The Marble Masterpiece
The Marble Masterpiece
What is it which draws in millions of tourists annually from the developed countries of West to India? It is the rich cultural and historical heritage encompassed within the borders of this yet developing country. The multitude of magnificent temples, mosques, mausoleums, forts and minarets which speak of a great history and impeccable architecture draw maximum number of curious tourists from all over the world to India. And one monument surmounts every other specimen of ancient art and architecture in the world- the Taj Mahal. It is a white marble mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the loving memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Situated in the city of Agra in India, it is regarded as one of the wonders of world. As Tillitson wrote in Architectural Guide to Mughal India (1990), the Taj was built in almost twenty years- from 1632 to 1653.
Taj Mahal is one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in the world. Though it has the shades of Indian, Islamic, Persian and Turkish architectural styles too, but it is basically a specimen of Mughal art and architecture (Hasan, 1994). The huge marble tomb on a colossal marble platform with four minarets surrounding it, the picturesque garden spread across the premises with water pools and a huge gateway which welcomes the visitors- these are the
typical traits of Mughal architecture. It is built on the banks of River Yamuna in such a way that it is visible from a particular room in Agra Fort which is several miles away from Taj. Shah Jahan spent his last days in the very room from where he could behold Taj, the resting place of his wife. Taj is undoubtedly the symbol of love in Indian culture and history. But it is also an equally colossal symbol of fine architecture- construction as well as motifs.
The chief architect Mohammed Hanif and Ustad Isa along with the herculean efforts of more than 20,000 architects and workers including carvers, stone cutters, marble cutters and sculptors together built Taj Mahal (History of Taj Mahal).
The external as well as internal architecture of the Taj is so intricate and magnificent that it is worth a detailed analysis. The 300 metre square Mughal garden has several pathways to walk by flowers and water pools. The sprawling premises have a huge Taj Mahal mosque, a museum and a brilliantly crafted gateway. Built in red sandstone, marble and precious rocks, each building in the Taj Mahal complex is extremely well-built, embellished with intricate patterns, motifs and designs on walls and windows and mainly exhibit Mughal Islamic architecture (Islamic Architecture).
The Taj Mahal exhibits great pietra dura decoration with vining floral designs (Islamic architecture). The walls are all-embraced with well-designed floral patterns. There is an extensive use of calligraphic inscriptions in huge as well as miniature black letters. Lines from the holy Quran, relics, odes written to the Taj Mahal as well as Shah Jahan and excerpts from religious writings- these are very skilfully engraved, embossed and carved on several walls. The influence of Indian architectural styles is also evident in some portions where floral and animal art has been used. Be it a floral pattern or a short verse inscriptions from the Qur'an- every aspect of art in Taj Mahal is perfect. It is such a contrasting feature that the enormous size of Taj Mahal mesmerises the beholder on one hand and on the other, there are
intricate patterns and very fine ornamentations sprinkled all over the Taj- in the main tomb, the mosque, the museum, the minarets and the gateway.
The interior walls in Taj Mahal are an example of fine carving. With the octagonal marble screen or jaali or netted design all over and sun motifs on the inner walls, the semiprecious and precious stones adorning many a motifs and the decorative funerary chambers are one of the most beautiful features of Taj. The main tomb has 16 chambers with eight chambers each on two levels which surround the octagonal funerary chamber. Inside lies the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan in marble balusters studded with precious stones along with decorative calligraphic inscriptions with religious significance and designs of perforated marble. The delicate pierce work on many a walls show how it has been accomplished with a combination of skill and hard work.
The Taj Mahal is the proudest instance of fine architecture in India. Its historical as well as architectural significance is so high that it is enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With an unparalleled beauty in every brick of it, the Taj is a monument to admire and analyse. And the story behind its construction makes it an epitome of love as well.
History of TajMahal Agra. http://www.agrahub.com/taj-mahal-agra/history-of-the-tajmahal.html. Retrieved on January 26, 2013
"The Taj mahal". Islamic architecture. Islamic Arts and Architecture Organization. http://www.islamicart.com/library/empires/india/taj_mahal.html Retrieved on January 26, 2013
Tillitson, G.H.R. (1990). Architectural Guide to Mughal India, Chronicle Books.