7 Really Astonishing Architectural Facts about The Taj Mahal
Shah Jahan moved heaven and earth to create a Paradise for the final resting place of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. In this feat, he created not just a wonder for the world but also 7 beautiful architectural breakthroughs
Rabindranath Tagore famously described the Taj Mahal as A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time and rightly so. When Shah Jahan’s most beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal breathed her last during the birth of their 14th child he was devastated. Helpless and lonely he slipped into deep mourning. He kept to himself in solitary confinement. When he returned, his youthfulness had vanished leaving behind an old man with grey hair.
That’s when he decided to leave a sign of his eternal love for Mumtaz Mahal. It would be a symbol of love no other. And wasn’t he successful?
The Taj Mahal is visited by approximately 8 million people each year. It is one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Even the best of camera lenses cannot hope to capture its true beauty.
What most of us miss when we look at this white gem of everlasting love is the game play of extreme mastery. Taj Mahal isn’t just paradise on earth but a complex where beauty meets intellect.
This monument and its gardens baffle and enthral architecture lovers even today. Way back in 1632, Shah Jahan overcome many difficulties to build a final home for his love. From battling the issue of creating a perfect design to making strong foundations to hold this marble beauty- he left no stone unturned. All in all, the Taj is beautiful, an optical illusion and the most romantic of gestures. And did you know it took a mere 22 years to build.
Here is a list of 7 Really Astonishing Architectural Facts about The Taj Mahal
Love is Not Perfect, So Is the Taj
From the outside, every small gemstone interred in the white marble seems symmetrical. The perfection will get the best of perfectionists to their knees yet there is one small glitch.
At the heart of the Taj Mahal the tomb stone of Mumtaz Mahal rests in the centre. It is the most beautiful room in the entire monument. It was reserved for her and only her but on the death of his father, Emperor Aurangzeb decided to bury Shah Jahan next to his mother. He did it even if that meant spoiling the symmetry of the Taj Mahal.
As Shah Jahan rests beside his wife, the only Mughal Emperor to not have a mausoleum for himself, he is not in harmony with the rest of the monument.
The Taj Mahal garden that we see today is not what was planted by the original botanists. The overall structure of the paradise gardens remains according to the original plan. Just the tree layout is different. Have you ever wondered why the Mughal Gardens look similar to an English garden? That’s because it is kind of an english garden.
The British played a role in re-designing the trees in the Charbagh. Once filled with Mango, pomegranate and more fruit tress, the British cut these down and planted a lawn instead.
Leaving that aside, the Mughal Gardens are made to represent paradise or Jannah. The Arabs believed Paradise or Jannah to be a place with abundant food, water and greenery. Privileges that the arid desert didn’t offer. The Charbagh, as the name suggests, are divided into 4 parts. They are divided by four streams representing the four rivers in Jannah of water, honey, milk and wine.
The ground plan of the Taj Mahal and its garden is a mirror splitting image of the market area, thus making it look like a reflection if seen aerially.
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Needless to say, the Taj Mahal weighs a lot in all its glory. It is very difficult to construct such a huge and heavy model on a river bank i.e. the Yamuna river. The Mughals used a technique that we still use today. They dug wells till the earth’s hard surface, way below the river bed. These wells were filled with stone and gravel and lined with timber and other materials. I would like to point out that they didn’t have special machines to do this.
Above a well-like foundation, a wooden structure actually supports the Taj Mahal. Now wouldn’t wood rot? Apparently not. They used Ebony wood which is an element who associates with all the five elements- fire, water, earth, air and sky. Ebony doesn’t rot if the humidity is kept constant. However due to the decrease of the water level in the river which the Mughals didn’t foresee, the Taj Mahal was under threat of collapse. Today’s new engineers helped solve problems. New projects to save the Yamuna also helped pump life back into the river and keep the Taj Mahal safe.
Have you ever drawn a line which was so straight that it appeared slightly bent?
The Taj Mahal uses this exact principle. If the four minarets of the Taj were at 90º from the surface, they would appear to tilt inwards. However these minarets lean 2º outwards giving an illusion of being erect.
This is also a trick to save the heart of the main structure protecting Shah Jahan and his lady love. In case of an earthquake or disaster, the minarets would fall outwards keeping the monument safe and sound.
The Taj Mahal’s design is not as original as it can be. It is rather an amalgamation of a few Indo-Islamic monuments in the Indian Subcontinent. Shah Jahan had clubbed together a few features from each of these monuments to make the ultimate Taj Mahal.
The idea of the minarets comes from his father, Jahangir’s mausoleum now in Pakistan. The front facade from Akbar’s Mausoleum. A few inspirations from the first marble monument in India, Itmad-Ud-Daula have all found a way into the Taj Mahal’s design.
The famous gem stone intricate designs on the Taj Mahal are done in a fashion called Pietra Dura.
Shah Jahan was open to new visitors on his land. The Europeans came to India for cloth and spices. As culture and traditions were exchanged, the art of Pietra Dura came to India. So fascinated was Shah Jahan by it that Pietra Dura found its way on the walls of the Taj. It created an entire industry in Agra and its surrounding areas called Parchinkari. Today the 18th generation of the artisans still continue the legacy.
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Balancing the Dome
The huge centre dome of the Taj seems to float in thin air. Although it looks small in front of this colossal marble beauty, the dome is 35 metres high. The Dome is geometry at play. It is a double dome meaning that the outside dome is just for the looks. On the inside, you’ll find a false ceiling. This balances out the proportions. Furthermore the entire weight of the dome is shifted downwards on the structure facilitating its balance.
These were 7 Really Astonishing Architectural Facts about The Taj Mahal. It is truly a place where beauty, tranquility and deep ingenuity meet- a Paradise on earth made with love.
Wait up, here is a surprise for you 👇🏼
The Great Gate of the Taj Mahal plays with your head. When you stand at the entrance the Taj Mahal appears to be very close, almost on your face! Once you get closer to the gate, the Taj keeps getting farther and farther away. This is an optical illusion since the entrance and the Taj are in an exact line. It is said that when you leave, you take a piece of Taj Mahal with you.
Another Bonus Fact:
Did you know that the two tombs in the centre of the Taj Mahal are hollow? The real tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal lie under the entire structure, undisturbed by the millions of tourists.
Hope you enjoyed ‘7 Really Astonishing Architectural Facts about The Taj Mahal.’ Are you baffled to or did you know these facts? Comment below and let me know:)
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