The Taj Mahal - Architecture
The name 'Taj Mahal' which means 'Crown of the Palace' is believed to have originated from the name of the empress Mumtaz Mahal herself. This monument made of white marble is an architectural enthusiasts delight. The original design of the Mahal was created by Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The materials used in its construction came from the best of places and were so much in quantity and that it took a fleet of over a thousands elephants to carry them to the concerned site.
The white marble used in building the Taj Mahal was brought from the quarries of Makrana, sapphire and lapis lazuli came from Sri Lanka, the Jasper came from Punjab, diamonds from Panna, turquoise from Tibet, coal & comelian from Arabia, and red sandstone from Fatehpur Sikri. In the final count a total of 28 different kinds of semi-precious and precious stones were used in decorating the monument, specially in its elaborate inlay work.
Apart from stones, beautifully calligraphed inscriptions also play a very important role in the appearance of the Taj Mahal. The main calligrapher of the monument was Amanat Khan Shirazi and the famous poet of the day Ghiyasuddin created the verses written on the main tombstone. The dome itself was made by the specialist in the field, Ismail Khan Afridi, who was called specially from Turkey for the work.
As is obvious at first appearance, the Taj stands on a raised platform with four minarets at the corners. In a feat of architectural expertise, these minarets have been designed in a way that if an earthquake ever occurs they would fall away from the main tomb rather than towards or on it!
Four chattris surround the central dome, and although they are detached, they appear to be attracted to it from any angle you look.
Right in the centre are Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaphs. Mumtaz Mahal's cenotaph is in the middle of the marble screen, and is inscribed with lines from the Koran in Persian. There is a single epithet that says "Marqad Munavvar Arjumand Bano Begum Mukhatib bah Mumtaz Mahal Tanifiyat fer sanh 1040 Hijri", which means simply -"Here lies Arjumand Bano Begum called Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1040 A.H. or 1630 A.D.
Shah Jahan's cenotaph, also inscribed in Persian says "'Marqad Mutahar Aali Hazrat Firdaus Ashiyani Sahib-qiran Saani Shah Jahan Badshah taab surah sanh 1076 Hijri" which means, "The sacred sepulcher of his most exalted Majesty, dweller of Paradise, the second lord of constellations, the king Shah Jahan, may his mausoleum ever flourish, 1076 A.H. (1666 A.D.)". A special feature of the monument is that it has excellent acoustics that were specially designed to echo religious chants and music.
Despite the elaborate delicacy that one sees in the design and architecture of the Taj, its main appeal is the emotional impact it has on all who see it. The marble and precious stones may be what lend the monument its beauty, but it is the love between an emperor and the woman he loved above all else that keep it alive.