Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Taj Mahal

Among the greatest wonders of the world lies in Agra, India. It is a breathtaking monument to a great love a king had for his queen. 

The Taj Mahal is a massive marble structure that was meant to be the resting place of a queen, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj combines several architectural styles blending Indian, Persian, Turkish, Ottoman, and Islamic architecture. 

The Gate of the Taj Mahal
The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan dearly loved his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. When they met, she was a Persian princess named Arjumand Banu Begum while he was Prince Khurram and the son of the then Mughal emperor Jehangir who was the son of Akbar the Great. He was 14 when he first laid eyes on the beautiful princess and married her five years later in 1612. 

Calligraphy on the Taj Mahal Gate
Calligraphy on the Taj Mahal

The gate of the Taj Mahal welcomes all those who visit with an inscription done in very symmetrical writing which reads, "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you." 

The calligraphy found on the Taj Mahal itself is mainly passages and verses from the Holy Quran.

A peek of the Taj Mahal from the Gate
The construction of the Taj Mahal started in 1632. It was a year earlier that Mumtaz Mahal (the emperor's third wife) died after giving birth to her 14th child fathered by the emperor Shah Jahan. 

Beautifully carved marble

It is said that the emperor Shah Jahan was so badly heartbroken after her death that he had ordered the royal court to mourn the queen's death for two years. After her death, the emperor decided to build the marble wonder mausoleum in her memory.

Taj Mahal means "Crown Palace" yet it is actually a mausoleum. In its center lies the tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan lying side by side. 

Taj Mahal

Built entirely of white marble, it took 22 years to build the Taj even with 22,000 laborers working on it with the help of 1,000 elephants to help haul the materials they needed for the construction. 
One of thr four towers
surrounding the Taj Mahal

Stonecutters, masons, carvers, painters, inlayers, artisans, calligraphers, and dome builders were called in from as far as Persia, Central Asia, and all over the empire. The cost of building the tomb was estimated at $68,000 or 32 million rupees. 

Inlaid semi-precious stones on the marble looking as if the
design was painted on

Unfortunately, soon after the completion of the Taj Mahal, Aurangzeb, the emperor's son, had emperor Shah Jahan placed under house arrest at Agra Fort. 

One of two mosques on either side of the Taj Mahal

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