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Descriptions have been transcribed from informations
signs on site.
It land was acquired in lieu of flour havelis. The construction began form the foundations. Wells were laid to support the huge building. Artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and from Central Asia and Iran, while bricks for internal skeleton were locally made. White marble for external surfaces was obtained from Makrana. It was completed in 1648 in 17 years, at the cost (about rubees four crore (40 million) when gold was sold at RS 15 pertola (11.66 grams).
In all, it covers an area of 60 bighas, as terrain gradually sloped from south to north, towards the river, it is laid out in descending terraces. At the southern point is the forecourt with the main gate in front and tombs of Akbarabadi Begum and Fateh Puribegum, two other Queens of Shah Jahan, on its South-East and South-West corners. On the second terrace is a spacious charbagh garden divided into four quarters by broad shallow canals, with wide walkways and cypress avenues on the sides. They are studded with fountains which were fed by overhead water tanks situated in the adjoining Bagh Khan-I-'alam.
The main tomb is placed at the northern edge of this garden. It integrated the Taj with the blue sky, and provided it with a beautiful natural background which was constantly changing from sunrise to midnight. The changing colours of the sky descended softly on its white marble and it looked ever new at every moment. This newness is the secret of its beauty.
(Cameras are not allowed in the tomb itself)
The main tomb was designed under the guidance of the Emperor himself. Its perfect proportions were evolved in wooden models. It rised to 285 feet from the river level with 187 feet width. Its geometrical symmetry is also unique.
Though it has some wonderful specimens of polychrome inlay art, in the interior: on the dados, on cenotaphs and on the marble jhajjhari (Jali-screen) around them, and on the exterior on the spandrels of the arches, this ornament is sparse and minimal, and it does not play a role in the total aesthetic effect of the building, which is wholly architectonic.
It was efficiently maintained until it fell on bad days in the 18th century A.D.
The British replaced the original gold Kalash finial in 1810 and, the Taj was once-during the regime of William Bentinck - put to auction only for the value of its marble. Fortunately this sacrilege was averted. The Taj survived, although in bare skeletal form without the imperial coverings. Since the archaeological survey of India was established in 1861, it is being properly maintained and conserved.One of the most beautiful creations of man on earth, it is variously admired: as a 'materialised vision of loveliness', a 'dream in marble', a 'noble drop on the cheek of time'. It symbolizes India's composite culture. It is reckoned among the wonders of the World and is inscribed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. #4110
Taj Mosque and Jam'at Khanah (1631-48)
The façade of the mosque is composed of a central iwan, flanked on either side by a single arch entrance of almost half the dimensions. Ornamental arches have been framed above these side arches. Octagonal towers attached to the corners are surmounted by octagonal chhatris, while the turrets attached to the quoins of the iwan and the side arches are crowned by pinnacles. The interior is composed of three bays which are roofed by three bulbous domes. The central one on the nave being larger. Padmakosh and Kalash finials have been used to crown them as usual. The domes, chhatris and pinnacles combine to make up a beautiful superstructure, Dados have carved naturalistic plants designs. The rest of the mural space, including the ceiling is either paneled to bear ornamental cartouches, or finished with incised painting in red and white colours, in highly stylized designs. Though it is built of red sandstone, white marble has been used on a large scale, e.g. on the domes and cupolas of the chhatris, and in the spandrels of the arches inlaid with rare polychrome stones. The total effect is simple, yet graceful.
The Jam'at-Khanah on the eastern side is exactly similar to the mosque except that it does not have a mihrab (central niche denoting the direction of the ka'bah), minbar (pulpit), musallas (arched spaces marked in the pavement), zenana (ladies) section enclosed by marble railing, quranic inscriptions, or tank (hauz) in its front, but it has a curious historical record made in stone. At the northern end of its platform, in its front is inlaid, by black marble, an exact replica of the Kalash finial which crowned the main dome of the Taj Mahal. It measures 30 feet 6 inch in length and the width of the crescent is 5 feet 4.5 inch. The present finial measures 32 feet and 5.5 inch. The original thick gold plated kalash measured 30 feet 6 inches. It was replaced by Captain Joseph Taylor in 1810. The second one was again replaced in 1876 by a finial which measured 32 feet. The third one was replaced in 1940 and the present one is thus the fourth finial in succession. The replica of the finial was made on the platform of the Jam'at-Khanah by Nathuram in 1888 as a memorial to the original finial. It is remarkable that both these are monumental buildings capable of standing independently anywhere else. #3911
( The moon garden) (1631-1635 A.D.)
Shah Jahan (1628-1658), Akbar's grandson, procured this site (on both
banks of the river) for building a magnificent tomb in the memory of his
deceased Queen Mumtaz Mahal, from man Singh's grandson Mirza Rajauai Singh,
in lieu of four 'havelis', as is on record. The grand mausoleum, viz.
The Taj Mahal, with subsidiary buildings, Chowk (court), Dalans, gateway
and a spacious garden was laid out, on three receding levels, on the right
bank, the stupendous main tomb of white marble standing imposingly on
the edge of the river. He also built this spacious garden, viz the Mahtab-Bagh
on the tradition of garden-craft founded by Babur, on this side of the
river, facing the Taj Mahal, just to provide a beautiful backdrop to the
main tomb. It was ingeniously planned on one plain level. First, a large
octagonal tank of brick masonry, each internal side of which measured
26.70 m (approx. 80 feet), was built, each side had 16 scalloped arches,
to make up a beautiful border of the tank. On its south, west, north and
east sides where spacious bunglas (pavilions with curved chhajjas and
roofs) which were interconnected by wide dalans or covered corridors,
on other sides, all these were built of red sandstone, and engrailed (cusped)
arches, pillars, carved panels and other architectural parts of this vast
structure, in typical Shahjehanian style, have survived in the ruins.
There were 25 fountains in the tank. These were inlets of water which
was supplied by overhead tanks through water-tight terracotta pipes, which
have all disappeared. On its northern side is an oblong red stone tank,
with scalloped corners. Water from the main octagonal tank flowed, through
a slit under the northern bungla, and fell into this oblong tank in the
form of a water-fall (Abshar), behind which a Chini-Khanah (series of
niches for candles in the night, and flower guldastas in the day) is provided.
A large Char-Bagh (four-quartered garder) was laid out on its northern
side. It was divided into four quarters, with a square lotus-tank in the
centre. It also has scalloped corners. Shallow stone canals, with stone-paved
pathways on both sides, now extinct, were built from this central tank
to the middle of the four sides. Water flowed from the main tank to the
oblong tank and thence to the canals of this garden. There were barahdaris
(open, arcaded pavilions) on the western, northern and eastern sides of
the Char-Bagh. These too have been destroyed. The enclosing wall has also
disappeared and only its river-side, south-eastern tower has remained.
Aurangzeb, in his letter dated 8 Muharram 1063 _____ (= 9 December 1652
A.D.), mentioned Mahtab-Bagh and noted that it was recently submerged
under flood water, but the octagonal tank and bunglas had remained unaffected.
In the later ages, the buildings collapsed and the garden was covered
by sand deposited by river floods, and it was forgotten. The Archaeological
Survey of India, has excavated it and it is now being restored and conserved.
Nearly 8000 trees and plants from the Mughal repertoire have been planted
by the A.S. I.
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