Architecture of The Taj Mahal

Architecture of The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is the most brilliant and the most triumphant achievement among the funeral monuments all around the world. It marks the culmination in the evolution of the tomb. The Indian builders achieved the most beautiful expression through this creation under the Mughals. The Taj Mahal in its entirety is the result of the grand total of all the efforts put meticulously by the expert artists of the age. They harmonized all the fine features in their minutest details and brilliantly put together to produce the most pleasant impression. The minarets and the grand elevation play an important part in the aesthetics of the Taj Mahal. The beautifully laid garden presents the white marble structure more imposingly.

The main idea behind laying the garden was to give the monument a more beautiful setting. The sky provides a wonderful backdrop to the Taj. The Taj overhangs the river grandly and is always seen in harmony with a blue sky in the background. The Taj Mahal is always seen as ever-changing and against an ever new backdrop because of the background changing its color every now and then. Besides the above mentioned ones there are other substantial factors which add to the looks and beauty of the Taj.

Various parts combine together in symmetry and pleasing proportion to make the monument look more astonishing. And all these structural masses have been beautifully harmonized. The overall unity which has thus been obtained is simply elegant. If we intend to appreciate a work of art our approach should be synthetic; we can't appreciate it in parts, we can do so only as a whole. The parts therefore should be so assimilated together that each looses its identity in the total unity. The lover of architecture must be aware of the synthetic nature of art as any work of art can not be appreciated in isolation of its parts. It is the unity of different parts which make the work look great.

A wonderful artistic and visual effect of the Taj is obtained by its elevation, superstructure, balanced and symmetrical combination of its parts. Different structural masses have been balanced most harmoniously. The monument reflects beautiful admixture of lines, horizontal with vertical on the one hand and straight with curved on the other. A combination of solids and voids imparts a three dimensional effect and allows a beautiful play of light and gives a color independence to the monument. Not only white marble was selected by the architects for exterior decoration but they also manipulated the material to produce the best possible effects of light. This is best reflected in the colored inlay of the portal-dados, the spandrels of the arches and the pilasters. The receding plinths, give the Taj a towering effect and it appears as if it is about to rise high into the sky. The Taj marks the ultimate moment in the development of Mughal architecture. It formed the stage of the art from where it could only decline. The Taj is the perfect expression of beauty and the illusionary effect of the monument adds to its aesthetics. This illusion was created by the architect with the help of such gross materials as lime, brick and white marble. The architect of the Taj was a great master of aesthetics and he successfully incorporated it in his masterpiece. All this go together to prove the fact that the Taj is more a work of art than of architecture. It is more a work of beauty than a mere Mughal mausoleum.

Architecture of Taj Mahal Dome

A bulging white double - dome with a broad padma-kosa (lotus - petals) and beautiful Kalasa-finial is mounted on the tomb. The bulbous dome of the Taj Mahal rests on an amazingly high drum and has a total height of 145' 8" from the base of the drum to the summit of the finial. Chhatris flank the dome on all the four angles which appear to be attached to the dome when viewed from all sides. This feature became possible apparently after the experience gained by the builders in mishandling Humayun's tomb, where the kiosks seem to be excessively detached from the dome. At the Taj the builder calculated the distance between the two features for the precise relationship they were intended to present together. The dome doesn't give an impression of isolation but is seen always in terms of the Chhatris amid a group of pinnacles on all sides. This plan, which is also known as panch-ratna gives the Taj Mahal such a remarkable, impressive and unparalleled grace.

Architecture of Taj Mahal Mausoleum

It is on the centre of a rectangular red sandstone platform that the tomb structure stands along the river Yamuna. Chameli-farsh as the platform is generally called, measures 970'-7" (East-West) by 364' 10" (North-South) and is 4' high from the garden level. There is a beautiful mosque on its west and a matching structure on the east. These structures are in red sandstone with a liberal use of white marble for emphasis and contrast. The tapering minarets are three storeyed and measure 132' in height, each separated by a balcony supported on a series of brackets which has a rhythmic play of light and shadow and provide this black and white marble minaret with grace which matches the arms of a beautiful lady.

