Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world. It is a mausoleum of Shah Jahan's favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, situated on the bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India. In its harmonious proportions and its fluid incorporation of decorative elements, the Taj Mahal is distinguished as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a blend of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles. One of the most beautiful structural compositions in the world, the Taj Mahal was designated a World Heritage Site in 1983. Now it is known as “Number One” wonder of the world among “New Seven Wonders” of the world.

It was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–58) to immortalize his wife Mumtaz Maḥal. She died in childbirth in 1631, after having been the emperor’s inseparable companion since their marriage in 1612. The plans for the complex have been attributed to various architects of the period, though the chief architect was probably Ustad Aḥmad Lahori, an Indian of Persian descent. The five principal elements of the complex: main gateway, garden, mosque, jawab (literally “answer”; a building mirroring the mosque) or guest house, and mausoleum (including its four minarets)—were conceived and designed as a unified entity according to the tenets of Mughal building practice, which allowed no subsequent addition or alteration. Building commenced about 1632. More than 20,000 workers were employed from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe to complete the mausoleum itself by about 1638–39; the adjunct buildings were finished by 1643, and decoration work continued until 1648. In total, construction of the 42 acre (17 hectare) complex spanned 17 years.

Resting in the middle of a wide plinth 23 feet (7 metres) high, the mausoleum proper is of white marble that reflects hues according to the intensity of sunlight or moonlight. It has four nearly identical facades, each with a wide central arch rising to 108 feet (33 metres) and chamfered (slanted) corners incorporating smaller arches. The majestic central dome, which reaches a height of 240 feet (73 metres) at the tip of its finial, is surrounded by four lesser domes. The acoustics inside the main dome cause the single note of a flute to reverberate five times. The interior of the mausoleum is organized around an octagonal marble chamber ornamented with ‘low relief’ carvings and semiprecious stones (pietra dura ); therein are the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Maḥal and Shah Jahan. These false tombs are enclosed by a finely wrought filigree marble screen. Beneath the tombs, at garden level, lie the true sarcophagi. Standing gracefully apart from the central building, at each of the four corners of the square plinth, are elegant minarets.

Flanking the mausoleum near the northwestern and northeastern edges of the garden, respectively, are two symmetrically identical buildings, the mosque, which faces east, and its jawab or guest house, which faces west and provides aesthetic balance. Built of red Sikri sandstone with marble-necked domes and architraves, they contrast in both colour and texture with the mausoleum’s white marble.

The garden is set out along classical Mughal lines: a square quartered by long water courses (pools) with walking paths, fountains, and ornamental trees. Enclosed by the walls and structures of the complex, it provides a striking approach to the mausoleum, which can be seen reflected in the garden’s central pools.

The southern end of the complex is graced by a wide red sandstone gateway with a recessed central arch two stories high. White marble paneling around the arch is inlaid with black Quranic lettering and floral designs. The main arch is flanked by two pairs of smaller arches. Crowning the northern and southern facades of the gateway are matching rows of white chattris (chhattris; cupola-like structures), 11 to each facade, accompanied by thin ornamental minarets that rise to some 98 feet (30 metres). At the four corners of the structure are octagonal towers capped with larger chattris.

Two notable decorative features are repeated throughout the complex: pietra dura and Arabic calligraphy. As embodied in the Mughal craft, pietra dura (Italian: “hard stone”) incorporates the inlay of semiprecious stones of various colours, including lapis lazuli, jade, crystal, turquoise, and amethyst, in highly formalized and intertwining geometric and floral designs. The colours serve to moderate the dazzling expanse of the white Makrana marble. Under the direction of Amanat Khan-al- Shirazi, Quranic verses were inscribed across numerous sections of the Taj Mahal in calligraphy, central to Islamic artistic tradition. One of the inscriptions in the sandstone gateway is known as Daybreak (89:28–30) and invites the faithful to enter paradise. Calligraphy also encircles the soaring arched entrances to the mausoleum proper. To ensure a uniform appearance from the vantage point of the terrace, the lettering increases in size according to its relative height and distance from the viewer.

