Taj Mahal, Agra, India
As we know, Taj Mahal made to the list of New Seven Wonders earlier and remains one of the most loved tourist spots in the world. This marble today stands as the marvel of India. We as Indians are proud to have such a beauty in our country.
The story of Taj Mahal begun from the time when Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan married second time to a girl selling bangles in the market. This young girl called Arzuman Banu Begam came to be known as Mumtaz Mahal. Married in 1612, she breathed her last in 1631 giving birth to her 14th child, a daughter named Gauhara Begum. So grief stricken was the Shah that he withdrew from the public eye for a year and when he emerged at the end of that time, although still a young at 40, his hair had turned white and he appeared as an old man.
Shah Jehan went ahead and erected an immortal tribute in the form of the most magnificent tomb in the world. It would take 23 years to be completed. Twenty thousand people were deployed to work on it. The material was brought in from all over India and central Asia and it took a fleet of 1000 elephants to transport it to the site. It was designed by the Iranian architect Ustad Isa and it is best appreciated when the architecture and its adornments are linked to the passion that inspired it. It is a “symbol of eternal love“.
The Taj Mahal, built entirely of white marble, uses an architectural design known as interlocking arabesque. Each element of the structure can stand on its own and integrate with the main structure. The central dome, called the Taj, is 58 feet in diameter and 213 feet high. The marble walls inside the dome are covered with intricate mosaic patterns and precious stones. Within the dome lies the jewel-inlaid tomb of the queen. The only asymmetrical object in the Taj Mahal is the casket of the emperor. (After stealing the throne, Shah Jehan’s son imprisoned him for 8 years. When Shah Jehan died, he was buried in the Taj beside his beloved Mumtaz.)
Four domed chambers surround the Taj. The main archways are chiseled with passages from the Holy Quran. The mausoleum is part of a vast complex with a main gateway, garden, mosque, guesthouse and several other palatial buildings. A large garden is divided at the center by four reflecting pools. Like the Taj, the garden elements follow the Arabesque concept, standing on their own and constituting the whole.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Taj Mahal is the magical quality of its changing colours. The Yamuna River behind the Taj reflects light onto the white marble. Depending on the hour of the day or the season, the colours of the Taj are different. The best time to view its stunning beauty is at dawn or sunset.
The origin of the name Taj Mahal has never been clearly documented. Court histories from Shah Jehan’s reign refer to it as the rauza (tomb) of Mumtaz Mahal. It’s generally believed that Taj Mahal, usually translated “Crown of the Palace“, is an abbreviated version of the name Mumtaz Mahal, which means “Exalted One of the Palace“.
There are many contemporary (and some might say, unromantic) historians who contend that the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum far too great to commemorate the memory of one woman, even if she was the favourite wife of an emperor. These historians believe that the Taj Mahal symbolizes the tyranny of a powerful ruler exploiting his subjects and flaunting his magnificence to the world.
Whether the Taj Mahal symbolizes eternal love, an emperor’s power or a little of both, Shah Jehan deserves credit for turning the death of his wife into a symbol of lasting beauty. He bequeathed India and the world its most beautiful mausoleum. As English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold wrote, “The Taj Mahal is not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.“