The detached minarets at each corner of the plinth of the Taj trace their evolution probably from the Lodhi Tomb at Agra itself. The tomb of Sher Shah is another example of detached kiosks on all the four angles of the main plinth, with the tomb structure occupying its centre. It is for the first time that four full fledged minarets appear on its main gateway. Each minaret is circular and tapers as it rises. These minarets rise gracefully high into sky seemingly carrying the whole body of the gateway with them. Fully developed Minarets mark an important stage in Mughal architecture. The most remarkable feature of these minarets is their harmony with the tomb.

Though the white marble main tomb is basically a square of 187' side, it assumes an octagonal form due to the chamfer at the angles. Some architects believe that the inspiration for this plan could have originally been derived from that of the Hemkuta temple. Each fascia of the tomb is composed of a grand iwan (portal) in its centre, occupying almost the whole height up to the ramparts which rises well over it to give distinction to the iwan. It is flanked on both sides by double alcoves one above the other. Each section of the façade is well demarcated on both sides of the iwan by very small turrets which rise above the ramparts and are crowned by beautiful pinnacles with lotus-buds and finials.

Building Materials Used

In the construction of the Taj Mahal three types of stones have been used : (1) Semi-precious stones like Aqiq (agate), Yemeni, Firoza (turquoise), Lajwad (Lapis- lazuli); moonga (coral), Sulaimani (onyx), Lahsunia (cat's eye), Yasheb (jade) and Pitunia (blood stone). These were mainly used for inlaying work. (2) Rare and scarce stones such as Tilai (goldstone), Zahar-mohra, Ajuba, Abri, Khathu, Nakhod and Maknatis (magnet stone) were used for bold inlay and mosaic work chiefly on floors, exterior dados and turrets and (3) Common stones: sang-i-Gwaliari (grey and yellow sandstone) sang-i-Surkh (red sandstone), sang-i-moosa (black slate) and sang-i-Rukhan (sang-i-marmar; white marble) were used in foundations, masonry and for giving finishing touch to the external surfaces. Red stone was brought from the neighboring towns like Fatehpur Sikri, Karauli-Hindaun, Tantpur and Paharpur whereas white marble was brought from Makrana mines (Rajasthan). Semi precious and rare stones were occasionally brought from as distant places such as Upper Tibet, Kumaon, Jaisalmer, Cambay and Ceylon.

Other materials which were used for the construction of Taj Mahal included different kind of bricks, Gaj-i-Shirin (sweet limestone), Khaprel or tiles, Qulba or Spouts to lead off water, San, Gum, Sirish-i-Kahli or reed glue, Gul-i-Surkh or red clay, Simgil (silver clay) and glass. The center and skeleton of the main building is made up of extra strong brick masonary in which massive white marble slabs, have been used on the headers and stretchers system to give it a white marble outlook. Country ingredients such as molasses; batashe (sugar-bubbles), belgiri-water, urd-pulse, curd, jute and Kankar (pieces of fossilized soil) were mixed with lime mortar to make it an ideal cementing material.

The Mughals believed that the precious and semiprecious stones have different effects on the fortunes of different persons and places; they may be auspicious or inauspicious. This has exactly been calculated and strictly adhered to in the adornment of the Taj Mahal. It is primarily because of these reasons that we see predominance of one or the other stone on a particular feature of its architecture. A number of marks are engraved on red stone slabs, on the pathways, stairs, plinths and pavements of the Taj Mahal. Some of them are- Symbolic motifs Swastika, Cakra, âako¸a (Hexagon), Paµcako¸a (Pentagon), áa´kh (conch-shell), Animate motifs - fish, bi rd, Geometrical motifs - triangle, Square, rectangle, Floral motifs- leaves and petals of the flowers chiefly lotus.

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