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The Taj Mahal of Agra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, for reasons more than just looking magnificent. It's the history of Taj Mahal that adds a soul to its magnificence: a soul that is filled with love, loss, remorse, and love again. Because if it was not for love, the world would have been robbed of a fine example upon which people base their relationships. An example of how deeply a man loved his wife, that even after she remained but a memory, he made sure that this memory would never fade away. This man was the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was head-over-heels in love with Mumtaz Mahal, his dear wife. She was a Muslim Persian princess (her name Arjumand Banu Begum before marriage) and he was the son of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir and grandson of Akbar the Great. It was at the age of 14 that he met Mumtaz and fell in love with her. Five years later in the year 1612, they got married. Mumtaz Mahal, an inseparable companion of Shah Jahan, died in 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child. It was in the memory of his beloved wife that Shah Jahan built a magnificent monument as a tribute to her, which we today know as the "Taj Mahal". The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631. Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran, and it took approximately 22 years to build what we see today. An epitome of love, it made use of the services of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. The monument was built entirely out of white marble, which was brought in from all over India and central Asia. After an expenditure of approximately 32 million rupees (approx US $68000), Taj Mahal was finally completed in the year 1653. It was soon after the completion of Taj Mahal that Shah Jahan was deposed by his own son Aurangzeb and was put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort. Shah Jahan, himself also, lies entombed in this mausoleum along with his wife. Moving further down the history, it was at the end of the 19th century that British Viceroy Lord Curzon ordered a sweeping restoration project, which was completed in 1908, as a measure to restore what was lost during the Indian rebellion of 1857: Taj being blemished by British soldiers and government officials who also deprived the monument of its immaculate beauty by chiseling out precious stones and lapis lazuli from its walls. Also, the British style lawns that we see today adding on to the beauty of Taj were remodeled around the same time. Despite prevailing controversies, past and present threats from Indo-Pak war and environmental pollution, this epitome of love continuous to shine and attract people from all over the world.
Male Protagonist: Shah Jahan (Prince Khurram) Female Protagonist: Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Banu Begum) Taj Mahal, the magnificent monument that stands at the heart of India has a story that has been melting the hearts of
millions of listeners since the time Taj has been visible. A story, that although ended back in 1631, continues to live on in the form of Taj and is considered a living example of eternal love. It's the love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, two people from the course of history who set an example for the people living in present and the future to come. An English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold best describes it as "Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor's love wrought in living stones." The story that follows next will prove why the statement is true. Shah Jahan, initially named Prince Khurram, was born in the year 1592. He was the son of Jehangir, the fourth Mughal emperor of India and the grandson of Akbar the Great. In 1607 when strolling down the Meena Bazaar, accompanied by a string of fawning courtiers, Shah Jahan caught a glimpse of a girl hawking silk and glass beads. It was love at first sight and the girl was Mumtaz Mahal, who was known as Arjumand Banu Begum at that time. At that time, he was 14 years old and she, a Muslim Persian princess, was 15. After meeting her, Shah Jahan went back to his father and declared that he wanted to marry her. The match got solemnized after five years i.e., in the year 1612. It was in the year 1628 that Shah Jahan became the Emperor and entrusted Arjumand Banu with the royal seal. He also bestowed her with the title of Mumtaz Mahal, meaning the "Jewel of the Palace". Though Shah Jahan had other wives also, but, Mumtaz Mahal was his favorite and accompanied him everywhere, even on military campaigns. In the year 1631, when Mumtaz Mahal was giving birth to their 14th child, she died due to some complications. While Mumtaz was on her deathbed, Shah Jahan promised her that he would never remarry and will build the richest mausoleum over her grave. It is said that Shah Jahan was so heartbroken after her death that he ordered the court into mourning for two years. Sometime after her death, Shah Jahan undertook the task of erecting the world's most beautiful monument in the memory of his beloved. It took 22 years and the labor of 22,000 workers to construct the monument. When Shah Jahan died in 1666, his body was placed in a tomb next to the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. This magnificent monument came to be known as "Taj Mahal" and now counts amongst the Seven Wonders of the World. This is the true story of the Taj Mahal of India, which has mesmerized many people with its bewitching beauty.
