Principles of Shahjahani Architecture and as they are expressed in the Taj Mahal:
The complex of the Taj Mahal explores the potential of the riverfront garden as both an ideal funerary and a utilitarian worldly construct; it also expresses in canonical form the architectural
principles of the period.
- Rational and strict geometry.
- Perfect symmetrical planning with an emphasis on bilateral symmetry (qarina) along a central axis of the main features. In a typical Shahjahani qarina scheme two symmetrical features flank a dominant central feature.
- A hierarchical grading of materials, forms and colours.
- Triadic divisions bound together in proportional formulas. These determine the shape of plans, elevations and architectural Ornament.
- Uniformity of shapes, ordered by hierarchical accents.
- Sensuous attention to detail.
- A selective use of naturalism.
These principles govern the entire architecture of Shah Jahan. They are expressed most grandly and most consistently in the Taj Mahal.
The architecture was to express this concept through perfect symmetry, harmonious proportional relationships, and the translucent white marble facing which gives the purity of the geometrical and rational planning the desired unworldly appearance. The mausoleum is raised over an enriched version of the nine-fold plan favoured by the Mughals for tombs and garden pavilions.
A variant is used in the great gate. In the mausoleum the plan is expressed in perfect cross-axial symmetry, so that the building is focused on the central tomb chamber. And the inner organization is reflected on the facades, which present a perfectly balanced composition when seen from the extensions of the axes which generate the plan.
Bilateral symmetry dominated by a central accent has generally been recognized as an ordering principle of the architecture of rulers aiming at absolute power, as an expression of the ruling force which brings about balance and harmony, 'a striking symbol of the stratification of aristocratic society under centralized authority'. A symmetric grading down to the minutest ornamental detail, particularly striking is die-hierarchical use of colour. The only building in the whole complex entirely raced with white marble is the mausoleum. This hierarchic use of white marble and red sandstone is typical of imperial Mughal architecture
Thus the entire Taj complex consisted of two components, each following the riverfront garden design; the chahar bagh and terrace; a true riverfront garden and a landlocked variant in the configuration of the two subsidiary units, where the rectangle Jilaukhana corresponded to the riverfront terrace, and the cross-axial bazaar and caravanserai element to the chahar bagh. That lost complex was an integral part of the Taj Mahal, forming its counter-image, according to the basic Shahjahani architectural principle of symmetrical correspondence.
The historians and poets of Shah Jahan state that the Taj Mahal was to represent an earthly replica of the house of Mumtaz Mahal in the gardens of Paradise. This must not be dismissed as Shahjahani court rhetoric: it truly expresses the programme of the mausoleum. In order to realize the idea of the hatological garden house as closely as possible, the canonical out of previous imperial mausoleums, where the building stood at the centre of a cross-axially planned garden or chahar bagh, is abandoned, and the riverfront design that had become the prevailing residential garden type of Agra was chosen instead, and raised to a monumental scale.
The interaction between residential and funerary genres had characterized Mughal architecture from the beginning. In the Taj Mahal the aim was to perfect the riverfront garden and enlarge it to a scale beyond the reach of ordinary mortals, to create here on earth and in the Mughal city paradisiacal garden palace for the deceased.
Ground Layout of The Taj Mahal Complex
The main north-south axis runs through the garden canal and the bazaar street. On it are set the
dominant features: the mausoleum, the pool, the great gate, the Jilaukhana, the southern gate of
the Jilaukhana, and the chauk (square) of the bazaar and caravanserai complex.