A tradition relates that Shah Jahan originally intended to build another mausoleum across the river to house his own remains, and the two structures were to be connected by a bridge. He was deposed by his son Aurangzeb, however, and imprisoned for the rest of his life in Agra Fort, on the bank of the Yamuna River 2.5 km west of the Taj Mahal.

Agra Fort

Agra fort, made of red sandstone located on the bank of Yamuna River in the historic city of Agra, India. Agra fort served as a royal residence, a military base and as the seat of government when Agra was capital of Mughals. The structure, a contemporary of Humyaun’s tomb in Delhi, reflects the architectural grandeur of the Mughal reign in India. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

The fort was commissioned by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1565 after demolishing the old fort of Sikander Lodi at the site of Badalgarh and reportedly took eight years to construct. The walls of the roughly crescent shaped structure have a circumference of about 3.5 KM, rise 70 feet (21 metres) high, and are surrounded by a moat. There are two access points in the walls: the Amar Singh Gate facing south (now the only means in or out of the fort for tourist) and the Delhi Gate facing west, the original entrance, which is richly decorated with intricate marble inlays. Many structures within the walls were added later by subsequent Mughal emperors, notably Shah Jahan and Jahangir. The complex of buildings: reminiscent of Persian and Timurid style architectural features, forms a city within a city.

Among the major attractions in the fort is Jahangir’s Palace or Jahangiri Mahal. The Pearl Mosque or Moti Masjid, constructed by Shah Jahan, is a tranquil and perfectly proportioned structure made of white marble. The Hall of Private Audience or Diwan-i-Khas was used for receiving distinguished visitors. The famous Peacock Throne was once kept there, before Aurangzeb took it to Delhi. Near the Hall of Private Audience stands the tall Octagonal Tower or Musamman Burj. In the Hall of Public Audience or Diwan-i-Am, the emperor would listen to public petitions and meet state officials. The elegant marble walls of the Khas Mahal (the emperor’s private palace) were once adorned with flowers depicted by precious gems. Located to its northeast is the splendid Palace of Mirrors or Sheesh Mahal, its walls and ceilings decorated with thousands of small mirrors. The structure’s two dazzling chambers were probably used as baths and possibly as a boudoir by the queens.

In addition to its other functions, the fort also served as a prison for Shah Jahan. Aurangzeb, his son and successor as emperor, had him confined there from 1658 until his death in 1666.

Fatehpur Sikri

A panoramic view of Fatehpur Sikri

Akbar (1556-1605), grandson of Babur, shifted his residence and court from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri, for a period of 13 years, from 1572 to 1585 to honour the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti, who resided here (in a cavern on the ridge). Akbar revered him very much as the Saint had blessed him with a son who was named Salim in 1569. He raised lofty buildings for his use, and houses for the public. Thus grew, a great city with charming palaces and institutions.

Fatehpur Sikri was the first planned city of the Mughals. The sloping levels of the city were connected into terraces which were utilized for various complexes such as Jami masjid, Buland-Darwaza and tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti; Khass Mahal, Shahi-Bazar, Mina- Bazar, the Panch-Mahal, Khwabgah, Diwan-i-Khass, Anup-Talao, Chaupar and Diwan-i-Am. The efficient system of drainage and water-supply adopted here suggest an extremely intelligent town-planning by the Mughal emperor.

The architecture of Fatehpur Sikri has a definite all-India character. It is prolific and versatile Indo-Muslim composite style, which is a fusion of the composite cultures of indigenous and foreign origins.

Here practically, all Mughal institutions such as the 'Ibadat-Khanah', 'Din-i-Ilahi', 'Tarikh-i-Ilahi' , Jharokha-Darshan, the doctrine of Sulh-i-Kul and policy of liberal patronage to indigenous arts and literatures, were founded. It was also here that workshops of various handicrafts were established.

