Tuesday, July 19, 2011

India's famed Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous structures in the world, even being considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, and is something I absolutely would LOVE to see in person one day!

When I see pictures of the Taj Mahal I marvel at how beautiful and elegant the structure is, and it seems like something straight out of a fairy tale, but the story of its origin is actually quite sad.  The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum dedicated to his beloved wife who died just minutes after giving birth to her fourteenth child in 1631.  

Born Ajumand Banu Begum, the empress was given the name  Mumtaz Mahal, "chosen one of the palace," and was the Shah's third and most beloved wife. 
According to legend, Mumtaz Mahal's final request was for the Shah to not marry again and to prove their endless love by building her a beautiful mausoleum.  The emperor mourned his wife for over a year, wearing simple clothes, and being so emotionally broken that his hair turned white.

The construction of the Taj Mahal took 22 years  and the work of 20,000 workers to complete.  Asian and Persian architecture influenced this Mughal structure, and its most notable feature is the enormous central dome, which rises 240 feet and weighs approximately twelve thousand tons. The Taj Mahal complex is surrounded on three sides by red sandstone walls, however the river-facing left side is left open. There are several additional mausoleums outside the walls, including ones for Mumtaz's favorite servant, and the Shah's other wives (bet they felt pretty insignificant after seeing all the work he put into Mumtaz's mausoleum!). The main structure is made of brick, red sandstone, and white marble finished with polished plaster.

As representational figures are not allowed in Muslim art, much of the decoration are calligraphic or floral motifs. 

entry gate to the Taj Mahal
Columned arcades face the garden and are typical of Hindu temples,  and were later incorporated into Mughal mosques
I had heard the story before of the Shah cutting off the hands of the sculptors and architects so they would never be able to build a monument as magnificent again, however most scholars agree that the story is a myth. Despite the workers surviving intact, the structure is unparalleled in its dreamlike and fantasy-filled style. The Shah's monument to his beloved late wife is a structure that while firmly rooted to the earth, seems almost to be a vision of a beautiful palace where he dreamed to be reunited with his love.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...the Shah had 14 children with this wife, and he still had other wives as well.