Taj Mahal - a Piece of Indian Art History and Culture

Essay details

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

The Taj Mahal at Agra, the most famous building in Asia commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his beloved wife Arjuman Banu Begum who was given the name Mumtaz Mahal, meaning beloved ornament of the palace. She was the granddaughter of a Persian noble and betrothed at the age of 14 to Shah. Mumtaz became Shah’s greatest love of his life and they were married in 1612 AD. Shah and Mumtaz were inseparable and constant companions. Mumtaz was his trusted confidante and their relationship was documented as intense and erotic by court historians. Mumtaz joined Shah on his travels throughout the empire and the two of them were utterly devoted to one another. Although Shah was married to other wives it was merely for the title. His heart and affection was for Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz held a passion for a riverside garden in Agra and it may have been her affection for this garden that prompted the eventual form of her monumental tomb that would become known as the Taj Mahal. Mumtaz sadly passed away in 1631 in Burhanpur while giving birth to her 13th child. She had been accompanying her husband on a campaign trip. It was here where she was initially buried in a small walled pleasure garden along the bank of the Tapti River. Shah immediately began planning the design and construction of a more suitable mausoleum for his favorite wife. In December of 1631 Shah and Mumtaz’s eldest son transported Mumtaz’s body back to Agra in a golden casket where she was buried in a small building on the banks of the Yamuna River. After this took place Shah went into a yearlong secluded grieving period. Historians noted the Emperor was inconsolable after his wife’s death but their oldest daughter gradually helped bring him out of it and he then shortly returned to his duties and the daughter took her mother’s place at court. Although the tomb was originally built for his beloved favorite wife it would eventually become his as burial place as well. Shah had designed and built other buildings starting at the age of 16 but none would be as famous as The Taj Mahal.

Essay due? We'll write it for you!

Any subject

Min. 3-hour delivery

Pay if satisfied

Get your price

The Taj Mahal sits on the southern banks of the Yamuna River in Agra, India. It took over 20 years to complete and is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture, which combined Indian, Persian and Islamic influences. In all, more than 20,000 workers from India, Persia, Europe and the Ottoman Empire, along with some 1,000 elephants, were brought in to build the mausoleum. The outlying buildings and gardens would be finished five years later. Named the Taj Mahal in honor of Mumtaz Mahal, the mausoleum was constructed of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones (including jade, crystal, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise) forming complex designs in a technique known as pietra dura. The central dome reaches a height of 240 feet and resembles a crown or a Taj and is surrounded by 4 minarets towers with similar features. Also there are 2 buildings on each side that have triple –domed pavilions that enhance the soaring form. The Taj is exactly wide as it is tall and the dome height is equal to the façade. A court historian by the name of Abd al-Hamid Lahori witnessed the Taj Mahal construction had compared the minarets to ladders leading up towards heaven and the surrounding gardens were compared to paradise. These ideas of symbolism were confirmed by the discovery of inscriptions throughout the Taj. The inscriptions are Islamic tradition and are found in various places including the Gateway to the Gardens and along the walls and archways of the Taj. The tomb is octagonal in shape and has distinctive Iranian arcuate niches on each side. This is the false tomb for Mumtaz and it is adorned with precious stones and more carvings. The real sarcophagus is found below on the garden level. The Taj’s dome top resembles older Islamic mausoleums and other Islamic buildings but the modifications and details refined in the design of the Taj transformed it into a floating weightless visions of white marble. The reflection pools cause the Taj to appear like its floating. There is a stairway that leads to the second floor but it was hidden intentionally by the architect.

The Taj has many historical attributes that are found in other buildings and tombs throughout India but it also differs in major ways that make it that much more unique and magnificent. For examples in most Iranian gardens the pavilion sits in the center of the garden but The Taj differs in that it sits at the end of the garden. Mughal emperors saw building tombs an opportunity to pay tribute to their dead, observe religious responsibilities and embody their magnificence. A few examples are the tombs of Humayun and Akbar. These are considered grand architectural experiments as well. The Islamic rulers used artists and craftsmen to build their monuments, and from the very beginning there was a unification of Hindu and Islamic elements of architecture. Although the important character of the Mughal style is Islamic, many of the accompaniments are Hindu. Incorporating different religions into one piece of artwork is a common theme for Asian artwork and architecture. The religious aspect plays a huge role in the arts in this time period.

According to the history channel writers and historians the story goes, Shah Jahan intended to build a second grand mausoleum across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, where his own remains would be buried when he died; the two structures were to have been connected by a bridge. In fact, Aurangzeb (Shah Jahan’s third son with Mumtaz Mahal) deposed his ailing father in 1658 and took power himself. Shah Jahan lived out the last years of his life under house arrest in a tower of the Red Fort at Agra, with a view of the magnificent resting place he had constructed for his wife; when he died in 1666, he was buried next to her. Over the years following his death his son Aurangzeb led the Empire to the height of its power. However, his militant Muslim policies, including the destruction of many Hindu temples and shrines, destabilized the lasting strength of the empire and resulted in its end by the mid-18th century. Even as the Mughal power dissolved, the Taj Mahal suffered from negligence and disorder in the two centuries after Shah Jahan’s death. Near the start of the 19th century, Lord Curzon, then British viceroy of India, ordered a major restoration of the mausoleum complex as part of a colonial effort to preserve India’s artistic and cultural heritage. If this hadn’t been initiated who knows what would have happened to the Great Taj Mahal.

I think historian Milo Beach said it best "The Taj, as an experience, is simply an extraordinary building," says art historian Milo Beach. "The proportion of the Taj, the workmanship of the Taj, the effect of the Taj in the landscape of the garden,

The effect of light playing over the surface of white marble... From every angle, the Taj is a building of extraordinary physical balance. Whether you know anything about India or about Indian architecture at all, it 's a beautifully crafted building."

"All of this produces an effect which, for most people, is something they 've never experienced before, something which is profoundly satisfying and stimulating. That 's really what makes it a treasure. It 's one of those few monuments that has a kind of communication with people that leads to an immediate understanding that this is something wonderful and perfect and persuasive and powerful. You may not know any of its antecedents, you may not know how it was built, but you can understand the building. You don 't need to go and read about it to understand it." (Inc)

The Taj Mahal has almost 3 million people visit a year with over 45,000 a day during the peak times. In 1998 India’s Supreme Court ordered anti-pollution measures to help deter the deterioration of the glowing white marble structure. Vehicular vehicles are not even allowed in the immediate vicinity of The Taj Mahal. We can only hope these measures can help preserve such a great piece of Indian Art History and Culture.

Get quality help now


Verified writer

Proficient in: Visual Arts, World Cultures

4.9 (455 reviews)
“He was an absolute wonderful writer and had a great amount of patience with me as well as following all directions very accordingly. ”

+75 relevant experts are online

More Architecture Related Essays

banner clock
Clock is ticking and inspiration doesn't come?
We`ll do boring work for you. No plagiarism guarantee. Deadline from 3 hours.

We use cookies to offer you the best experience. By continuing, we’ll assume you agree with our Cookies policy.