In this post, we try to graze the surface in re-examining the Taj Mahal the way we saw it. Though didactic details are a bit tedious, this post will focus more on a layman’s perspective in as much as pictographic display doesn’t really give justice to the precise architectural form of the Taj. What was it really like? In bits and pieces, we delve into the amazing artistry of the mausoleum. “Maganda ba talaga?” (Was it really beautiful?) was how a friend would egg us on its real merits. If there were 50 things in life that should not be missed, in my book, this would be among my top 5.
At several times of the day, the white Makrana marbles take a yellowish hue as the bright Indian sun gleams its light over the structure, thus many of the photos has the Taj Mahal in several shades of light yellow. Others have attributed this to environmental pollution, i.e. acid rain. In the past, they’ve singled out the Mathura Oil Refinery. As a result of this, the government has set up an anti-pollution zone (called Taj Trapezium Zone) covering a 10,400 kilometer radius surrounding the monument where strict emissions standards are in place. This is why autorickshaws are kept at bay and have to keep their distance from the Taj Mahal. These CNG’s can only drive from a certain distance.
Most mughal architecture employs the use of red sandstones, thus its probably one of the most common feature when one mentions “Mughal architecture”. Emperor Shah Jahan wanted something unique, something that to him denoted “purity” and what could better represent this than white marbles? These marbles, octagonal in form, stand on a square base (plinth). An “iwan” – the arched doorway – welcomes visitors. Just at the top of this is the onion-shaped dome with a lotus design. At each side of this main doorway, we find two smaller arches that function as balconies stacked under and above each other.
In this photo (above) we see the base of the Taj Mahal in its octagonal form. This particular corner slab has balconies, one on each floor. These corner slabs are found at each side of the architectural form, giving the structure its octagonal, i.e. "8-sided", form.
The Taj Mahal is cloistered by red sandstone gates with princely guard houses (see above) typical of Mughal structures and their indo-saracenic form.
Ustad Ahmad Lahouri was appointed the chief architect in the construction of the Taj Mahal, although he had a couple more associates. Typically Persian, he constantly consulted the emperor in every structural detail. Jahan even held daily meetings to see through the construction. For 21 long years, they persevered. Court chronicles point to Jahan's "appropriate alterations to whatever the skillful architects designed after many thoughts, and asked competent questions." He knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it done.