Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Taj Mahal

By Michael Young

If there ever was a structure built in the name of love, it was the Taj Mahal.  This building was also built as an expression of confident power and majesty.  It was designed and built based on the deep despair of the Moghul emperor after the death of his beloved wife. The structure is famous for its historical significance, the massive size and the exquisite use of materials. The Taj Mahal has been named one of the Seven Wonders of the World.   It is interesting to think back at the time of the concept and the construction of this magnificent structure, if Shah Jahan realized the significant impact and wondrous beauty it would have on so many people. The 17th century mausoleum was built in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It sits on the banks of the Yamuna River and was commissioned in 1632 by the Moghul Emperor.  In addition to the Taj Mahal, the complex included a main gateway of red sandstone and a square garden divided into quarters by long pools of water, as well as a red sandstone mosque and an identical building called a jawab (or “mirror”) directly across from the mosque. The landscape architects at the time used Islamic features to create the gardens.  In Islam, four was the holiest of numbers and the so the gardens were laid out on a quadrate plan.  Two marble canals, each line with trees crossed in the center and divided it into four equal squares. The squares were divided into sixteen flowerbeds and four hundred flowers were planted.  The Taj Mahal stands in the middle of a massive marble platform that is 315 feet square.  At each corner are minarets.  These were used to call the faithful to prayer. They were slanted outward so that if something happened to them and they fell, they would not destroy the mausoleum.  In the center of the mausoleum, Mumtaz’s body was buried following Islamic tradition, lying north south with her face turned westward to Mecca. Although the mausoleum at a distance looks completely white, the marble is, in fact, extensively decorated with calligraphy, stone carving and inlay both inside and out. The world famous central dome is onion-shaped and stands 200 feet high.  The central chamber is made up of two stories of eight rooms with connecting passageways.  This is a traditional Mogul design called hasht behist, or eight paradises. Visitors coming to the Taj Mahal will see two tombs, called cenotaphs, in the center of the main chamber.  However, these are not the real tombs as the bodies of the emperor and his queen are buried in a small crypt beneath the main chamber.  Mamtaz Mahal’s crypt is directly in the center of the building, while Shah Jahan’s tomb is next to his wife’s

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