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Travelogue: By Country | By Date India | May 2001  

May 2001 - The Taj Mahal Part 1


This is how you must prepare a parcel for mailing in India.  A tailor-like fellow covers it in muslin. . . . . . while cautious children keep watch . . . . . . then the tailor fellow's assistant "seals" the seams with sealing wax.  The forms get stuck on with glue.  Then you can proceed to the post office itself for mailing. On the road to outside the Taj Mahal
Entrance to the Taj Mahal and cow and dome The inner courtyard is surrounded by an outer garden The entrance to the inner compound Detail
What you see as you enter the gate to the inner compound Cute girls with Taj.  The Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a blending of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles.   It is unbelievable.  We all expected to be disappointed but not one of us was. The Taj was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-58) to immortalize his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal ("Chosen One of the Palace"). She died in childbirth in 1631, after having been the emperor's inseparable companion since their marriage in 1612. The name Taj Mahal is a corruption of her title. Shah Jahan also built the Red Fort and Delhi's Great Mosque. The Taj complex is considered to have five principal elements -- the main gateway, garden, mosque, jawab (literally "answer"; a building mirroring the mosque), and mausoleum (including its four minarets).  The famous part, pictured here, is the mausoleum.
This is the mosque.  It sits on one side of the mausoleum and the  jawab.  The buildings are different but symmetric and indistinguishable in most respects. The mausoleum sits on a high white marble platform Maggie, dressed in Indian garb, and an Indian girl, dressed in Western garb, standing in front of the mausoleum and looking across the garden to the main gateway. Maggie on the mausoleum's platform admiring the Yamuna River.  Some say Shah Jahan intended to build his own mausoleum on the far bank of the river and link it to the Taj with a bridge.  Jahan was deposed by his son and imprisoned in the Agra Fort .  Ultimately, his son interred him in the Taj alongside his beloved wife.
The mausoleum has four nearly identical facades, each with a 108 foot central arch and slanted corners incorporating smaller arches. The two major decorations throughout the complex are pietra dura and Arabic calligraphy.   If you look carefully, you can see calligraphy on the rectangular strip around the arch.  Supposedly the lettering increases in size near the top so that it has a uniform appearance to a viewer standing on the ground.  The guards wouldn't let us climb up and check As in the Red Fort, the decorations incorporate detailed floral reliefs. The Jawab (I think) mirrors the mosque which is on the other side.  As Duncan pointed out, Shah Jahan couldn't have flanked the mausoleum with two symmetric mosques, because only one would face Mecca.
As embodied in the Mughal craft, pietra dura incorporates the inlay of semiprecious stones of various colours, such as lapis lazuli, jade, crystal, turquoise, and amethyst, in highly formalized and intertwining geometric and floral designs. The colours serve to moderate the dazzling expanse of the white marble. Even the Taj is not a cow pie free zone. Described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, it took mMore than 20,000 workers were employed from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe to complete the mausoleum