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Home » Taj Mahal Tourism » Taj Mahal Architecture

Taj Mahal Architecture

Taj Mahal

The central path within the garden leads you to the Taj Mahal, which is placed on a high plinth (platform). The plinth is 6.7 m (21.98 ft) high and covers an area of 95 sq m (1,022.57 square feet). A double staircase facing the entrance to the tomb is the only way, which takes you on top of it. This plinth or pedestal is an ideal place from where you can have a panoramic view of the surroundings, which includes the lush green Charbagh in the front and the riverfront at the backside. From here, you can also admire the white towering structure of the Taj.

There are four elegant tapering minarets, one on each corner of the plinth. Each of the minarets is 41.6 m (136.48 ft) high and is capped by a small cupola. The minarets, not only balance the main structure of the mausoleum, but are also placed in such a way that in case of a mishap, they do not fall over the main edifice. Each pillar has a letter written on it, which put together spell the word ar-rahman (all merciful) - one of the many names of Allah.

The main structure of the Taj Mahal is square and is beveled at its corners. Each side of the Taj Mahal is 56.6 m (185.69 ft) long. On each facade arched recesses arranged in two stories flank a high iwan in the center. The top border of the iwan on each side rises higher than the rest of façade, thus concealing the neck of the dome behind it.

A central bulbous dome crowns the magnificent structure. This dome is further surrounded by four chhatris (domed canopy, supported by pillars/cupola). Each of which is topped by a small finial. The dome is an important component of the Islamic style of architecture, as it is believed to be a link between heaven and earth. While the square structure of the edifice represents the material world, the dome symbolizes the vault of heaven. The octagonal part symbolizes the transitional phase between heaven and earth. The dome is topped by a brass finial, whose tip rises to a height of 73 m above the ground. Above the finial is the realm of transcendence. The entire structure of the dome is designed as a replica of God’s throne in paradise, where a gigantic pearl dome stands supported by four corner pillars. According to Islam the rivers of grace flow through this dome. The outer walls of the Taj Mahal are decorated in a number of places with shallow marble carving apart from the elegant pietra dura work, which can be seen near arched recesses and borders.

The entrance to the tomb leads you to the central hall, which houses the false tombs and has four small octagonal halls, grouped around it. The original graves are located in a crypt, which is directly below the central hall. The four smaller rooms were originally created for housing the graves of other members of the royal family. The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, in whose honor the Taj Mahal was built, lies directly below the dome. The tomb is placed in such a manner that it is in direct alignment with the main entrance. The tomb of Shahjahan is much larger and is placed next to that of his beloved queen.

The tombs are decorated with exquisite pietra dura (stone inlay) work. Apart from unexcelled inlay work the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal is inscribed by 99 different names of Allah. It is said that the royal graves once laid inside a gem encrusted gold railing, which was later removed and replaced by an octagonal, all marble lattice (jali-perforated screen) screen of the most exquisite craftsmanship. Delicate inlay work can be seen on the surface of the screen. The floral decorations on the screen are amazing. Some flowers created on the screen are made up of as many as 64 pieces. The different sections of the screen are carved out of a single piece of marble. Various sections of the screen are joined together with gilded fasteners and the entrance is fashioned out of jasper, in the Turkish style.

Apart from the decorations on the tombs and the intricately carved out marble screen in the central hall, the outer walls of the Taj are decorated with low relief marble carving of sheer elegance. But it is the pietra dura or inlay work on the interior of the Taj as well as on its exteriors that is beyond compare. Its beauty, intricacy, flowing lines and floral patterns, belie the fact that all of it had been achieved by the extremely slow and painstaking process involving the use of the chisel on the hard surface of the marble. There is pietra dura work everywhere in the Taj-on the tombs, on the cenotaph and on the main edifice. It is said that as many as 35 different types of precious and semi-precious stones were used in the inlay work done on the Taj. Turquoise, jade, agate, coral, lapis lazuli, onyx, bloodstone, carnelian, jasper, garnet and malachite were used to decorate flowers like lily and honeysuckle. Carnelian and lapis lazuli were preferred for their color and luminosity. Today much is left to imagination as much of the inlay work has been stripped of its precious and semi-precious stones by plunderers down the years.

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