"DESCRIBING A MONUMENT"
UNIT 6 DESCRIBING A MONUMENT: THE TAJ MAHAL Structure 6.0 Objectives 6.1 Introduction 6.2 Facts on Taj Mahal 6.2.1 Plan 6.2.2 Stylistic Details 6.2.3 Dewration 6.2.4 Cost 6.3 Genesis of the Scheme and Construction 6.3.1 Murntaz Mahal ; 6.3.2 Architect 6.3.3 Calligrapher 6.3.4 Garden 6.4 Taj Mahal in History 6.4.1 A Contemporary Account 6.4.2 European Perceptions 6.5 Anecdates 6.6 Conservation of Taj Mahal 6.7 Let us Sum Up 6.8 Kcywords 6.9 Answers to Check Your Progress Exercises 6.0 OBJECTIVES . The aim of this Unit is to make you understand how a monument should be described to tourists i.e. the role of a guide in explaining a historical monument. No better example can be offered to illustrate this role than the Taj Mahal at Agra. Hence we give you 'information on: the architeclural details of Taj Mahal, the genesis of the scheme to build Taj Mahal and the details of its construction, some interesting references to Taj Mahal in the historical literature, and I -0 some anecdotes concerning Taj Mahal. I All these details will equip you to describe the monument and motivalt: more touiitj iir pay a visit to it. . b 6.1 INTRODUCTION L Taj Mahal is India's star tourist attraction. It is also a World Heritage Monument. This white marble monsoleum commemorating Murntaz Mahal, the beloved queen of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, is an unparalled beauty among all the historical monuments of India. As a guide you will always find the tourists falling under the magic spell of Taj Maha!. You should, therefore, strive to prolong this sentiment and also give them enough reason to pay repeat visits. We have given in this Unit d e w s pw!!zing io Taj Mahal's architetture and history. Some anecdotal information as aso the perceptions of Taj Mahal in European minds have also been discussed here. This we hope will be utilised by you in improving you description of the monument and thus enhancing your clientele. What we have discussed in the Unit should be taken as the example of describing any monument as per its history, architecture, etc. Describing a Monument: 6.2 FACTS ON TAJ MAHAL Taj Mahal Few people know that the name Taj Mahal was given to thi$ mausoleum by European travellers. In this contemporary chronicles it was known as the Illuminated Tomb (Rauza-1 Manawwara) and was built between 1632 and 1643. 6.2.1 Plan The plan of the Taj can be described as follows: The Taj is situated on a raised platform at the southern end of a four-quartered garden. The locality in which Taj Mahal is situated in the Agra city is known as Mumtazabad after the queen Mumtaz Mahal. Taj complex has been designed on grid pattern. Beginning from north, the first composition is a red sand-stone forecourt known as chowk-i iilo k h a in chronicles. It was intended for the royal.retinue. ~ Next is a 30 m. high red sand-stone gateway through which one enters the garden complex on which the main building-Taj Mahal-is located. Through the gate enuy is made to a four-part garden"divided into quadrangles by waterways. They meet in the centre in a large tank. The model of this garden is the mythical garden of paradise. . The northern end of this garden has the Taj Mahal. Western plank of Taj is a mosque in red sand-stone and the eastern flank is its replice. In the centre of the platform is Taj Mahal with eacb comer having one four-storied marble minaret. 6.2.2 Stylistic Detail Besides the plan and layout, a good guide must also know the stylistic details of the monument being described. In the case of Taj these are: Taj is planned on the pattern of Humayun's Tomb. It is Timurid in style. The exterior is white marble with a sparing use of inlay work in coloured stones. Qurantic verses in black calligraphy are inlaid on th# marble sukkce. i The main mansoleum is octagonal and contains, in the centre, the grave of Mumtaz Mahal. Shahjahan's grave is by the side of the central grave. Originally the graves were surrounded by a gold screen designed by Shdi Jjtlhan's goldsmith Bebadal Khan. Later, for fear of theft or loot, it was replaced by Shah Jahan with a carved and latticed marble screen. 