The Taj Mahal

IMG_8987

I have been to Delhi, umpteen times but never had the chance to visit the Taj Mahal in all these years.Sceptics have told me that there is nothing worth seeing there but just the romance of the place, draws me to it like a magnet. My sister, nephew and his newly wedded wife set out to visit this monument of love. It was an easy drive down the expressway and we tumbled out of the car, stretching our legs. The driver introduced us to a guide cum photographer who took us through the eastern entrance. Our car had to be parked far away, then we took an auto through the small bylanes to get to the Taj.

IMG_9079As we entered the sandstone entrance, I got my first glimpse of the Taj. I was in awe; I had goose bumps just looking at the sheer magnificence of the human art and the vision of the architect. It was milky white and had a pearlish hue and the size just makes you feel so tiny.

IMG_8983-001

Mention the Taj Mahal and the whole expression changes to one of awe. No wonder it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is said that it is an epitome of love, how deeply a man loved his wife that even after she remained but a memory, he made sure that this memory would never fade. But there is another school of thought that contradicts all this; will talk about that later. He was the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was madly in love with Mumtaz Mahal, his dear wife. She was a Muslim Persian princess (real name Arjumand Banu Begum) and he was the son of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir and grandson of Akbar the Great. It was at the age of 14 that he met Mumtaz and fell in love with her and in the year 1612, they got married.

IMG_9057

I am a student of history and I can’t help narrating a little about  the Taj and its controversies here.It was the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was madly in love with Mumtaz Mahal, his dear wife. She was a Muslim Persian princess (real name Arjumand Banu Begum) and he was the son of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir and grandson of Akbar the Great. It was at the age of 14 that he met Mumtaz and fell in love with her and in the year 1612, they got married.

He was the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who was madly in love with Mumtaz Mahal, his dear wife. She was a Muslim Persian princess (real name Arjumand Banu Begum) and he was the son of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir and grandson of Akbar the Great. It was at the age of 14 that he met Mumtaz and fell in love with her and in the year 1612, they got married.IMG_8971IMG_8984

White inlays are used in the sandstone buildings, and dark or black inlays on the white marble dome. I found the sandstone buildings awesome too. The inlay stones are of yellow marble, jasper and jade, polished and leveled.IMG_9023Mumtaz Mahal, an inseparable companion of Shah Jahangir said to have died in 1631 while giving birth to their 14th child. It was in her memory that Shah Jahan built a magnificent monument as a tribute. The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631. It took 22 years to build what we see today  by skilled, masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans who were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran, and. An embodiment of love, it made use of the services of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. The monument was built entirely out of white marble, which was brought in from all over India and central Asia. After an expenditure of approximately 32 million rupees, Taj Mahal was finally completed in the year 1653. A labor force of twenty thousand workers was recruited from across Northern India. Sculptors from Bukhara, calligraphers from Syria and Persia, inlayers from southern India, stone cutters from Baluchistan, and specialist in building turrets, another who carved only marble flowers were part of the thirty-seven men who formed the creative unit.

IMG_9044But soon after the completion of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan was deposed by his own son Aurangzeb and was put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort. Babur had made a rule that the daughters in the family would never get married as he did not want the sons-in-law to fight for the throne.  Mumtaz was his fourth wife among seven and he had a harem of 5000!  After Mumtaz died he is said to have been nursed by his daughter, Jahanara with whom he had an incestuous relationship. All this makes you wonder, what love he commemorated. Shah Jahan, himself, is said to be entombed in this twin mausoleum along with his wife. But again it is said that both the cenotaphs are supposed to be empty.

IMG_9056

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, it remains one of the world’s most celebrated structures and a stunning symbol of India’s rich history.Its central dome is 240 feet height and is surrounded by four smaller domes; four slender towers, or minarets, stand at the corners. Verses from the Quran are inscribed in calligraphy on the arched entrances to the mausoleum, in addition to numerous other sections of the complex. Inside the mausoleum, an octagonal marble chamber adorned with carvings and semi-precious stones, is the cenotaph, or false tomb, of Mumtaz Mahal. The real sarcophagus containing her actual remains lay below, at garden level.( The towers were getting a thorough rub down)

IMG_9052

While I was taking pictures, I saw that The Tajmahal has a trident pinnacle over the dome. The central shaft of the trident depicts a “Kalash” (sacred pot) holding two bent mango leaves and a coconut. Isn’t this a sacred Hindu motif. Tridents are also depicted against a red lotus background at the apex of the stately marble arched entrances on all four sides of the Taj.

IMG_9010

Let me share a few lesser-known facts about one of the world’s most spectacular buildings:

Did you know that the Taj Mahal appears pink in the morning, white in the day and changes its color to golden in the moon light?

According to one gruesome (and most likely sensational) story, Shah Jahan had his minions cut off the hands of the Taj Mahal’s craftsmen after the structure was completed, ensuring they would never build another of its kind.

Interestingly, the pillars surrounding Taj Mahal are slightly tilted outwards so that in the event of an earthquake they will fall away from the tomb.

28 types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble that was used to construct this magnificent work of architecture but they were all looted.

The Taj Mahal is perfectly symmetrical in every way, except for one thing–the two tombs inside are not equal in size. This is because the male tomb had to be larger than the female tomb; so much for gender parity and real love.

