Taj Mahal/Agra Fort Information
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Descriptions have been transcribed from informations signs on site.


Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (reign, 1628-1658 A.D.), grandson of Akbar, the Great, in the memory of his Queen Arjumand Bano Begum, entitled 'Mumtaz Mahal'. She was niece of Empress Nurjahan and grand-daughter of Mirza Ghiasbef "I'timan-ud-daulah" vazir of Emperor Jehangir. She was born in 1593 and was married to Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) in 1612. She died in 1631 on the birth of her 14th child, at Burhanpur where she was temporarily buried. Six months later, her body was transferred to Agra and finally enshrined in the crypt of the Main Tomb. Shah Jahan who died in 1666 was also buried here.

Taj Mahal Mausoleum
The Taj Mahal is the mausoleum of both Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. Originally styled as 'Rauza-I-Munavvara' and 'Rauza-I-Mumtaz Mahal'. Gradually it became famous as Taj Mahal and Taj-Bibi-ka-Rauza (The garden-tomb of the Taj Queen).

Taj Mahal Location
It is sited on the right bank of the river Jamuna at a point where it takes a sharp turn and flows eastward. This location has a correct orientation for the adjunct-mosque Minimum thrust of water and, above all, a large natural lake to provide it with a continuous protective cover of moisture. The river with 30 feet deep clean water was a constituent of its original design.

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

The Taj Mosque and Jam'at Khanah (1631-48)
The Taj Mosque is built on a raised platform on the western side of the main, white marble tomb and its exact replica is there on its eastern side, in perfect symmetry. The eastern building is called "Jamat-Khanah" or "Mehman-Khanah". It is noteworthy that, more than fulfilling the need of a house of prayer and a house of assembly, these identical buildings flank the main tomb effectively and help to present the white marble monument in an aesthetic setting, and thus do they form an integral part of the Taj design.

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 Mahtab-Bagh ( The moon garden) (1631-1635 A.D.)
Babur (Reign, 1526-30 A.D.) came to Agra soon after the battle of Panipat (20 Spril 1526). Here, he was much tortured by heat, hot winds and dust. He has also complained, in his memoirs, of the lack of running water (through canals and cascades) and gardens with which he was accustomed and had seen a large number of them at Samarqand, such as Bagh-I-Dilkjsha, Bagh-I-Chenar and Bagh-I-Bihisht He had founded several gardens at Kabul. Bagh-I-Vafa, Bagh-I-Kalan, Bagh-I-Banafsha, Bagh-I-Padshahi and Bagh-I-Chenar. It was in this tradition that he founded gardens on the left (Eastern) bank of the river Jamuna at Agra, e.g. Bagh-I-Gul Afshan (the flower-scattering garden) (present Ram-Bagh); Bach-I-Zar-Afshan (the Gold Scattering Garden) (present Chauburj); and Bagh-I-Hasht Bihisht (the Garden of Fight Paradises, as he has recorded in his memoirs. He noted that his nobles also founded gardens here, so much so that "the people of Hind who had never seen grounds planned so symmetrically and those _____ out, called the side of the Jun (river Jamuna) where (our) residences were, Kabul." His record shows that his Bagh-I-Masht Bihisht was situated just in front of the Agra Fort, most probably at or near this place enabling him to cross the river and reach here swiftly and frequently. The Mughals were certainly occupying this area and, to cater to their religious needs, Humayun (Reign, 1530-40; 1555) built a large mosque in the locality. This mosque has survived and bears the inscription dated in A.H. 937/1530 A.D. His astronomical observatory, now in ruins and known as 'Gyarah-Siddi', is also situated in its vicinity. The area has large scale ruins of Mughal gardens. Later, Akbar (1556-1605 seems to have granted this place, on both sides of the river, in Jagir, to Rajaman Singh Kachhwaha of Amer, whereby the village came to be known as 'Kachhpura'.

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.
The Mahtab-Bagh is laid out in perfect symmetry and alignment with the Taj Mahal, and there is absolutely no doubt that it was planned and built as an integral part of the original design of the Taj Mahal, during the period from 1631 to 1635 A.D. It seems to have been named "Mahtab-Bagh" (The Moon Garden) because it is an ideal place for viewing the Taj Mahal in Moonlight. 4132




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