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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

One of the Seven Wonders of The World, "Taj Mahal"

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Tah Mahal is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the World´s Heritage"
Taj-Mahal-India-Yamuna
Taj Mahal, white domed marble mausoleum.
Taj Mahal is regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Indian architectural styles.
In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the White domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal, it is actually an integrated complex of structures.

History of Taj Mahal.

Origin and inspiration.

In the year 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire´s period of greatest prosperity, was grief-stricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess, died during the birth of their 14th child, Gauhara Begum. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632. The principal mausoleum was completed in 1648 and the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later.

Yamuna-River-Taj Mahal
Camel in front of white domed marble mausoleum.
The Taj Mahal incorporates and expands on design traditions of Persian architecture and earlier Mughal architecture. Specific inspiration came from successful Timurid and Mughal buildings including; the Gur-e Amir, Humayun´s Tomb, Itmad-Ud-Daulah´s Tomb (sometimes called the Baby Taj), and Shah Jahan´s own Jama Masjid in Delhi.
Itmad-Ud-Daulah´s-Tomb-Taj-Mahal
Baby Taj.
While earlier Mughal buildings were primarily constructed of red sandstone, Shah Jahan promoted the use of white marble inlaid with semi precious stones, and buidings under his patronage reached new levels of refinement.

Tomb

The tomb is the central focus of the entire complex of the Taj Mahal. This large, white marble structure stands on a square plinth and consists of a symmetrical building with an iwan (an arch shaped doorway) topped by a large dome and finial. Like most Mughal tombs, the basic elements are Persian in origin.
Taj-Mahal
The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, inside white dome.
The base structure is essentially a large, multi-chambered cube with chamfered corners, forming an anequal octagon that is approximately 55 meters (180 ft) on each of the four long sides. On each of these sides, a huge pishtaq, or vaulted archway, frames the iwan with two simirarly shaped, arched balconies stacked on either side. This motif of stacked pishtaqs is replicated on the chamfered corner areas, making the design completely symmetrical on all sides of the building. 
Taj Mahal tomb inside.
Four minarets frame the tomb, one at each corner of the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal andShah Jahan; the actual graves are at a lower level.
Taj-Mahal-River-Yamuna


The marble dome that surmounts the tomb is the most spectacular feature. Its height of around 35 metres (115ft) is about the same as the length of the base, and is accentuated as it sits on a cylindrical "drum" which is roughly 7 meters (23ft) high. Because of its shape, the dome is often called an onion dome or amrud.
Taj-Mahal-River-Yamuna
Inside the dome.
The top is decorated with a lotus design, which also serves to accentuate its height. The shape of the dome is emphasised by four smaller domed chattris placed at its corners, which replicate the onion shape of the main dome. Their columned bases open through the roof of the tomb and provide light to the interior. Tall decorative spires extend from edges of base walls, and provide visual emphasis to the height of the dome. The dome and chattris are topped by a gilded finial, which mixes traditional Persian and Hindustani decorative elements.
Taj-Mahal-Yamuna-River
Gilded finial
The main finial was originally made of gold but was replaced by a copy made of gilded bronze in the early 19th century.

Myths

Ever since its construction, the building has been the source of an admiration transcending culture and geography and so personal and emotional responses have consistently eclipsed scholastic appraisals of the monument. 
A longstanding myth holds that Shah Jahan planned a mausoleum to be built in black marble as a black Taj Mahal across the Yamuna river. The idea originates from fanciful writings of Jean- Baptiste Tavernier, a European traveller who visited Agra in 1665. It was suggested that Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb before it could be built. Ruins of blackened marbel across the river in Moonlight Garden.
No evidence exists for claims that describe, often in horrific detail, the deaths, dismemberments and mutilations which Shah Jahan supposedly inflicted on various architects and craftsmen associated with the tomb. Some stories claim that those involved in construction signed contracts committing themselves to have no part in any similar design.
No evidence exists for claims that Lord William Bentinck, governor-general of India in the 1830, supposedly planned to demolish the Taj Mahal and auction off the marble. Another myth suggests that beating the silhouette of the finial will cause water to come forth.

