Shah Jahan | Mumtaz Mahal | Water Gadgets | Taj Mahotsav | Garden | Mosque | Story | Facts | Complex | Calligraphy | Legends and Myths | Day at Taj
The Taj Mahal Complex in Agra covers an area measuring 60 bighas. The terrain gradually slopes from south to north and incline towards the Yamuna River that shapes up like descending terraces. The forecourt is situated at the southern point with the main gate built in front. The tombs of Akbarabadi Begum and Fatehpuri Begum, who were the Queens of Emperor ShahJahan are situated herewith on the south-east and south-west corners and are respectively named as Saheli Burj 1 and Saheli Burj 2.
On the second terrace is a spacious square garden, with side pavilions. It is divided into four quarters by broad shallow canals of water, with wide walkways and cypress avenues on the sides. The water channels and fountains are fed by overhead water tanks. These four quarters are further divided into the smaller quarters by broad causeways, so that the whole scheme is in a perfect char-bagh.
The main tomb situated within the Taj Mahal reveals a square shaped structure with chamfered corners. The minarets are detached and face the chamfered corners of the main tomb which is placed on the main plinth. A red sandstone mosque erected on the western end and the Mehman-Khana erected on the eastern side of the tomb offer an aesthetic appearance with its clear contrast of colour.
The Taj Mahal Complex features some of the most spectacular specimens that depict polychrome inlay art work on both the interior and exterior sections. These are seen on the cenotaphs, the dados, and on the marble Jhajjhari or Jali-screen fringed around them.
The year was 1632 (17thcentury A.D.) when the fifth Moghul Emperor, Shahjahan commissioned the construction of what will be known as one of the world's most renowned landmarks, creating history that will last for all eternity – that landmark was none other than a mausoleum dedicated to eternal love – The Taj Mahal.
The Taj stands gigantically on a marble platform that measures 186 feet by 186 feet in length. Its corners are square and form the shape of an uneven octagon. The Taj's main dome measures 213 feet high and is surrounded by four smaller minarets. The minaret stands 162.5 feet tall. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the tomb stands as a testimony of a promise the Emperor made to his dearest wife, Mumtaz Mahal - "To erect a landmark to match her magnificence."
The Mosque and the Jawab
The crypt is flanked by two structures on either side of the platform that seem to be leaning on one side. On the west is the mosque (it will be to the left if seen from the green enclosure) and on the east is the Assembly Hall (Mihman Khaana) – these two structures form an integral part of the river-front ensemble. Toward the east is the Jawab, which signifies "answer," balances the symmetry of the structure and was initially utilized as a place for accommodating and entertaining significant guests.
The tomb is the main original element in the focal point of the three-way artwork of the qarina plan, and the lateral structures, that are precisely alike, are the mirror-symmetrical parts. Still, the mosque sets the tone and as a religious building, it gives the riverfront more significance. It is recognized by a couple of components identifies with the ritual of appealing to God and a sermon. The floor of the mosque was laid out with the blueprints of mats with 569 appeal to God imprinted on dark marble. Moghul mosques of that era divide the lobby of the sanctuary into three areas. At the Taj Mahal, each of these opens onto a vaulting arch.
Mihman Khana (The Assembly Hall)
The Mihman Khana or Assembly Hall was made as its imitation exclusively to accommodate a gathering, to give a 'Jawab', an 'answer', for the mosque balances the shared symmetry of the structure. Its unique capacity was to accommodate guests who'd visit to watch the commemorations of Mumtaz, which were held in the initial couple of years in tents. This was organized after the Taj was completed. The platform in this hall has two 'working drawings' of the finial of the tomb arch outline dented into stone pieces. These are frequently found in structures built by Emperor ShahJahan.
BothBoth, the Mosque and the Assembly Hall (Mihman Khana), are preceded by a huge platform, which measures 25 inches over the level of the patio. On every side, the area between these platforms and the tomb is identified as a shallow depressed rectangular 'court'. The tank is a ritual necessity of the mosque for the cleansing before making a petition to God. The tank of the Mihman Khana is a counter-image with no capacity.
