The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal at Agra, one of the 7 wonders of the world is undoubtedly the finest achievement & the most exquisite of all Moghul buildings. In its flawless beauty it ranks among the most perfect monuments in the world. It was erected by Shah Jahan to the memory of his beloved queen, Arjumand Banu Begum, called Mumtaz Mahal ( exalted of the palace ). A year after her death in 1631 he began the Taj & it took twenty-two years to complete.
The Taj Mahal stands in a walled enclosure measuring around 580x305m. The red sandstone gateway at the south leads to a spacious ornamental garden(305sq m). Near the river Jamuna on the northern side of the enclosure, a low red stone terrace extends from one end of the wall to the other, terminating on both sides in a red standstone building. That on the west is a mosque, & the eastern one-its jawab (answer) - serves as mihman-khana (guest house) or as majlis khana (assembly hall).
In the centre, on a white marble platform almost seven metres high, is the rauza in glittering white marble, with four minarests at the corners of the plinth. The bevelled angles give this cubicle structure the shape of an irregular octagon. The elevation, equal on all four sides, is typically Islamic in design.
The greatest elegance of the Taj lies in its beautiful white marble dome surrounded by four chatris (smaller domed pavilions). The dome rests on a low drum. Lotus petals encircle its restricted base. It curves up gently to the pointed top, covered with radiating petals. While the dome reveals Persian influence, the four chatris are purely Indian.
Delicacy & grace characterise the beauty of the Taj. The white marble from the Makrana quarries has a texture of the finest quality. It shows subtle variations in colour with every change of light; dazzling white in the noonday sunshine, tinted pale rose at sunset, & gleaming like a pearl in the moonlight.
Light & shade are cleverly arranged. There are no outstanding parts producing sharp contrasts of light & shadow; the shadows are soft & delicate. The arched recess of doors & windows are just deep enough to bring out their pointed shape. This softness of shadows is oneof the great charms of the Taj.
The lovely tomb building together with the four minarets, detatched from it yet united by means of the common platform, form a harmonious open design. The setting too fits such a lovely masterpiece. A pair of buildings in red sandstone flank the glittering white edifice. Before it lies a spacious garden laid out in a conventional plan, forming a carpet of green lawns & flower beds as well as of strems, fountains & lotus pools whose clear waters mirror the beauty of the Taj. The contrast of the dark green trees & red sandstone buildings enhances its white loveliness all the more.