The Taj Mahal: An Enduring Landmark of Love

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The Taj Mahal: An Enduring Landmark of Love

 

Among all the many temples and landmarks throughout India, the Taj Mahal is undoubtedly the most iconic and internationally recognized of them all. See a photograph of the Taj Mahal and one automatically thinks of India. Not only is it a widely recognized monument but it is, in fact, considered as one of the greatest architectural achievements in all of Indo-Islamic culture.


The Taj Mahal

What, of course, fascinates many is the love story that the Taj Mahal symbolizes. The special monument was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahah in honor of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who was steadfastly by his side since they married in 1612. Unfortunately, Mumtaz Mahal passed away while giving birth to their fourteenth child in June of 1631. During that same year, Emperor Shah Jahan began plans to build the Taj Mahal in memory of his late wife.

 

Mumtaz Mahal

Construction of the Taj Mahal began the following year in 1632. The right bank of the Yamuna River in the Agra District of Uttar Pradesh was the chosen location for the monument. Ustad-Ahmad Lahori was considered the main architect who oversaw the design and construction of the Taj Mahal amidst the nearly seventeen hectares of land. It is said that more than twenty thousand workers, including stone-cutters, masons, inlayers, carvers, dome builders, painters, calligraphers and many other artisans, from all over India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe were specially commissioned to bring the Taj Mahal to life.

 

The Taj Mahal

The design of the Taj Mahal features the harmonious design of five principal elements. These elements include the main gateway, a lush garden, the mosque, the jawab structure which mirrors the mosque, and the mausoleum that includes its four minarets or steeples. The design and construction also remained true to the rules of Mughal building practice, which did not allow for any subsequent additions or alterations to the structure. In fact, its design is recognized as one of the very finest examples of Mughal architecture, seamlessly and beautifully blending Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles.

Golden India Taj Mahal

The grand mausoleum itself is constructed of ivory-white marble. Its four facades are almost identical in their design, featuring a wide central arch at the apex and slanted corners with smaller arches at both sides. The eye-catching and iconic central dome of the mausoleum is two hundred forty feet high and is bordered by four smaller domes. The inside of the mausoleum is designed around a marble chamber that has an octagonal shape and is embellished with carvings and semi-precious stones. Within this is the cenotaphs of both Mumtaz Mahal and Emperor Shah Jahan, which are enclosed by a marble screen with a fine filigree design. Beneath the cenotaphs, at garden level, is where the true sarcophagi of the couple lay in rest.

 

Procession Afore The Taj Mahal


On either side of the mausoleum, at the northwestern and northeastern sides, are the mosque and its jawab. The symmetrically identical structures are facing in opposite directions, with the mosque facing east and the jawab facing west. Both the mosque and the jawab are built of red Sikri sandstone with marble domes at the top.

The garden of the Taj Mahal was designed following classic Mughal lines. It’s a square garden that features long water pools, fountains, walking paths, and trees. The garden leads from the gateway to the mausoleum, creating a grand path towards the white marble mausoleum, which is reflected in the pools of water.

Mughal Procession at Taj Mahal

The main gateway of the Taj Mahal is at the southern end of the complex. Made of red sandstone, the grand gateway features a tall recessed central arch that is bordered by white marble paneling featuring inlaid calligraphy and floral designs. On either side of the marble paneling are two pairs of smaller arches. The design of the gateway also includes identical rows of white chhattris, which are elevated umbrella- or canopy-like structures at the top of its northern and southern facades. At the ends of both rows of chhattris structures, on the four corners of the gateway, are octagonal towers that each have even larger chhattris at the top.

Taj Mahal: World Heritage Series

The massive complex of the Taj Mahal, with all of its structures, and the intricate designs and details of every element took years to complete. After construction began in 1632, it wasn’t until 1948 that the mausoleum was completed. Other elements, including the mosque, gateway, guesthouse, and courtyard weren’t completed until 1953. All in all, it took about twenty-two years to create the entire Taj Mahal complex at an estimated cost of 32 million rupees, which today, would be about 70 billion rupees or 1 billion US dollars.

Taj Mahal Lovers' Story

In 1983, the Taj Mahal, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” The name Taj Mahal has Persian origins with tāj meaning “crown” and maħall meaning “palace.” It is indeed a crown jewel in India’s rich history and, of course, Mahal is also the surname of Mumtaz Mahal, for whom Emperor Shah Jahan dedicated the very creation of the landmark to. Until this day, millions of people from all over the world travel to India to set their eyes on their enduring symbol of love.

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