The Jilaukhana (Forecourt Zone)
The Taj Mahal complex is accessible through one of the three gateways leading into the Jilaukhana, or the forecourt area. The east and west gateways are usually used by visitors. The arcaded areas along the south side of the Jilaukhana, and the bazaar boulevards were restored between 1905 AD and 1922 AD. Towards the west gateway is a street flanked by two inter-structures –An unknown grave and the Fatehpuri Mosque (Masjid). The tomb is presumably believed to be of Satti-un-Nisa Khanum, who was Mumtaz Mahal's personal assistant at a court (Chief Lady in waiting).
The two bazaar boulevards lead into a considerable stylized forecourt, known as the "jilaukhana" which means "truly, before the house". An obvious component of the Shahjahani design for court decorum, an authentic stylized appearance had turned out to be imperative and required a reasonably designed enclosure. It is here that visitors who'd come to pay their respects to Mumtaz Mahal would get down from their elephants and stallions and amass in style before entering through the immense gateway. The Jilaukhana is flanked by two sets of fenced courtyard or enclosures. To the north, bordering the patio nursery wall, are two Khawasspuras, the quarters of the tomb specialists. To the south are two tomb buildings, generally known as 'Saheli Burj' or the tower of the 'female companion'.
The Saheli Burj (Inner Subsidiary Tombs)
The two Saheli Burj are identical tombs situated at the southern corners of the jilaukhana. They are believed to be smaller than the estimated imitations of the primary complex and stand on raised platforms that can be accessed by steps. Each octagonal tomb is built on a rectangular platform flanked by smaller rectangular structures before which is a charbagh garden. There is less truth that exists as to whom the tombs may memorialize. Their depictions are truant from modern records either on account that they were not assembled or in light of the fact that they were overlooked, being the tombs of the ladies. As per the main record that mentions them, the plan was drawn in 1789 by Thomas and William Daniel, in which the eastern tomb is set apart as fitting with the Akbarabadi Mahal and the western as Fatehpuri Mahal (that belonged to the two other wives of Emperor ShahJahan.)
Khawasspuras (Northern Courtyards)
A couple of patios can be seen in the northern corners of the jilaukhana, which gave way for quarters (Khawasspuras) for the tomb's attendants and the Hafiz. This private section offered a shift between the outside world and the other common delights of the tomb complex. The Khawasspuras had started to deteriorate by the late eighteenth century, yet the foundation of the Khadim remained intactup till the twenty-first century.
Lord Curzon restored the Khawasspuras around 1900-08. Post this, the yard on the western end was then converted to a nursery for the green enclosure and the patio was converted to a dairy stable to house farm animals until 2003.
The Bazaar Boulevards
Two indistinguishable bazaar boulevards lead to the Jilaukhana from the east and west gateways. These boulevards are lined small detached rectangular cells with no windows, and feature a façade of arcaded porch seen with multi cusped arches reinforced by sections of a particular Shahjahani architecture that can be seen in most of these main structures.
Over the arcades, inclining sandstone parts upheld by volute sections protrude from the wall as a shield from rain or sun; this component, known as chhajja, is the Moghul variant of a structure that had been a well-known Indian architectural design for a considerable length of time.
The Taj Ganji (The Taj Marketplace)
The caravanserai and bazaar were built as a basic part of the complex at first to provide the laborers with facilities and conveniences for their wellbeing, and later as a spot for trade - the income of which supplemented the costs incurred for the complex. The section turned into a residential area in its own time during and after the making of the Taj. It was initially known as 'Mumtazabad', and at present, it is called the 'Taj Ganji' or the 'Taj Market'.
Its planning took the trademark type of a square separated by two cross focal roads with doors to the four basic tapered ends. Bazaars enclosed every road and the resultant squares to every corner housed the caravanserais in wide open courtyards that can be accessed from the interiors of the gateways from where the boulevards met the Chowk. Modern-day sources give careful consideration toward the north eastern and western parts of the Taj Ganji, and it is most likely that just this half earned incredible business. Moreover, the landscape of the design was far better than the southern half.
