Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, the man behind the architecture of TAJ MAHAL had never thought that what he designed as a mausoleum would turn out to be an architectural gem and among wonders of the world!
A UNESCO World Heritage, Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaaz. This white marble mausoleum has been synonymous with eternal love. More than that, the most appealing thing about Taj Mahal is its architectural brilliance. A blend of Mughal, Persian, and Indian architectural styles, Taj Mahal is a beautiful example of Indo-Islamic architecture. The ever changing background of the monument gives it an ethereal aura.
It took hard labor of about 22,000 workers from Central Asia and Iran and 22 years (1632-1648) for the Taj Mahal to be constructed. The entire Taj complex comprises of five parts;
• Darwaza (Main entrance)
• Bageecha (Garden)
• Masjid (Mosque)
• Naqqar Khana (Rest house)
• Rauza (The mausoleum)
The main entrance to the Taj Mahal on the south side plays the role of a grand entrance. Red sandstone is used in its construction and verses from Holy Quran are inscribed on it. The gate boasts of a vertical symmetry with Arabic calligraphy adorning both the borders.
The garden around the Taj comprises of an area of 300 meter by 300 meter. The garden is constructed with an immaculate symmetry and two marble canals with fountains cross in the center of the garden dividing it into four equal squares, known as the “Charbagh plan.” The Mausoleum is located on the north side of the garden and can be viewed clearly from any location in the garden. The quartets are further subdivided into 16 quartets with an elevated marble lotus pond with a cusped and trefoil border in the center of the garden. The water in this pond gives a crystal clear reflection of the Taj!
The garden is not only an example when it comes to architectural ingenuity; it also symbolizes spirituality and depicts Paradise “Jannat” in Islam.
The main tomb stands majestically on a square elevated platform raised 50 meter above the riverbank. The unique feature lies in the placement of the tomb at one end of the quadripartite garden which provides a rich depth and view of the Taj Mahal. The tomb stands on further raised platform, with the four sides of the octagonal base of the minarets extended beyond the square at the corners. The top of the platform can be reached through a lateral flight of steps in the center of the southern side of the tomb.
The ground floor and the upper floor have the same architectural layout with the octagonal tomb chamber in the center, portal halls, and four corner rooms. The exterior of the dome is square in shape and with furrowed corners. The cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan lie in the double storied domed chamber with the illusory cenotaph on the upper floor and real graves in the lower. The cenotaphs are decorated with inlay work using precious stones. An intricate marble lattice screens covers both the cenotaphs and is an example of excellent craftsmanship. The four minarets are special in giving a three- dimensional effect to the Taj Mahal.
MASJID AND NAQQAR KHANA
On the two sides of the Taj Mahal, western and eastern sides are the Masjid and the Naqqar khana respectively built in red sandstone. The two situated on the opposite sides of the monument are provide a fine example of architectural symmetry and are mirror image of each other. The mosque and the rest house have a large platform over the terrace at their front. There is an oblong shaped prayer hall which has three vaulted bays arranged in a row with a centrally located portal. The frame of the entrance arches are covered with white marble. The spandrels are filled with decorative and intricate floral patterns made of stone.
The Taj Mahal, a perfect symmetrically planned building in which the main features are placed on the main axis, is an absolutely stunning example of the working of a human brain!