Involvement of 22, 000 workers including masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, domebuilders and other artisans called on from all over the central Asia and Iran, and some 22 years later when a monument with a unique blend of Persian, Islamic, and Indian architectural styles came into its own, it was a sight to behold! The grandeur of the structure then created was such that even decades after its creation, it is still regarded as one of the most arresting and attention-grabbing manmade
monuments of the world. Not just Taj, even structures alongside it add to the architectural beauty and artistic wonder of the place. The entire Taj complex consists of five major constituents, namely Darwaza (main gateway), Bageecha (gardens), Masjid (mosque), Naqqar Khana (rest house) and Rauza (main mausoleum). The Taj Mahal covers an area of 42 acres in total with the terrain gradually sloping from south to north, towards the river Yamuna in the form of descending terraces. The main gateway situated at the end of the long watercourse, decorated in calligraphy with verses from Holy Quran and a domed central chamber, was constructed from the period 1932 to 1938. The original door of this massive sandstone gateway was made out of solid silver. It was constructed to serve the function of preventing the people from getting any glimpse of the tomb until they are right in the doorway itself. With a vertical symmetry, the main gateway of Taj Mahal stands bordered with Arabic calligraphy of verses from the Quran, made up of black stone. The main tomb of Taj Mahal stands on a square platform that was raised 50 meter above the riverbank and was leveled with dirt to reduce seepage from the river. The four minarets on each corner of this square are detached, facing the chamfered angles of the main and are deliberately kept at 137 feet to emphasize the beautiful and spherical dome that itself is 58 feet in diameter and 81 feet high. The western side of the main tomb has the mosque and on the eastern side is the Naqqar Khana (rest/guest house), both made in red sandstone. The two structures not only provide an architectural symmetry, but also make for an aesthetic color contrast. One can only marvel at the mosque and the rest house as despite being on the opposite ends, the two are mirror image of each other. Out of the total area of 580 meter by 300 meter, the garden alone covers 300 meter by 300 meter. The immaculate symmetry with which this garden has been laid out can be experienced everywhere. The Islamic style architecture of this garden also has a well defined meaning that symbolizes spirituality and according to the Holy Quran, the lush green, well watered is a symbol of Paradise in Islam. The raised pathways divide each of the four quarters into 16 flowerbeds with around 400 plants in each bed. Even today, the garden boasts of being a tranquil and soothing region in the entire complex and is considered best place for taking snaps of the main tomb. A shadowy burial crypt inside the Taj Mahal houses the tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan himself, who was buried there after he died. Above these tombs is the main chamber that has the false tombs and perforated marble screens have been used to transmit light into the burial chamber, typical of mausoleums of the Mughals. Semi-precious stones are exquisitely inlaid in both the tombs. Calligraphic inscriptions of the ninety nine names of Allah can also be found on the sides of actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj has some wonderful specimens of polychrome inlay art both in the interior and exterior on the dados, on cenotaphs and on the marble jhajjhari (jali-screen) around them. Shah Jahan's tomb, which lies next to that of Mumtaz Mahal, was never planned and deranges the otherwise perfect symmetry of the Taj.
The Taj Mahal always welcomes each of its visitors with an inscription, written in beautiful handwriting, on the great gate that reads "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you." It was Abdul Haq, who created this in 1609, and was bestowed with the title of 'Amanat Khan' by none other than Emperor Shah Jahan himself. Along with spellbinding architecture and a picturesque background, the calligraphy done is one of the fantabulous ornamental decorations done on the surface of Taj Mahal. The calligraphy of the Taj Mahal mainly consists of the verses and passages from the holy book of Quran. It was done by inlaying jasper in the white marble panels. These passages were inscribed by Amanat Khan in an illegible Thuluth script. A number of the panels
Black marble has been used to decorate both the south gateway and the main mausoleum with Arabic inscriptions. The texts chosen refer broadly to the themes of judgment and fruitful paradisiacal rewards for the faithful. The inscriptions over the gateway invite the reader to enter the paradise. And as one enters towards the main mausoleum, the tone of the inscriptions changes from paradisiacal to that of an impending doom that awaits the unbelievers on the Day of Judgment. However, once inside the mausoleum, the tone of the inscriptions changes yet again from judgment to paradisiacal. It is also believed that Amanat Khan even chose the passages for the calligraphy of Taj Mahal, Agra. The exterior of Taj Mahal are loaded with verses from the Quran like:
Surah 91 (The Sun) Surah 112 (The Purity of Faith) Surah 89 (Daybreak) Surah 93 (Morning Light) Surah 95 (The Fig) Surah 94 (The Solace) Surah 36 (Ya Sin) Surah 81 (The Folding Up) Surah 82 (The Cleaving Asunder) Surah 84 (The Rending Asunder) Surah 98 (The Evidence) Surah 67 (Dominion) Surah 48 (Victory) Surah 77 (Those Sent Forth) Surah 39 (The Crowds)
On the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal located in the burial chamber, the ninety names of God can be found as calligraphic inscriptions on the sides, in the crypt including "O Noble, O Magnificent, O Unique, O Eternal, O Glorious..." And the tomb of Shah Jahan bears a
calligraphic inscription that reads "He travelled from this world to the banquet hall of eternity on the night of the twenty sixth of the month of Rajab, in the year 1076 Hijri". However, the central focus is provided by passages on the upper cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal. The words of the Quranic prayer recited by the angels, implore Allah to allow the faithful to enter paradise, a touching request for God's mercy towards His devout servant, Mumtaz Mahal.