6.2.3 Decoration E x r y monument has ce.min decorative aspects which should be brought to the knowledge of tourists/visitors. For example: The decorative device envisaged for Taj Mahal gives a prominent place to the play of light on the marble surface of the structure. On the lower portions of the srmcture'there are carved-floralpanels. Above these panels are a series of floral motifs in inlaia coloured stones. Main flowers depicted there are narcissus, roses and tulips. These are the flowers which have been used in Par* mystic poetry to describe the features of the beloved. The carvings and inlaid patterns have been designed in such manner as to give prominence to the white marble surface, rather than overshadowing it. As a wonder of the world ~ a~ a h a l j has long been marketed as a tourism product by the Tourism Industry. During the PATA Conference in Delhi (1993) one of the Travel Agencies put up a Balloon of Taj. -- 6.2.4 ' Cost Describing a Monument: Taj Mahal Visitors to the Taj often ask about its cost or how much money was spent on it by Shahjahan. Guides also make all kinds of assumptions. t / In estimating the cost of Taj Mahid no absolute figure is able to give an exact idea of the importance of this building project. A good guide will make this clear. He can then give 1 the comparative figures like: I For the building projects of Shah Jahan (excluding ofcourse the Jama Masjid, Delhi) we get an absolute figure viz.. two-and-a-half pore of rupees. 1 The Taj Mahal accounted for nearly twenty per cent of this expenditure ie. fifty lakhs i1 of rupees. Any detailed break-up of this expenditure as also the construction procedure have been missing from the accounts of contemporary or near-contemporary chroniclers. Check Your Progress-1 1) Write in about 50 words the plan of Taj Mahal as you will describe to the tourists. 2) Who desibed the goldscreen around the grave of Mumtaz Mahal and why was it removed? 3) What kind of flowers have been used as motifs in Taj Mahal and what is their si~~cance? 6 3 GENESIS AND EXECUTION OF THE SCHEME .. Taj Mahal is the mansoleum built by Shah Jahan to commemorate his second wife Mumtaz Mahal. H r we are giving you .an account of the genesis of the scheme of Taj ee Maw and its execution. Guides and Escorts 6.3.1 Mumtaz Mahal . Mumtaz Mahal was the daughter of Asaf Khan and grand daughter of Jahangir's Prime Minister, Itimad-ud Daula. She was born in April 1593 and was thus only a year and quarter younger to Shah Jahan. The marriage of Shah Jahan to Mumtaz Mahal was settled in 1607 but could only be ceremonised nearly five years later, in 1612. In the meanwhile, in 1609, Shah- Jahan was married to the daughter of Muzaffar Husain Mirza. His third wife was the grand daughter of Abdur Rahim Khan-i Khanan. Mumtaz Mahal was Shah Jahan's dear most queen. She gave birth to fourteen children out of which only seven survived.'She died in childbirth in 1631 at Burhanpur where her body was temporarily intend in a ,oxdbll ~ a i ~ Zainabad, across the river Tapti. ea h It seems ~ h Jahan soon decided to give a final burial to her deceased queen at Agra and build a memorial building of unparalled beauty on the grave. The foundation of Taj Mahal was laid in January, 1632. The site chosen for building the mansoleum was originally occupied by a mansion of Raja Man Singh. It was, therefore, given for the mansolsum in return for a larger property by his grandson Raja Jai Singh. After the final burial of the body a small domed building was raised over the grave until the construction of the grand mansoleum. 6.3.2 Architect The architect of the Taj Mahal was Ustad Ahmad (C. 1570-1649) a native of Lahore who was awarded the title of Nadir-ul Asr (Wonder of the Age) by Shah Jahan. He worked on Taj Mahal wider the supervision of Makrarnat Khan and Mir Abdul Karim, the two government bfficials. - Until 1930s, it was wrongly believed that either the Italian craftsman Geronimo Vevoneo or the French goldsmiih Augustin de Bordean designed the Taj Mhal. In 1937 the Scholars came acioss a text called Diwani Muhandis containing a collection of poems written by Ustad Ahmad's son Lutf Allah. Mention of Ustad Ahmad as the architect of Taj Mahal is found in this text. j The supply of marble for ~ aMahal was made from the quarries at Makrana and ensured by Raja Jai Singh under imperial orders. 6.3.3 Calligrapher Floral motifs, geomeaical designs and calligraphy are the three prominent decorative features of Taj Mahal. The most interesting of these, however, is the calligraphy. We get interesting details on it from the chronicles: a The calligrapher was Amanat Khan. But this was his title. I$s name was Abdal Haqq h and he .was a native of Shiran. His elder brother was ~ u l Shukr Allah, better known as Afzd man. Amanat K h b was appointed calligrapher of Taj Mahal in the middle of 1632. a His calligraphic designs were transferred onto the surface of Taj Mahal sometimes around the end of 1633 or beginning of 1634. a His signature m_ay be seen at two places in the calligraphic bands on Taj Mahal. a There are three other extant inscriptions bearing Amanat Khan's signature viz., Gateway of Sikandara, Madras Shahi Mosque in .Agra city, and Sari Amanat Khan near Lahore. 