The refinement between how the sacred part of the complex and the conventional was respected is most intense in this part of the complex. Whilst whatever is left of the complex were maintained post its construction, the Taj Ganji turned into a clamoring town and the focal point of Agra's monetary traffic where "various types of stock from each place, assortments of products from various countries, a wide range of extravagances of that time, and varied needs of people for comfort living, brought from all parts of the world" were sold.
The types of merchandise that may have been exchanged in those times make a mention in the caravanserais' names.
North-western caravanserai- Katra Omar Khan (Omar Khan's Bazaar)
North-eastern caravanserai- Katra Fulail (Perfume Bazaar)
South-western caravanserai- Katra Resham (Silk Bazaar)
South-eastern caravanserai- Katra Jogidas (Jogidas Bazaar)(Omar Khan's Bazaar)
These ancient marketplaces have been redeveloped following the time of its development, to the degree that by the nineteenth century, it was barely recognized as part of the Taj Mahal and didn't really include in modern plans. And its engineering was to a great extent, crushed.
Today, the differentiation is stark between the Taj Mahal's rich, formal geometric format and the narrow roads with natural, irregular and un-merged expansions found in the Taj Ganji. Just sections of the first developments remain - most strikingly, the gates.
Fatehabadi Darwaza (The East Gate) and Fatehpuri Darwaza (West Gate)
The east and west gates are indistinguishable. Their external veneers have an expansive center with a pishtaq, here taking the type of a pointed Archway in a rectangular edge, set between connected polygonal shafts topped by fancy zeniths stretching out above the rooftop level, which is imprinted in the middle, off from flanking angled areas of the wall. At the top is a parapet cut in alleviation with a trademark Moghul example of multi-cusped crenellations. Here we first experience the triadic structure that defines most veneers in the Taj complex, including that of the tomb.
Sidhi Darwaza (The South Gate)
The configuration of the south gate is a vertically elongated adaptation of that of the external exteriors of the east and west gates. Both its countenances have a simple pishtaq, flanked by connected shafts ending in guldastas. Due to the general slant of the site, it stands 7 feet 10 inches over the level of the Jilaukhana and then meets a small flight of stairs. On its exterior is a small stairway that takes you to the ancient caravanserai and bazaar complex and then to the 'Taj Ganj' (which lies at a level that is three-feet and three-inches higher).
The Jilaukhana complex is overwhelmed by the considerable passage gate set in the focal point of the southern wall of the funerary patio nursery. Lahauri calls it the Darwaza-i Rauza, 'gate of the catacomb', a commendable counterpart to the tomb. The monumental structure sets a formal complement and intercede the shift between the area of the Jilaukhana and the funerary patio nursery. It prepares the guest for the loftiness of the tomb that anticipates within. The considerable gate is preceded by platforms cleared with geometrical examples gone on the south and north fronts.
The south front of the colossal gate confronts the Jilaukhana as an astonishing prologue to the royal engineering of the area of the tomb. It is a monumental rendition of a Moghul elevationformula that also shows up in the tomb - that of a vast pishtaq flanked by two levels of specialties.
The triadic plan had been declared inside the Jilaukhana region in a more unassuming structure on the internal appearances of the east and west gates. The outline has its roots in the Sultanate design of Delhi, starting with the Ala'i Darwaza of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. It infers Roman triumphal curves; however, no undeniable association can be determined.
Ancillary Edifices and Frontier Walls
The crenellated walls made of red sandstone corner three sides of the Taj Mahal complex with one side left open to face the riverfront. The green enclosure facing the inward sides of the wall are bordered by lined arcades, a component regular of Hindu temple sanctuaries, which was later fused into Moghul mosques. The wall is blended with domed chhatris (umbrellas), and small structures that may have been survey regions or watch towers.
Outside the walls are a few extra mausolea. These structures, made fundamentally out of red sandstone, are run of the mill of the smaller Moghul tombs of that time. The external eastern tomb has a related mosque called the Black Mosque or Kali Masjid, or the Sandalwood Mosque or Sandli Masjid'. The configuration is firmly identified with the internal backup tombs found in the Jilhaukhana -small, landlocked variants of the riverfront patio with a greenery enclosure isolating the mosque from the tomb. The individual buried here is unknown; however, was likely a female from the royal family of Emperor ShahJahan.