Peter Searle's "Taj Mahal" - the jewel of India.

For eight long years, from 1658 to his death in 1666, Shah Jahan, was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in the Jasmine Tower of the imposing red sandstone Fort at Agra. Today a visitor can stand where Shan Jahan stood all those years ago and see, as he did in his final years, the glistening Taj Mahal in the distance along the wide sweep of the Jamuna River.

Mere words are not adequate to describe this masterpiece in white marble. You should know, however, that it was commissioned in memory of Arjumand Banu Baygam, better known as Mumtaz Mahal (chosen of the palace), Shan Jahan's second and favourite wife. She had died at age 39, giving birth to their 14th child, a daughter, at Burhanpur in South India in 1629 while on a military campaign with her husband. Heartbroken, Shah Jahan commissioned Ustad Isa Khan Effendi, a Persian, to design a magnificent tomb of white Rajasthan marble for his beloved wife. He assembled artists and craftsmen from around the world to decorate it with such precious stones as carnelian, turquoise, amethyst and malachite. It is said that construction took 22 years, that a ramp two miles long was constructed to raise the materials to the upper levels and that a total of 20,000 workers were required. On the main level are the false tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shan Jahan (added later). The real tombs are in the lower chamber.

Beautiful from any angle, the Taj is at its most impressive when viewed close up. The walls, both interior and exterior are decorated with semi-precious stones inlaid in intricate flowered patterns and Islamic calligraphy (known as pietra dura). Screens and panels of delicate Islamic decoration dazzle the eye. Set in a formal garden high above the river, the whole design is indeed arhitectural perfection, especially so in the early light of dawn.

Images of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal can be found here. Another fine image of the Taj can be seen lower on this page. A larger version of the above "Lake" image can be found here. The "Lake" image you see above can be found here.

Source of "Lake" image Back to start Another Taj page

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