taj Mahal, Due to its shape, it is known an onion dome. It is around 35 metres in height and it also stays on a 7 metres high cylindrical ‘drum’ which accentuates its height. The top of it is also decorated with a lotus design. The dome is surrounded by 4 smaller domed chattris (kiosks) replicating its onion shape.
The minarets were constructed slightly outside of the plinth so that, in the event of collapse, (a typical occurrence with many tall constructions of the period) the material from the towers would tend to fall away from the tomb.
The exterior decorations of the Taj Mahal are among the finest in Mughal architecture. They are either arabic calligraphy (passages from the Quran), abstract forms or vegetative motifs.
The interior chamber of the Taj Mahal steps far beyond traditional decorative elements. The interior walls are about 25 metres high and are topped by a “false” interior dome decorated with a sun motif. 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 complex is set around a large 300-metre (980 ft) square charbagh or Mughal garden. 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.
The Taj Mahal complex is bounded on three sides by crenellated red sandstone walls, with the river-facing side left open. Outside the walls are several additional mausoleums.
The main gateway (darwaza) is a monumental structure built primarily of marble which is reminiscent of Mughal architecture of earlier emperors. At the far end of the complex, there are two grand red sandstone buildings that are open to the sides of the tomb. Their backs parallel the western and eastern walls, and the two buildings are precise mirror images of each other. The western building is a mosque and the other is the jawab (answer), whose primary purpose was architectural balance, although it may have been used as a guesthouse. These outlying buildings were completed in 1643.
Myths about Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal means the’ Place of the Crown’ because; Taj means “Crown” and Mahal means “place”. There are several myths about Taj Mahal.
According to one of the myths, the construction is sinking and it is known that in spite of all the precautions, cracks were discovered in it just 4 years after its completion and that it was tilting towards the riverside.
According to another myth a number of items such as diamonds, a gold leaf which covered the part of the dome, a pearl blanket etc that were originally a part of the Taj were stolen.
It is also told that Shah Jahan got the hands of his sculptors and architects cut off so that they would never be able to build a monument as magnificent and beautiful as the Taj again and he even got their eyes pulled out so that they would never be able to witness anything bigger and more beautiful than the monument that they had built during their lifetime.
Also, check out my drawing of Taj Mahal, posted some time ago!