The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, that was built under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is considered the finest example
of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian,
Turkish, 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." While the white domed marble mausoleum is most
familiar, Taj Mahal is an integrated complex of structures that was
completed around 1648. Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is generally considered as the
principal designer of Taj Mahal.
The focus of Taj Mahal is the
white marble tomb, which stands on a square plinth consisting of a
symmetrical building with an iwan, an arch-shaped doorway, topped by a large
dome. Like most Mughal tombs, basic elements are Persian in origin.
exterior decorations of Taj Mahal are among the finest to be found
in Mughal architecture. As the surface area changes, a large pishtaq has
more area than a smaller, the decorations are refined proportionally. The
decorative elements were created by applying paint or stucco, or by stone
inlays or by carvings. In line with the Islamic prohibition of the use of
anthropomorphic forms, the decorative elements can be grouped into either
calligraphy, abstract forms or vegetative motifs.
chamber of Taj Mahal steps far beyond traditional decorative elements. Here
the inlay work is not pietra dura, but lapidary of precious and semiprecious
gemstones. The inner chamber is an octagon with the design allowing for
entry from each face, though, only the south garden-facing door is used. The
interior walls are about 25 metre high and topped by a "false"
interior dome decorated with a sun motif.
The complex is set around
a large 300 metre square charbagh, a Mughal garden. The garden uses raised
pathways that divide each of the four quarters of the garden into 16 sunken
parterres or flowerbeds. A raised marble water tank at the center of the
garden, halfway between the tomb and gateway, with a reflecting pool on
North-South axis reflect the image of Taj Mahal. Elsewhere, the garden is
laid out with avenues of trees and fountains.
The Taj Mahal
attracts 2 to 3 million visitors every year with more than 200,000 from
overseas, making it the most popular tourist attraction in India. Most
tourists visit during the cooler months of October, November and February.
Polluting traffic is not allowed near the complex and tourist must either
walk from the carparks or catch an electric bus. The Khawasspuras are
currently being restored for use as a new visitors centre. The small town to
the South of the Taj known as Taj Ganji or Mumtazabad was originally
constructed with caravanserais, bazaars and markets to serve the needs of
visitors and workmen. Lists of recommended travel destinations often feature
Taj Mahal, which also appears in several listings of seven wonders of the
modern world, including the recently announced New Seven Wonders of the
World, a recent poll with 100 million votes.