The Taj Mahal is the best-preserved and most stunning example of Mughal-era architecture. Its pristine white marble exterior is complemented by a pair of identical red sandstone buildings that flank the main mausoleum.
When Shah Jahan’s favourite wife Mumtaz died he plunged his empire into mourning for two years. Then he began planning the ultimate monument to his love.
The Taj Mahal is one of the world’s most famous landmarks and has an enchanting saga of dedication, loss, and remorse. It was constructed as a tomb by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 14th child.
When Mumtaz died, he was inconsolable and plunged his imperial court into mourning for two years. He then commissioned Muslim artists and architects to design the ultimate mausoleum to honor his favorite wife. It took them 22 years to complete the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum was built from white marble sourced from Makrana, about 200 miles away. More than 1,000 elephants were used to transport the materials.
It’s a monument of grace, harmony, and purity and was intended to represent heaven (Jannah) on Earth. The use of symmetry throughout the complex, the gardens, and the architecture are symbolic of this. Inlaid into the marble are passages from the Quran, penned by master calligrapher Amanat Khan.
The Taj Mahal is a perfect example of Islamic architecture and art. The use of symmetry and balance, as well as traditional Indian design elements, create a masterpiece that has captivated visitors for centuries.
The use of different types of symbolism is another key aspect of the Taj Mahal. The number four appears throughout the building, as it represents perfection and divinity. It also has several geometric representations and is associated with logic and rigor which were qualities that the Mughal builders wanted to convey through their work.
The main gate of the Taj was inspired by idea of a veil, which is lifted gently to reveal a bride on her wedding night. The garden behind the Taj has spiritual symbolism as it is meant to represent paradise. The cypress and lotus flowers that decorate the Taj symbolize longevity and transition. The changing hue of the marble throughout the day is another one of the many allures that the Taj possesses. It can appear pearly gray and pale pink at sunrise, dazzling white at high noon, and orange-bronze at sunset.
The Taj Mahal has become one of the most well-known symbols of love in the world. But what many people don’t realize is that the structure is full of other symbolic notions.
The exterior of the Taj Mahal evokes Islamic notions of Paradise through its brilliant white color, octagonal shape, and dome stretching towards the heavens. Inside the Taj, a visitor passes through anti-chambers that correspond to the purification of souls before reaching the central part containing the cenotaphs.
A visitor also passes by a garden surrounded by four quadrants, which reflect the idea of paradise through the use of water. The garden and rivers are also filled with different plants that were carefully selected to evoke the sense of peace and tranquility that the emperor wanted to convey through his monument.
Researchers from around the world continue to dig for meaning behind the motifs used in the architectural ornamentation of the Taj. They have found that 46 species of plants appear on its walls and floors, but the significance of these motifs is still under debate.
In Hindu symbolism, the Taj Mahal stands for the duality of Earth-Sky. Its white crystalline marble reflects and changes with the sky, from pinkish at sunrise to milky white during the day and golden in the moonlight. It’s a stunning sight and one of the reasons the Taj is so popular with photographers.
But the 17th-century monument is fading. The apex court has asked for foreign expertise to fix the issue. Air pollution, construction dust, and insect dung are some of the culprits. Acid rain, meanwhile, creates microscopic sites on the marble where soot, rust, and algae can gain a foothold.
To prevent this, experts have suggested etching the surface of the marble. But this is a risky move that could damage the glistening stone and erode the marble underneath it. Instead, Sambuddha Misra, a geochemist, suggests cracking open a small piece of marble. He says unexposed marble from the site where the Taj was built — Makrana in Rajasthan — can be compared to the Taj to see if it’s changing color.