6.3.4 Garden Taj Mahal defies the most usual plan of Mughal mausoleums of locating the dead in the centre of a square garden. a Taj stands at the end of a rectangular garden. a The garden is a massive land measuring 540 metres. by 300 metres. a A canal runs in the centre of the gardeknorth-south and divides it into two halves. a These halves are further divided into guardrants by the canal branching in east-west direction. a The garden once had beautiful trees lined along the canals. a The quadrants have today been decorated with trees which express a sense of serenity befitting the nature of mansoleum. a Near the western end of the colonnade adjoining the entrance gate there is a small museum having interesting exhibits on Taj Mahal. Check Your Progress 2 1) Give details of Shah Jahan's marriages. ......................................................................................................... ................................................. ........................................................ i .......................................................................................................... .......................................................................................................... .......................................................................................................... ........................................................................................................... 2) How would you explain the architect of Taj Mahal? 3) How many extant specimens of Amanat Khat's signature do you know? Name them. TAJ MAHAL IN HISTORY Taj Mahal as Rauza-i Munawwara (the illumined Tomb) has been amply described in history. We have selected for you the description of Taj Mahal as given by Shah Jahan's celebrate court chronicles. Abdul Hamid Lahori in Padshah Nama and the descriptions by European travellers. i , 6.4.1 A Contemporary Account Here is the description given by Lahori. It has been taken from Taj Mahal, The i illumined Tomb which is an anthology of Seventeenth Century decomentary sources. compiled and translated by W.E. Begley and Z.A. Desai (published by the University of Washington Press, London, 1989). I ACCOUNT OF THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE SACRED TOMB Foundation and Plinth . At the beginning of the fifth year.of the exalted accession (January, 1632), the excavation . was started for the laying of the foundation (bunyan) of his sublime edifice which is situated overlooking the Jamuna river flowing adjacent to the north, and when the spade- Culdes and Escorts wielders with robust arms and hands strong as steak, had with unceasing effort excavated down to the water table, the ingenious masons !han~epn)and architects (mi'maran) of astonishing achievements most f m l y built the foundation (asas) with stone and mortar up to the level of the ground (Sath-i zamin). And on top of this foundation, there was raised a kind of platform (cbabutara-asa) of brick and mortar in one solid block (yak lakht), measuring 374 cubits (zira') long by 140 wide and 16 high, to serve as the plinth (kursi) of this exalted mausoleum. And from all parts of the empire, there were assembled great numbers of skilled stonecutters (sangtarash), lapidaries (munabbatkar!, and inlayers (parchingar), each one an expert in his art, whc saiilmenced work along with other craftsmen. The exposed sides (ru-i-kar) of this plinth were faced with dressed slabs of red stones (sang-i-snrkh-i- tarashidah), so smoothly cut and joined by expert craftsmanship that even slase inspection fails to reveal any cracks between hem: and the floor of the plinth was also paved with the same red stone. In the middle of this platform plinth-which ranks (in magnificence) with the heavenly Throne of God (hhmertabadbthere was constructed another solid (yak lakht) and level platform (kursi), 120 cubits square and 7 high, faced entirely with white marble (sang-i-marmar). In the center of the second platform, the building (imarat) of the heaven-lofty and Paradise-like mausoleum was constructed on the plan of a Baghdadi octagon (tarah-i-mmmman-i-baghdadi), 70 cubits in diameter, on a base plinth (kursi) one cubit in height. Situated in the'exact center of the building, the domed hall (gunbad) over the sepulcher (margad) of that recipient of divine grace has been finished with white marble within and the without ~ r o m floor (Sath) to the curvature (zih), the hall under the dome is octagonal in shape, with a diameter of 22 cubits. The curvature is ornamented with muqarnas motifs, while from the cornice to the inner summit of the dome which is at a height of 32 yards from the floor of the building, there are arranged marble slabs cut in a geometric molded pattern (galib-kari). k i d above this inner dome, which is radiant like the hearts of angles, has been raised another heaven touching, a guava-shaped (amrudi-shakl) dome-to discover the minute mathematicd degrees (darajar-i-dagaig) of which would confouud even the celestial geometrician (muhandis-i-falak) (i.e. Saturn). Crowing this dome of heavenly rank, the circumference of whose outer girth (mintag) is 110 yards (or 35 