The Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal IndiaThe Taj Mahal has long been regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world. Located in Agra, India, this wonder of ancient architecture is actually a mausoleum that was built on the orders of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Aside from being regarded as one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, the Taj Mahal has also been considered as probably the most beautiful and the most elegant monument built out of a man’s love for his wife.

The Taj Mahal is also considered by many experts as the finest example of Mughal architecture which is a style influenced by elements from Indian, Turkish, Persian and Islamic architectural styles.

The mausoleum houses the grave of the queen Mumtaz Mahal located at the lower chamber of the building. When the emperor Shah Jahan died years later, his body was also placed next to the grave of his beloved wife.

The domed marble mausoleum is the most recognizable structure of the Taj Mahal, although it actually is composed of a number of integrated structures. The white marble tomb structure of the Taj Mahal stands on a square plinth or raised platform that formed as the base. The tomb was built according to the style influenced by the Persians. The main building is a large multi-chambered structure with a main "iwan", or arch-shaped doorway. The building is cornered by four tall minarets.

The marble dome of the main structure is what gives the Taj Mahal its imposing and majestic feature. The dome has a height that is equal to the base of the building at 35 meters. The top of the dome is decorated with a lotus design that accentuates the dome’s height even further. The main dome is surrounded by four smaller domed kiosks that are placed at its corners. These smaller domes have communed bases that open through the roof of the tomb and provide some lighting to the interior.

Fixed on top of the main dome is a gilded spire or finial. It was once made out of gold but has been changed to bronze since the early 1800’s. The spire displayed the integration of Persian with the Hindu decorative influences. The spire is spiked with a moon with its horns pointing heavenward, a common Islamic feature. The horns of the moon also combine with the spire’s tip to create a trident shape, a traditional Hindu symbol for Shiva.

Exterior decorations found in the main structure are regarded to be the finest of Mughal architecture. The lesser the surface area of the exterior, the more intricate the decorations become. Most of the decorations on the building’s exterior are grouped as either of abstract forms, vegetative motifs or calligraphy. This is in line with the Islamic belief that prohibits the display of human features as decorative elements.

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