Points of debate:

Mr. P. N. Oak presents an interesting set of proofs that show that the Tajmahal is not an Islamic mausoleum but an ancient Shiva Temple known as Tejo Mahalaya, which Shahjahan plundered from the then Maharaja of Jaipur.

The unusual explanation of the term Tajmahal derives from Mumtaz Mahal, who is buried in it, is illogical as her name was never Mumtaj Mahal but Mumtaz-ul-Zamani

The tradition of removing the shoes before going up the marble platform originates from pre-Shahjahan times when the Taj was a Shiva Temple. If the Taj originated as a tomb, shoes need not have to be removed because shoes are a necessity in a cemetery.

The pitchers carved inside the upper border of the marble lattice plus those mounted on it number 108-a number sacred in Hindu Temple tradition.

The Rajasthan State archives at Bikaner preserve three firmans addressed by Shahjahan to the Jaipur’s ruler Jaising ordering the latter to supply marble (for Mumtaz’s grave and koranic grafts) from his Makranna quarries, and stone cutters within about two years of Mumtaz’s death. Had Shahjahan really built the Tajmahal over a period of 22 years, the marble would have needed only after 15 or 20 years not immediately after Mumtaz’s death.

Peter Mundy, an English visitor to Agra recorded in 1632 (within only a year of Mumtaz’s death) that `the places of note in and around Agra, included Taj-e-Mahal’s tomb, gardens, and bazaars’. He, therefore, confirms that that the Tajmahal had been a noteworthy building even before Shahjahan.

IMG_9043

The Taj Mahal is scrawled over with 14 chapters of the Koran but nowhere is there even the slightest or the remotest allusion in that Islamic overwriting to Shahjahan’s authorship of the Taj. Had Shahjahan been the builder he would have declared so to posterity.

IMG_8974

Between the so-called mosque and the drum house is a multistoried octagonal well with a flight of stairs reaching down to the water level. This is a traditional treasury well in Hindu temple palaces. Treasure chests used to be kept in the lower apartments while treasury personnel had their offices in the upper chambers. Such an elaborate multistoried well is superfluous for a mere mausoleum. Such a grand, gigantic well is unnecessary for a tomb.

Had Shahjahan really built the Taj Mahal as a wonder mausoleum, history would have recorded a specific date on which she was ceremoniously buried in the Taj Mahal. No such date is ever mentioned. Even the year of Mumtaz’s death is unknown. It is variously speculated to be between 1629-1632. Had she deserved a fabulous burial, as is claimed, the date of her death would not have been a matter of speculation. In a harem teeming with 5000 women, it was difficult to keep track of dates of death. Apparently the date of Mumtaz’s death was so insignificant an event, as not to merit any special notice. Who would then build a Taj for her burial?

Stories of Shahjahan’s grandiose love for Mumtaz are concoctions. They have no basis in history nor has any book ever written on their fancied love. Those stories have been invented as an afterthought to make Shahjahan’s authorship of the Taj look plausible.

There would not have been any scope for conjecture on the cost of building the Taj and the period of construction had it been on record in the court papers as it is usually done.

As P N Oak says,” It is, therefore, court flatterers, blundering historians, somnolent archeologists, fiction writers, senile poets, careless tourists officials and erring guides who are responsible for hustling the world into believing in Shahjahan’s mythical authorship of the Taj”

I am no activist and I am not going to prove anything but I am sure all of us will have this niggling doubt in our minds about the origin of the Taj.

IMG_9072

I couldn’t help but click pictures as I was just mesmerized by the sheer size and beauty of this architectural marble. The tourists all around me were posing and taking pictures from all angles; holding the peak, jumping, lying down, romantic couples pics were different, singles were different. I wanted to take mine on the marble seat but the crowds were overwhelming and there was no chance of that.

We bought disposable socks for our shoes and wore them before entering the white domed building. The interior was very cool and the ventilation so good that fresh breeze was swishing around us. We were not allowed to take pictures inside and it was quite dark, so we could hardly make out anything.

 

IMG_9008
The newly weds!

Once outside we stood to watch the Yamuna flow by serenely. The spacious gardens and fountains added to the beauty. The trees were full of parrots and squirrels chirping and foraging in the fruit trees.IMG_9037IMG_9066IMG_9076

 

I did not feel like leaving the place but it was way past lunch time and I stopped at the first panipuri wala and had two plates! The others had aloo tikki which was fried in gallons of oil! We stopped at a way side inn and had a late lunch of dal-rice.If you are in Agra don’t forget to taste the world famous sweet Petha which is made with ash gourd or white pumpkin!

When we set out on a day trip, we are full of beans and so lively. I wonder why the journey back is so quiet.  Are we all retrospecting or just tired? I keep recapturing the moments of the day and relive them. What about you?

 

Advertisements

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Deepthi Akella says:

    Lovely write-up. Reminded me of my visit and yes..I remember feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of it…
    I’m glad that you stuck to facts and mentioned Mr. Oaks version as well.
    🙂 Looking forward to reading more.

    Like

    1. Hi Deepthi…thank you and thanks for stopping by. There are many more in my blog..Vrindavan is there in detail and other travelogues too.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s