yards in diameter) there has been affixed a golden finial (kalas) 11 yards high, glittering like the sun, with its summit rising to a total height of 107 yards above the (level of the) ground. In the center of the tomb lies the divinely graced grave (mazia) of that leader of holy women and paragon of the pious-who occupies the reclining couch of the highest heaven and the chief seat in the loftiest mansions (of paradise). and is enshrined in divine mercy and pardon and enveloped in divine absolution and pleasure. (On the floor directly) above the actual grave (turbat) of that resident of paradise, there stands a marble platform (chabutara) on which a cenotaph (surat-i-gabr) been raised. And surrounding this is an octagonal lataed screen (mahjar-i-mushabbak) which is highly polished and pure, made of that very stone-the wonderful inlay workmanship of which will be pr-tly described-with an entrance fashioned of jasper after the Turkish fashion (tarh-band-i-rumi), 'joined with gilded fasteners, the cost of which was.l0,000 rupees. In the interior of this Arsh-like structure, gold-enameled (tala's minakar) constellation- orbs (kaukaba) and hanging lamps (ganadil) shine forth, and a l l the four arches (tag) of this heaven-like dome have been cased with (Panes of) Aleppo glass, leaving in one of them a doorway f a coming and going. At the corners of the white marble platform (kursi), which is 23 yards high above the level of the ground, stand four minarets, also of marble, with interior staircases and capped by cupoh (chartag), which are 7 cubits in diameter (at the base) and rise to a total height of 52 cubits from the pavement of the said platform to the finial @ls- aa) appearing, as it were, like-1 reaching toward the Heavens. The pavement of the platform of this Paradiselike tomb is of white marble; while the Describing a Monument: floor inside the tomb has been paved in utmost beauty 'aYld.delicacy, with interlocking TaJ Mahnl white marble and black stones, which, as it were, outshine (lit.. lend color to) days and nights. All over the interior and exterior of the structure of this mausoleum, wonder working and magic making artisans haire inlaid carnelian and other kinds of colored and precious stones-the jewels of whose description cannot be colltained in the capacity of narration ! i t and the p e d s of whose praises the balance of e tongue cannot weigh. whose luster causes the sun to be resplendent and whose splendor causes the world-illuminating dawn to be bright-faced (in embanassment+in such a way that the most discerning eye cannot fathom its subtleties and the most perspicacious imagination fails to comprehend its wonders. And an accounts, both of the quality and quantity of the artistic skills which have been employed in the inlay work of the grace-platform and the failing around it-the reflection of whose wonderful designs causes the eye of the sun to be embellished and the skirt of this sphel'e to blossom like spring-and the miracle which the magic-working carvers and artisans of Mani-like achievements have wrought, could never be finished and completed, even with the pens of trees and inks of oceans. 6.4.2 European Perception . The description of Taj Mahal from the pens of E r p a travellers are quite interesting. uoen Though they do not add anything substantial to our knowledge of facts on Taj Mahal, they are significant as perceptions of people from an alien culture. The earliest mention with reference to Taj Mahal is by Peter Mundy an agent of English East India Company. He was in Agra upto the beginning of March 1632 and was a witness to the beginning of construction work on Taj Mahal. The two other off-quoted accounts are by Jean-Bqtiste Tavernier and Fancois Bemier. Both were French travellers and reached India after the construction work had reached an advanced stage. Both were awestruck by the beauty of Taj Mahal. Bernier thought that Taj ought to have been included in the list of the wonders of the world. 6.5 ANECDOTES Taj Mahal has given birth to more anecdotal stories than any other monument in India. Such stories do not obviously become part of the repertoire of history. Yet they possess a spicy effect and may be used as fables. We have listed for you some of the more common anecdotes and have tried to account for their genesis. i) Taj Mahal was built over a period of twenty two years.' Local guides, ob~!isllsly ill- informed would invariably cite the-existence of 22 small domidal chhatris atop the entrance gate to the Taj complex as signifying the years consumed in its construction. You must, however, know that there is no truth in this statement as Taj* took only 11 years to complete (1632-1643). Probably the legend of 22 years originated from a statement to the same effect by Tavernier. Later the ingenuity of local guides made them discover 22 of Lllese