The Eighth Wonder of the World, the Taj Mahal

by Kristen Mauney


      taj1.jpg (45703 bytes)  The Taj Mahal is often viewed as the eighth wonder of the world (Zahoor 1). Its exquisite beauty and amazing architecture make it the most widely known structure in India. It is a symbol of the eternal and everlasting love that Shah Jehan showed for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal (Zahoor 1).

        Mumtaz Mahal married Shah Jehan in 1612 (Lashkari, "Crown" 1). This was his second marriage, and the couple loved each other greatly. Mumtaz Mahal had fourteen children while with Shah Jehan, and died in childbirth in 1630 while away on a battle with Shah Jehan (Fodor’s 83). Legend has it that Shah Jehan was so devastated by her death that in the course of only a few months, his beard and hair had turned completely white (Peswani 2). Mumtaz Mahal’s body was buried for six months, then was returned to Agra, later to be permanently buried in the Taj Mahamumtaz1.jpg (17292 bytes)l (Stacey 106). The Taj Mahal, designed by two Persian architects, was built by Shah Jehan to create a memorial for Mumtaz Mahal. This monument was constructed as a display of Shah Jehan’s eternal love for his wife (Lashkari, "Crown" 1). The building of the Taj began in 1632. An army of 20,000 workers labored on this structure (Fodor’s 83). The Taj Mahal is often referred to as "the greatest single work of Safavid art ever constructed" (Wolpert 150). In 1648, on the exact anniversary of Mumtaz’s death, this wonderful monument was completed (Fodor’s 83). The Taj Mahal is located on the river Yamuna in Agra (Lashkari,india.gif (68636 bytes)"Crown" 1).

        The Taj Mahal is an amazing structure that holds many stories, but it is unknown where the name "Taj Mahal" truly originated. It is basically thought that "Taj Mahal" is a shortened way of conveying the name Mumtaz Mahal. History shows that it is Mumtaz’s rauza, or tomb. The Taj Mahal literally translates to "Crown Palace", or "Crown of the Palace" (Lashkari, "Crown" 1). The Taj Mahal symbolizes the many different aspects of a female. For example, one feature, the main gate, is like a mask to a female’s face, and should be raised carefully (Peswani 2).

        Another feature, the dome, is one of the most famous parts of the Taj. The Taj Mahal ascends on a tall red sandstone foundation that holds a gigantic white marble porch, which sits on the well-known dome. In the dome is a monument of the queen that is ornamented with gems and precious stones. At different times of day, the Taj is quite a sight to see. In the morning, the white marble dome gives off a rosy reflection; while in the evening, the reflection is a pearly white. When the moon is out, the Taj Mahal gives off a golden shiny reflection. These colors are said to show the many moods of a female (Peswani 2).

        This well-known dome, almost 145 feet tall, is a himahal03.jpg (19401 bytes)gh, decorative ceiling for the hall inside. It has hollow interior to take off some weight; four smaller kiosks around the dome make it appear shorter (Lashkari, "Rauza" 2).mosqueB&D109.GIF (68988 bytes)






        The Taj Mahal has a beautiful landscape, including a Persian garden that spreads from tgardenDCpg97.GIF (48012 bytes)he main gateway to the beginning of the actual structure. It is designed to look like a geometric figure of nature, not to have a "natural" look in any way (Lashkari, "Bageecha" 1). The number four is an important number to the Taj Mahal. In Islam, four is a holy number. Many features of the Taj have to do with the number four and its multiples. For instance, every one of the four garden quarters has been evenly divided into sixteen different beds of flowers. That is just one of the many "four" examples. Others include the four small domes, etc. (Lashkari, "Bageecha" 1).

        Right past the courtyard, or "jilokhana," is the main gateway. To a Muslim, an entranceway like this was thought of as "the gate to paradise." It stood for the "transition point between the outer world of the senses and the inner world of the spirit." (Lashkari, "Darwaza" 1) The main gateway is made of the scarlet colored sandstone. It gatewayKLpg62.GIF (43060 bytes)is 150 feet wide and one hundred feet high. Eight-sided towers are on the corners. The main feature is the beginning of a sequence of eleven affixed umbrella-shaped structures that hold grand marble arches (Lashkari, "Darwaza" 1) The main gateway has twenty-two small domes on top of it (Stacey 106). The main gateway to the Taj is ornately decorated. In the bright white marble are many precious stones. There are black marble engravings that encompass the main guarded entrance. The writings are from the Koran, or the holy book for Muslims (Lashkari, "Darwaza" 2).

        The central chamber is where the queen is buried. It is octagonal, with Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb right in the middle. To one side is Shah Jehan’s casket, which is also buried in the Taj Mahal (Lashkari, "Rauza" 2). It is said that at one time, Shah Jehan was going to build another Taj Mahal across the river for his burial. This one would be built constructed of pure black marble. Shah Jehan, after his death in 1666 was buried inside the Taj Mahal alongside his much-loved wife, Mumtaz Mahal (Ahmed 2).

        The tomb of Mumtaz Mahal holds this Persian inscription: "The illustrious sepulcher of Arjuman Banu Begum, called Mumtaz Mahal. God is everlasting, God is sufficient. He knoweth what is concealed and what is manifest. He is merciful and compassionate. Nearer unto him are those who say: Our Lord is God." (Fodor’s 83).

        The Taj Mahal has always been a well-respected Muslim shrine, so when in 1971 the Taj Mahal was closed for the first time in three hundred years, no one was afraid it would be harmed. It closed because India was warring with Pakistan. The Taj was covered with straw and grass, so that reflected light wouldn’t be a guide to Pakistani bombers. Nothing happened to the Taj and there was never fear anything would happen, because it is so well respected (Stacey 106).

        Recently, the issues of pollution harming the marble surface of the Taj have arisen. In Agra, today, pollution levels are high (Ahmed 4). Although the Taj is cleaned approximately every one to two years with a resin compound, the marble is beginning to be discolored with a yellow hue from pollution. There is more than one cause contributing to the pollution around the Taj Mahal. There are factories in Agra that emit dangerous sulfur and smoke. Exhaust from vehicles also harms the Taj. Steps are being taken to reduce the pollution levels around the Taj. Federal Petroleum Minister Satish Sharma said, "An area of ten thousand square kilometers (4, 014 square miles) around the Taj Mahal will be brought under a strict antipollution plan." Homes that are located within ten thousand square kilometers will have to use cooking gas, rather than firewood or coal. All vehicles will have to use gasoline that is lead-free. Although these things will be tough to impose, they will, in the long run, help the Taj look better and less worn ("Plans" 1)

        This eighth wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal, "can be seen not only as a mausoleum for the empress but also as the glorious climax of Mughal architecture in India" (Ahmed 1). To build another Taj Mahal would cost $20,000,000 (Stacey 106). The Taj Mahal is a Muslim influence that is a wonderful portrayal of one man’s eternal love for his wife. This "Crown Palace" shows the many different sides of a female and a woman’s many different aspects and moods. The intricate architecture and delicate features complete this structure that is known and recognized as the Taj Mahal by people and nations all over the world.



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