Tomb of I'timad-Ud- Daulah

The Itimad-ud-Daula's Tomb is situated on the bank of river Yamuna. Itimad-ud-Daula was the title given to Mirza Ghiyas Beg, father of Nur Jahan. He held the post of Lord of treasure of the Mughal Empire and later rose to the dignity of Wazir( Prime Minister) under Emperor Jahangir. Nur Jahan completed the construction of the tomb of her father in 1628 AD, nearly 7 years after his death.

The tomb is located at the centre of a quadrangle with gardens laid out on the Char Bagh pattern surrounding it. The structure stands over a raised sandstone terrace measuring 149 feet square and 3 feet and 4 inches high from the ground. The tomb building consists of a central hall, which houses the tomb of Wazir and his wife. Small chambers in which the tombs of other family members are located surround this hall. A sandstone staircase leads to the first floor, where elegant oblong dome is found surmounting a pavilion over the central hall, topped with pinnacles. This pavilion also contains cenotaphs of plain marble but without any inscriptions. At the corners of the top of the building stand four round towers approximately measuring 40 feet in height, which are surmounted by marble kiosks.

The cenotaphs and walls of the ground floor contain inscription in Persian. The wall inscriptions are from Quran and other holy texts, while the cenotaph inscriptions are stating the name and title of those interned.

Tomb of Akbar the Great

Akbar’s tomb is situated on the out skirts of the Agra City. It houses the mortal remains of the Mughal Emperor. To construct a tomb in one's lifetime was a Turkic custom which the Mughals followed religiously. Akbar, during his lifetime itself had completed the tomb and laid out a beautiful garden. However, the top Storey of mausoleum made in marble was constructed by Jahangir. Akbar's son Jahangir completed construction of this tomb in 1613. The 99 names of Allah have been inscribed on the tomb. The shape of tomb is pyramidal and consists of five storeys. The cenotaph is at a level below the ground level, while the false cenotaph is at the top floor. The entire tomb is constructed of red sandstone, only the top storey constructed in white marble. The ground floor is surrounded by cloisters except at the centre on the southern side. These cloisters are divided by massive arches and piers divisible into many bays.

The shape of tomb is pyramidal and consists of five storeys. The cenotaph is at a level below the ground level, while the false cenotaph is at the top floor. The entire tomb is constructed of red sandstone, only the top storey constructed in white marble. The ground floor is surrounded by cloisters except at the centre on the southern side. These cloisters are divided by massive arches and piers divisible into many bays.

The square storeys have arcaded verandah, with arcades and cluster of kiosks on each side. Some of the kiosks in second storey have marble pyramidal roofs while the rest are crowned by cupolas. Each angle at the third storey has a small square room.

The top most storey is entirely made up of white marble. It has a square court, which is open to sky. The central courtyard is enclosed in all the sides by slender arches and piers and divided into bays, which has been roofed in the trabeate pattern. At the centre of the courtyard lies a square platform, over which a white marble cenotaph is laid out. This cenotaph is profusely carved with arabesque and floral patterns.

Mehtab Bagh

Mehtab Bagh or 'Moonlight Garden' is on the opposite bank of the River Yamuna from the Taj Mahal. Mehtab Bagh was the last of eleven Mughal built gardens along the Yamuna river. Shah Jahan had identified a site from the crescent-shaped, grass covered floodplain across the Yamuna river as an ideal location for viewing the Taj Mahal. It was then created as "A moonlit pleasure garden called Mehtab Bagh." White plaster walkways, airy pavilions, pools and fountains were also created as part of the garden, with fruit trees and narcissus. The garden was designed as an integral part of the Taj complex in the riverfront terrace pattern. Its width was identical to that of the rest of the Taj Mahal.

A compound wall surrounded the garden; it was made of brick, lime plaster, and red sand- stone cladding. Measuring about 289 meters (948 ft) in length, the river wall is partially intact. Built on platforms, there were domed towers of red sand-stone in an octagonal shape, which may have been situated on the corners. A 2-2.5 meters (6 ft 7 in-8 ft 2 in) wide pathway made of brick edged the western boundary of the grounds, covering the remains of the boundary wall to the west.