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The Taj! OVERVIEW I Taj Grandstand View


"A white marble tomb built in 1631 - 48 in Agra, seat of the Mughal Empire, by Shah Jehan for his wife, Arjuman Banu Begum, the monument sums up many of the formal themes that have played through Islamic architecture. Its refined elegance is a conspicuous contrast both to the Hindu architecture of pre-Islamic India, with its thick walls, corbelled arches and heavy lintels, and to the Indo-Islamic styles, in which Hindu elements are combined with an eclecticassortment of motifs from Persian and Turkish sources."
______ Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman Architecture: from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. p223


The Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."

The Taj! An awe-inspiring poetry in marble stands high and serene by the banks of the River Yamuna is an inspiring result of the application of architectural and scientific research.

The tomb laid out in rectangular shape can be approached through an immense gateway with huge arch and alcoves strewn on either side that stands tall and erect, as though guarding something precious. Three other smaller gateways follow the red sandstone towers topped with domes in white marble together make a pretty picture.

The Taj is an experience of its own kind, while on the one hand its magnanimity is so sublime, so on the other the exquisite inlay work and detailed craftsmanship together with the calligraphy is simply amazing. The combination simply leaves one absolutely mesmerized. The sheer splendour of the mausoleum is consummate, and the vastness is simply monumental.

The tomb is at the northern end with an expanse of greenery and fountains between it and the gateways. The ceiling is adorned with floral patterns and the décor of floors with geometric designs. The inner of the main structure is in lakhauri [a kind of earthen brick], which have been carefully covered with marble, whereas the adjoining structures are covered with red sandstone.

Majestic and sensuous, glistening brightly in the afternoon sun, the bulbous dome and minarets with a slight inward tilt, have all been inscribed meticulously with the Holy Verses bringingforth the arabesque ornamentation. The white marble from Makrana in Rajasthan has added its own natural beauty to this mausoleum that attracts tourists from all over the world.

As one goes around, the most breathtaking part remains the exquisite inlay work that looks up from every nook and corner of the façade. The blooms are worked out in immense detail and every dot and alphabet of the Holy Quran is neatly etched, cut and inlaid to perfection. The flowers, chiefly lilies mirror the Mughal love for gardens. One particular flower on the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is said to have been inlaid with 35 different precious stones. Thecentral hall is surrounded by eight rooms that have a corridor running through them. The aura of serenity is all pervading, while translucent glass separates them to let-in the dim sunlight, making the interiors look solemn and intriguing. Indeed a masterpiece that none would ever be able to replicate including the orginal craftsmen, artisans and designers themselves.

While a visitor is still managing to grasp the symmetry of the structures set across the length and breadth of the complex, the Taj Mahal appears deep in the distance, indeed a spectacular sight to behold, forever!

However, it is the dome that leaves one gasping in awe. While the outer dome rises to 44.4 metres in height, the inner is 24.35 metres an architectural and technical feat. Ismail Afandi from Turkey, who also worked for the Ottomans is said to have been its designer. Marking an amalgam of Hindu and Islamic architecture are the typically Hindu Chhatris [An umbrella like structure] at the dome base from the corners. Shah Jahan has similarly left his individual imprint in several other aspects of the architecture as well.

The cenotaph over Shah Jahan’s tomb has an inkwell, while that of Mumtaz Mahal a slate over it, as it is said a man writes his desires on the woman’s heart. The epitaphs in addition to regular pronouncements about the individual have verses from the Holy Quran. The exquisite craftsmanship marks the marble lattice screens, which are elaborately worked out in oriental design enclose the cenotaphs. The tombs lie below the cenotaphs in a basement, undisturbed and in absolute quiet environs. What we do not see now are the bowls full of jewels on Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb, the Persian carpets on the floor and the silver doorways and overhanging chandeliers that once made up the inner décor.

Coming out of prevailing solemnity in the environ, one gets speechless with awe at the grandeur of the by gone era, enticing particularly the panels with lilies and tulips together with iris flowers that symbolise death. The Makrana marble will perhaps never again be handled; with so much grace and care and such elegance of balancing the ornamentation on it. The beauty and splendour of elegant craftsmanship that makes up the inlay work and calligraphy in fact, further accentuates the deathly calm of the mausoleum and in the quietude, it is the softly filtering rays of the sun through the lattice work on marble panels that strikes one as unusually ethereal in nature.

Outside one would have to crane one’s neck to look up at the apex of the dome, high and mighty agains the skyline. Secluded and singular in majesty, the structure stands clearly apart from everything around it. The balance of all the elements, the garden, the fountain and water channel and in the end the gateway, all look exquisitely managed to provide maximum harmony in terms of visual appeal. The sheer beauty of the outside of a monument marks the serenity within.

The Taj Mahal, for which not only the course of river Yamuna is said to have been diverted but as per interpretation of the Archaeological Survey of India, the Yamuna was incorporated into the garden design for the belief that its one of the rivers of Paradise.

The moods of the Taj vary from dawn to dusk. It looks milky white in the soft light that characterizes early morning, while the afternoon sun makes it glisten bright and dazzling in the overhead sunlight, almost looking like a jewel against the opaque blue of the skyline and then comes a moonlit Taj breaking into the night sky, majestic and simply beautiful in a sense that cannot be put into words. The sensuous appeal can never be more heightened as on a full moon night when it shines like a pearl making the visitor stand agape at the spectacle. The romanticism and sheer majesty of the structure is unbelievably true! No wonder if millions of people chose it amongst the World’s top wonders.

The romanticism and sheer majesty of the structure is unbelievably true! No wonder if millions of people chose it amongst the World’s top wonders.