domical structures atop the gate. ii) After the completion of Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan ordered that, the hands of the masons who had worked on it be severed so that they would not be able to repeat another construction of similar beauty. There is, however, no historical evidence to suggest even the remotest possibility of such an act. iii) Mumtaz Mahal wished at the time of her death that her memory ?x ~cryiuared the in form of an edifice of unparralleled beauty. The fact, however, is that the adific was entirely Shah Jahan's conception.Mumtaz's death wish as recorded in history was that her children and her mother be looked after by the Emperor. iv) Shah Jahan began to build h k own tomb on the other side of the river Yamuna but the project was interrupted due to the war of succession. There is however, no mention of such a project in history. Probably the story ;of a duplicate building got circulated from Tavernier's similar remark. Guides and EscorLs 1) Describe in 50 words Taj Mahal's interior on the basis.of Lahori's account. .......................................................................................................... 2) Mention the accounts of European travellers about.the Taj Mahal. .......................................................................................................... 3) How did the figure of 22 years for the period of construction of ~ aMahal originate? j 6.6 CONSERVATION OF TAJ MAHAL "The surface of this beautiful marble mausoleum is under pollution threat'' is a common h d n g in newspapers and magazines, whenever environment in India is under discussion. You may, therefore, anticipate questions from the tourists regarding the impact of environmental pollution on Taj. We strongly recommend to you to get hold of material on this debate from same past issues of newsfaturtx, magazines or newspapers and acquaint yourself with adequate information. Probably it would not be possible for you to take strong sides on this issue. But this should enable you to place arguments in favour and against the environmental pollution to Taj Mahal. The problem of conservation came into limelight after the approval for setting up the petroleum refinery at Mathura was given by the Govt. of India. Several studies conducted in this regard came up with the conclusion that the refmery was noba threat to the health of Taj Mahal. Recently, however, a Supreme Court verdict asking the U.P. Govt. to shift foundry factories fkom Agra to a distant place so as to safeguard the Taj Mahal has again livened the issue. Describing a Monument: 6.7 LET US SUM UP TaJ Mahnl * . As a tourist guide you got adequate information on Taj Mahal in this Unit. We gave you derails on the plan, architectural style and the decoration of Taj Mahal. We also gave you information on the genesis of the scheme of Taj Mahal and its construction, Some historical references pertaining to Taj Mahal were given to enrich your bag of knowledge about Taj Mahal. Popular anecdotes regarqing Taj Mahal and some infomation on the conservation of Taj Mahal also formed part of the details. We are hopeful you find yourself in a better position now as a guide taking tourists to Taj Mahal. At the same time, by using this Unit as a sample you can gather infohation about the monuments in your area and subsequently describe them to the tourists. 6.8 KEYWORDS Anecdote : A legend, not a part of history Forecourt : An open ipace in front of a building Grid pattern : Following intersecting lines Inlay Work : Fixing stones in groovks cut an a surface. Latticed : Perforated by a design. Perception : Way of looking at something. Quadrangle : A square. World Heritage Monument : A monument included in the list prepared by the U.N. and needing attention by the world in general. 6.9 ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGeRESS EXERCISES Check Your Progress 1 1) he plan of Taj Mahal is based on grid pateern. For details See Sub-sec. 6.2.1. 2) The designer was Shah Jahan's goldsmith Bebadal Khan. The screen was removed for fear of theft or loot See Sub-sec. 62.2. 3) . Narcissus, roses and tulips, These occur as love symbds in Persian poetry. See Sub- set. 6.3.3. Check Ydur Progress 2 1) Shahjahan had three wives. For details see Sub-sec. 6.3.1. " is 2) The common belief that Taj was designed by Italian arChitectu~e wrong. The name b of the architect was liistad Ahmad. For details see SubSec. 6.3.2. 3) There are fivk extant specimens of Amanat Khan's signahue. For details see ~&sec. I 6.3.3. ! Check Your mgress 3 1) Lahori &mithe Taj M h l & &tails and has @e aa ;n an acmmt of the gold rating around the grave. For &tails see sub-sec. 6.4.1. 1 2) PCB Mundy, Tavemia, Bantr. For details see Sub s(~. o 6.42. 3) It originated on the basis of a statement t this effect given by tavemier. See-sec.6.5. [