Superlatives, hyperboles, and romanticism – these three literary vehicles are pretty common when describing the one-and-only Taj Mahal. And, after personally witnessing the monument at hand, we for one would vouch for many of the effusive uttering that come along with the grand architectural specimen. However, this article is not about the peerless and poetic qualities of the magnificent structure; rather it is about some of the unique aspects that have seemingly eluded many of the potential admirers of the landmark. So, without further ado, let us check out six interesting facts you may not have known about the inimitable Taj Mahal – the crowning glory of Mughal Architecture.
Vital Statistics –
Oddly enough, no one has still been able to measure the accurate dimensions of the Taj Mahal complex without discrepancies. Anyhow, a research led by Ebba Koch and Richard André Barraud in 2006, came out with the figures that we will use here. To that end, the overall compound measures an astounding 896 m (2,948 ft) by 301 m (990 ft) or 269,696 sq m (2,919,217 sq ft). As for the impressive mausoleum itself, the structure accounts for a square plan that measures around 57 m x 57 m (3,249 sq m or 35,167 sq ft), while it rises to a height of 68 m (224 ft), and is built upon a platform of around 6 m (20 ft) – which brings the total height to about 74 m (or 244 ft).
The 6 interesting aspects of the Taj Mahal –
A monument not only inspired by love, but also Paradise –
In popular media, Taj Mahal has long been associated with the ‘power of love’, and perhaps rightly so. But the monument was not ONLY a labor of love, as is evident from the complex’s layout and the adjacent structures. To that end, the most obvious extant components pertain to the stately landscaped grounds, comprising of the Charbagh (or paradise garden) – a quadrilateral garden design interspersed by walkways and waterworks (a concept originally brought from Persia). Consequently, the majestic gateway to this incredibly expansive compound, known as the Darwaza-i Rauza, alludes to the splendid entrance of the Islamic Paradise.
Scholars like Wayne E. Begley had even put forth the hypothesis* that Taj Mahal epitomized the ‘Throne of God’ – which in Islamic theology pertains to the high seat in the Garden of Paradise from which God would preside on the ‘Day of Judgement’. In other words, Shah Jahan (the builder of Taj Mahal) might not have only been inspired by love for his beloved wife; he perhaps also wanted to make a ‘godly’ statement to his subjects, in a bid to glorify his own reign!
*Ebba Koch deviates from this hypothesis, as no credible evidence of it is found in the ensuing calligraphy works dotting the mausoleum.
22 years of hard labor, and yet no architect –
Taj Mahal has a unique connection with the number 22. To that end, the building actually took 22 years to finish, while some figures pertain to 22,000 workers laboring in tandem to finish the mausoleum complex in 1654 AD. Among the ‘exotic’ construction crew, there is said to be a Frenchman and a Venetian – but there is no single architect’s name that was associated with the entire project. This was probably a premeditated move, as the grand structure was intended to be associated only with its deceased occupant, Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Banu Begum) – the third and most beloved wife of Shah Jahan.
However, this doesn’t mean there are no builder names that have cropped up along with the project. For example, evidences point at – Ismail Afandi (from Ottoman Empire) to be the main designer of the Dome, Qazim Khan (from Lahore) to be the main caster, Chiranjilal (from Delhi) to be the main sculptor and Amanat Khan (from Shiraz, Iran) to be the main calligrapher.
A truly ‘multinational’ project, in terms of materials –
Marble is surely the definitive material used for the structure, and the translucent bulk was sourced from the famous quarries of Raja Jai Singh. They were situated almost 400 km (250 miles) from Agra (Taj Mahal’s location), in the region of Makrana, Rajasthan. And as a majestic solution, these marble blocks were transported all the way with the help of over 1,000 elephants. But that doesn’t mean Taj Mahal is an impeccably gleaming white specimen as visually suggested by a bevy of postcard images.
Why so? Because the white ‘canvas’ was inlaid with a myriad of precious and semi-precious stones, while they are interspersed by intricately refined calligraphy etched in black marble. Once again, according to then-contemporary accounts and documentation, the jades and the crystals were sourced from China, the turquoise was hauled from Tibet, the Lapis Lazuli was brought from Afghanistan, the sapphire was derived from Sri Lanka and finally the carnelian was obtained from Arabia!