Outlying buildings

The complex is bounded on three sides by crenellated red sandstone walls, with the river-facing side left open. Outside the walls are several additional mausoleums, including those of Shah Jahan´s other wivesm and a larger tomb for Mumtaz´s favourite servant. These structures, composed primarily of red sandstone, are typical of the smaller Mughal tombs of the era. The garden facing inner sides of the wall are fronted by columned arcades, a feature typical of Hindu temples which was later incorporated into Mughal mosques.
Taj-mahal-gate
Gateway to the Taj Mahal
The wall is interspersed with domed chattris, and small buildings that may have been viewing areas or watch towers like the music house, which is now used as a museum.
Taj-Mahal
Museum in Taj Mahal
The main gateway (darwaza) is a monumental structure built primarily of marble which is reminiscent of Mughal architecture of earlier emperors. Its archways mirror the shape of tomb´s archways, and its pishtaq arches incorporate the calligraphy that decorates the tomb. It utilises bas-relief and pietra dura inlaid decorations with floral motifs. The vaulted ceilings and walls have elaborate geometric designs, like those found in the other sandstone buildings of the complex.
At the far end of the complex, there are two grand red sanstone buildings that are open to the tomb. 

Tourism in Taj Mahal

This place attracts a large number of tourists. UNESCO documented more than 2 million visitor in the year´s, including more than 200,000 from overseas. A two tier pricing system is in place, with a significantly lower entrance fee for indian citizens and a more expensive one for foreigners. Most tourist visit in the cooler months of October, November and February.
Polluting traffic is not allowed near the complex and tourists must either walk from parking lots or catch an electric bus. the Khawasspuras(norhern courtyards) are currently being restored for use as a new visitor center.
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. The Taj is a one of New Seven Wonders of the World, a recent poll with 100 million votes.
The Grounds are open from 06:00 to 19:00 weekdays, except for Friday when the complex is open for prayers at the mosque between 12:00 and 14:00. The complex is open for night viewing on the day of the full moon and two days before and after, excluding Fridays and the month of Ramadan. For security reasons only five items water in transparent bottles, small video cameras, still cameras, mobile phones and small ladies purses are allowed inside the Taj Mahal.

Do and Don´ts

Water bottle is allowed inside the monument. Shoe covers, Half litre water bottle and Tourist Guide Map  of Agra, Battery Bus and Golf cart service are provided free of cost with the foreigner´s entry ticket for the Taj. Wheel chair for disabled people and first aid are available at ASI office at Taj Mahal Ph. #0562-2330498.
Taj-Mahal
Electric bus, in Agra.
Do´s
  • Tourist are adviced to use south entry gate in case of long queues on East and west gate, Which is 250 meters from east and west gate.
  • Tourist must co-operate in keeping the monument neat and clean by using dustbins.
  • Tourists are advised to hire approved guides and photographers who exhibit their identity cards.
  • Taj Museum inside Taj Mahal complex opens from 10:00 to 17:00, entry free.
  • No polluting vehicles are allowed within 500 meters radius of Taj Mahal. Parking facility is available at Shilpgram for eastern gate and at amrood-ka-teela for western gate.
Don´ts
  • Eating and smoking is strictly prohibited inside Taj Mahal. Arms, ammunitions, fire, smoking items, tobacco products, liquor, eatables, head phones, knives, wire, mobile charger, electric goods (except camera), tripods are also prohibited.
  • Mobile phones are to be kept switched off.
  • Please avoid carrying big bags and books inside the monument, this may increase your security check time.
  • Photography is prohibited inside the main mausoleum.
  • Avoid touching and scratching the walls and surfaces of the monument as these are heritage sites and need special care.
  • Visitors are requested not to make noise inside.
  • Above mentioned list of prohibited items along with mobile phones are banned for night viewing of the Taj Mahal. Video camera, extra batteries are prohibited though still camera is permitted after the security check.

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