Enhancing the already present splendor of the Taj Mahal is a building that stands on the western side of it, a Mosque made up of red sandstone. It serves two purposes, first, it was obligatory according to the Muslim law for each mausoleum to have a place of worship nearby; second, the mosque and a mirror image of the mosque, a guest house that stands on the opposite side of it, together provide a perfect symmetrical balance to the architecture of whole of Taj Mahal. Used for prayer purpose, the mosque faces the direction of the holy city of Mecca and is believed to have been built by Isa Mohammad. The exterior possesses one dominant portal known as an Iwan and on either side of it are two smaller arches. Three marble coated domes and four little domed kiosks with marble veneer make up for the splendid visuals of the mosque, a design that is similar to others built by Shah Jahan, particularly to his Masjid-Jahan Numa, or Jama Masjid, Delhi. The interiors host an elegantly designed floor that is made up of a material that appears to be velvet red in shade and is in the shape of clearly defined prayer mats, 569 prayer mats in total. The interiors of the mosque are inscribed with delicate calligraphy citing the name Allah and quotations from scriptures (taken from Sura 91, The Sun, taken from the holy book of Quran). However, the main feature of the mosque that distinguishes it from the opposite structure of the guest house is the presence of Mihrab and Minbar. The Mihrab is an indented enclosure that indicates the direction of Mecca and the direction which the Muslims face to perform their prayers or salat. The place from where the priest delivers a speech is known as Minbar and is always positioned to the right hand side of the Mihrab and consists of three steps to a flat platform. Additionally, there lies a small stone enclosed space of 19 ft by 6.5 ft, which had served as a temporary grave where the remains of Mumtaz Mahal were kept for some time when they were first brought to Agra, until they finally found an eternal place of rest inside the beautiful mausoleum built in her precious memory. This enclosure is located along the western boundary wall that also houses the well of the mosque. Also, the exteriors of the mosque, crypt and cenotaphs carry pietra dura decoration of a fabulous unexcelled elegance. The name of Allah and verses from the Holy Qur'an has been used copiously all over the mosque. And the pool in front of the mosque functions as the place for ablution before the prayer. As Percy Brown, the noted
art historian observes, the Taj "resembles the spirited sweep of a brush rather than the slow laborious cutting of a chisel".
Planning a visit to the Taj Mahal? If you don't know already, there may be a few questions running through your mind like who built the Taj, why was it built, when's the best time to visit, the timings, the fee and a whole lot of stuff that you'd want to know before you pay a visit to the Taj. Don't worry at all, as this section on "Taj Mahal facts" will provide you with a few fast facts to up your knowledge along with the basic queries that you want to be answered as soon as possible. Read on to get some quick information about Taj Mahal and Agra. And once read, don't waste time. Just pack your bags, book your tickets and pay a visit to the world's most spectacular monument that epitomizes love at par. Fast Facts Year of Construction: 1631 Completed In: 1653 Time Taken: 22 years Built By: Shah Jahan Dedicated to: Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Bano Begum), the wife of Shah Jahan Location: Agra (Uttar Pradesh), India Building Type: Islamic tomb Architecture: Mughal (Combination of Persian, Islamic and Indian architecture style) Architect: Ustad Ahmad Lahauri Cost of Construction: 32 crore rupees Number of workers: 20,000 Highlights: One of the Seven Wonders of the World; A UNESCO World Heritage Site Timings: Sunrise to Sunset (Friday closed) Fee: Rs 750 (Foreign Tourists) Rs 510 (Citizens of SAARC & BIMSTEC Countries) Rs 20 (Domestic Indian Tourists) No Entry Fee for children below 15 years of age (Domestic or Foreigner) Interesting Facts Of Taj Mahal
Before his accession to the throne, Shah Jahan was popularly known as Prince Khurram. Shah Jahan fell in love with the beautiful Arjumand Bano Begum and married her, making her his third wife. Arjumand Bano Begum was christened by Shah Jahan as Mumtaz Mahal, meaning the “Chosen One Of The Palace” or “Jewel of the Palace”. Shah Jahan lost Mumtaz Mahal, when she died giving birth to their 14h child.
For the transportation of the construction materials, more than 1,000 elephants were employed. As many as 28 different varieties of semi-precious and precious stones were used to adorn the Taj with exquisite inlay work. Depending on what time of the day it is and whether or not there’s moon at night, Taj Mahal appears to be of different color every time. Some even believe that this changing pattern of colors depict different moods of a woman. Passages from Quran have been used as decorative elements throughout the complex. On the sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, 99 names of Allah can be found as calligraphic inscriptions. Taj Mahal was built in stages, with the plinth and the tomb taking up roughly 15 years. Building of minarets, mosque, jawab, and gateway took additional 5 years to be completed. Different types of marbles used in construction of Taj Mahal were brought over from many different regions & countries: Rajasthan, Punjab, China, Tibet, Afghanistan, Srilanka, & Arabia. Many precious stones and Lapis Lazuli (a semi-precious stone) were ripped off from its walls by the Britishers during the Indian rebellion of 1857. Taj Mahal attracts 2-4 million visitors annually with over 200,000 from overseas.
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