Monday, 15 February 2016

Wonder that is the Taj Mahal - 20 fascinating facts

Mahal and outlying bildgs. viewmfrom across the Yamuna River
The Taj Mamal, Agra, India.

During the occupation of Muslim rulers in India, in particular, Mogul emperors, much attention was paid to the Muslim architecture and the rulers spent lavishly on such palatial buildings Several of the old monuments, including mosques, mausoleum, etc.,  are the reminders of their past glory. An important feature of Muslim architecture is the blend of Indian designs and styles as well. Delhi and the surrounding areas have wonderful and amazing Muslim monuments, The one at the Agra city - the Taj Mahal is an internationally acclaimed wonderful building

Taj Mahal, an ivory white marble Mausoleum  in Agra near Delhi, is perhaps one of the most amazing heritage buildings in the world. The impressive heritage tomb built by Shah Jehan (reigned 1628–1658) in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal is being visited by thousands of people every day to enjoy the grandeur, beauty and majesty of this world class white marble edifice. It is a classic example of a combination of  Persian, Turkish Indian and Islamic architecture . This almost perfect symmetrical marble  building in-laid with various precious gems at certain places on the walls of the tomb was completed in 1648  and is considered the  jewel of Islamic art and architecture. 

The following facts of interest may be worth mentioning:

01. The huge building was built on a raised platform on the banks of near-by Yamuna river,
02.  It is estimated  roughly 7 to 8 million people visit the  the Taj  annually and almost all foreign dignitaries who visit Delhi on official work never fail to make a trip to Agra and have a photo taken with their dear ones.

03. On the sides of actual  tomb of Mumtaz Mahal  one could observe as many as 99 names (Namas) of Allah calligraphically inscribed.  Whereas,  the tomb of Shah Jahan has 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."

04. Unfortunately during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 some  British  soldiers, it is believed,  laid their hands on the precious and semiprecious stones inlaid on the walls of the tomb and stripped them  and caused considerable damages to the Taj.

05. It was Lord Curzon (January 1859 – March 1925),  who under took major restoration work to preserve the beauty of the Taj and expressed quite satisfaction over the work.

06. Once there were as many as 38 varieties of precious and semiprecious stone in laid in the tomb of Mumtaz.

07.The building is made of small and big domes the largest dome  in the center is about 115 feet high equal to the length of the base and accentuated by a cylindrical drum. Because of its shape, it is called onion domes or  amrud (guava dome).

08. Taj Mahal in Persian means  ''the crown of palaces.'' It is a 42 acre complex  and  the actual tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are in the lower level, whereas  the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan  are in the main chamber. The Taj's central focus is on the tomb, a large marble building topped by a dome standing on a square plinth.
Actual tombs - Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan in the lower
False sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan -mmain chamber.

09. The base of the tomb  is a large multi-chambered cube with transitional corners consisting of 8 unequal eight-sided structure that is approximately 55 meters (about 180 meters) on each of the four side.

10. Commissioned in 1632, the work  was completed in 1653 - about 21 years  and roughly it took 20,000 workers to complete  the job and, it is believed,  the total cost of construction of the Taj was  roughly  Rs. 33 crores then (about $5 million then; about $ 50 billion in to day's  estimate). The chief architect was  Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the court architect.

11. The minarets, each more than 40 meters (130 ft) tall are symmetrical without any deviation. They are built slightly  away from the plinth and in case of fall of minarets due natural disasters like tremors, etc the  broken debris will  fall away from the tombs and won't get damaged. An ingenious way to save the center of the tomb from impending damages.  Further, inside  the  building, the pillars with a gentle  slant, if damaged, will fall away from the tomb.
Ornate Jali screen, inlaid with precious and semi-precious stone.

12. The calligraphy on the Great Gate reads "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you '' was created in 1609 by a Calligrapher named Abdul Haq. The calligraphy script is made of jasper or marble and these highlight the holy inscription.

Calligraphy of Persian
13. Depending on the time of the day, the Taj exhibits change of color and   appears to look in a different shade of color, in particular, under the moonlight. The UNESSCO classified the Taj as one of the seven wonders of the world.

Flowers carved in marble.
14. The additional features that enhance the majesty of the Taj are the artistically styled  Calligraphy on the walls,  marble Jali lattice, detail of Pietra dura jali inlay, delicacy of intricate pierce work,  plant motifs, a lapidary of precious and semiprecious gemstones in the interior chamber, flowers carved in marble, incised painting, etc.

15. It is a taboo to decorate elaborately the graves according to Muslim tradition, hence the bodies of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are kept in a plain crypt beneath the inner chamber with their faces turned right  towards Mecca.

16. On all three sides, the Taj Mahal complex is bordered  by defencive thick red sandstone walls; the side facing the river is open. The purpose was to safeguard the tombs inside the Mausoleum. Outside the walls are several additional mausoleums, including those of Shah Jahan's other wives, and a larger tomb for Mumtaz's favourite servant.
Protective wartime scaffolding. en.

17. In 1942, during the WWII British India  government as a precaution, erected a scaffolding to mask  the building in anticipation of air attacks by the Japanese Air Force. During the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, scaffoldings were again built around with a view to  to misleading  bomber pilots.

18. Recent major threats are environmental pollution on the banks of  Yamuna river including acid rain due to the Mathura oil refinery. Such pollution has been slowly turning the Taj yellow. Under Supreme court directive,  the Central government has strict emission standard around the Taj within a radius of 4000 sq. miles. Besides, as part of urbanization, building 4 lane High ways, etc lots of trees had been removed in the past and it is complicated by dust storms that blow over the Taj in certain seasons.

19. The unique aspect of the Taj is the presence of wooden foundation below the complex to give sustained stability  to the  complex in view of the Yamuna river that flows near the building.

20. The 362 year old heritage monument, it is believed, might collapse in the future unless action is taken on a war footing.The minarets out side the main plinth have begun to show signs of tilting due prevalence of dry conditions in the river and consequent rotting of wooden foundations beneath the wells. They show signs of disintegration and have become brittle. Increased population, more drawing of water from the Yumuna and long spell of hot weather  are additional reasons. The Mogul builders never anticipated this change of weather pattern, etc centuries later.