The mausoleum is one of the world’s most famous monuments and a landmark of India. The marble tomb with its 73 m high onion-shaped dome, flanked by four 41 m high minarets and two mosques, is considered the most perfect building of Islamic architecture. The monumental building was built for the favorite wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahans (1592–1666), Arjuman-Banu Begum or Mumtaz Mahal (»chosen one of the palace«), who died in 1631.
Taj Mahal: facts
|Official title:||Agra, Taj Mahal|
|Cultural monument:||a marble tomb with a 73 m high, onion-shaped dome and the plan of mutually penetrating crosses and squares; flanked by four 41 m high minarets and on each side by a mosque built of red sandstone, resting on a 100 x 100 m marble platform, total area 567 x 305 m; 300 m wide garden with a large central water basin, in the central hall the empty graves (cenotaphs) of Shah Dschahan and Arjamandbanu Begam (Mumtaz-i Mahal)|
|Country:||India, Uttar Pradesh|
|Location:||Agra, south of Delhi, east of Jaipur|
|Meaning:||a marble mausoleum that is considered the “perfection of Muslim architecture” worldwide|
Taj Mahal: history
|1631-48||Construction of the monumental tomb for the favorite wife of the Mughal ruler Jahan, who died in 1631 with the birth of her fourteenth child, Arjamandbanu Begam (Mumtaz-i Mahal)|
|1632-37||Agra as the residence of Shah Dschahan|
|1666||Death of Shah Jahan|
|2007||Since the building is turning yellow due to industrial air pollution, cars and buses are only allowed to approach with a distance of two kilometers.|
Eternal love in marble
The moving spectacle is repeated every morning. At first tentatively, then powerfully, the rays of the sun fall on the mighty structure on the banks of the Yamuna. From the silhouette, which remains in gray silence at night, they conjure up the sparkling jewel of Indo-Islamic architecture.
How moved Shah Jahan must have been when he celebrated the completion of the Taj Mahal. In the year of his favorite wife’s death, also called Mumtaz-i Mahal, “the chosen one of the palace”, the Mughal prince had hired several thousand craftsmen for the huge project. They had come from the centers of oriental architecture, from Lahore, Delhi, Shiraz and Samarkand. Ustad Ahmad Lahori, the imperial architect, is generally mentioned as the leading builder. However, there is much speculation about the identity of the actual creator. Dschahan, whose artistic talent is well known, was perhaps the intellectual father of the design himself. His project was extremely ambitious, almost unearthly grandiose – and costly. It was his vision to surpass all the wonders of the world at that time.
Since a Mughal grave was supposed to commemorate the deceased and to represent the place where he lived, the surrounding area was accordingly magnificently designed. The wide garden avenues, the wide gate and guest wings give an idea of how splendidly the ruler and court wanted to commemorate Mumtaz-i Mahal.
Behind the forecourt surrounded by arcades and four gates lies the unique idyll: on the south side the four-field garden with marble terrace and central fountain, at the north end then, on a sandstone terrace extending across the width of the garden, the tomb and ancillary buildings, a mosque in the west and the identically designed assembly hall in the east.
According to businesscarriers, the color scheme is also characterized by an Indian sense of harmony. The green of the cypresses and beds merges with the blue of the water channels and the warm red of the sandstone buildings on the side. This grace is crowned by the white of the marble mausoleum, graduated with ornamental surfaces; true to the principle of Dschahan, in whose buildings there is no climax without an introduction and an end. It seems as if the tomb is floating in weightlessness. In addition to the transfiguring marble structure, high portal and vertically arranged side niches reinforce this impression. Finally, the four minarets towering at a distance from the main building also emphasize the effect of the increase. One can, as an eyewitness of the initiation enthused, compare it to a pleasing prayer that ascends to heaven.
The mausoleum in particular combines the formal elements that influenced the architecture of northern India in the 17th century. Its double dome – the outer onion dome rests on the octagonal structure above an inner shell – is a purely Persian design. The facade is also determined by the sober unity of geometric shapes. In contrast, her “Florentine mosaics”, also known as “Pietra dura” – seamless, brightly polished inlays of semi-precious stones in the marble – and the base reliefs, despite Persian motifs, reflect the unmistakable Indian spirit – subdued and dreamy.
Like a magnet, the tomb attracts people who flock to Agra from all directions. Security guards regulate access to the main hall, with which four small pavilions are connected. The crowd in awe surrounds the octagonal marble lattice, behind whose filigree tendril decoration inlaid with precious stones the cenotaphs can be seen. The remains of Mumtaz-i Mahal are shielded in the crypt, one floor below.
Right next to it is the sarcophagus of the Jahan after the Mughal ruler was unable to realize the second part of his marble dream of building his own tomb on the other side of the river. Having come to the throne through assassination, the sick prince was ousted by his son Aurangzeb in 1658. The prisoner had at least one wish fulfilled: the view from Agra’s fortress on the white shimmering proof of his great love.