Marble Plaques>> TAJ MAHAL

CULTURAL NOTICE BOARDS (MARBLE PLAQUES) PLACED ON THE
Taj Mahal and its Annexes

01. The Taj Mahal (1631-48) – English
02. The Taj Mahal (1631-48) – Hindi
03. The Taj Mosque & Jam’at-Khanah (1631-48)
04. The Jal Mahal (Water-Palace) (1631-48)
05. Tomb of Akbarabadi Mahal Begum (1631-48)
06. Tomb of Fatehpuri Mahal Begum (1631-48)
07. The Fatehpuri Masjid (1631-48)
08. Saheli -Burj (the Tomb of Sati-un-Nisa Khanam) (1631-48)
09. The Mahtab-Bagh (The Moon Garden) (1631-35) – English
10. The Mahtab-Bagh (The Moon Garden) (1631-35) – Hindi

 

 


THE TAJ MAHAL

THE TAJ MAHAL WAS BUILT BY THE MUGHAL EMPEROR SHAH JAHAN (REIGN, 1628-1658 A.D.), GRANDSON OF AKBAR, THE GREAT, IN THE MEMORY OF HIS QUEEN ARJUMAND BANO BEGUM, ENTITLED ‘MUMTAZ MAHAL’. SHE WAS NIECE OF EMPRESS NUR JAHAN AND GRAND-DAUGHTER OF MIRZA GHIAS BEG “I’TIMAD-UD-DAULAH” VAZIR OF EMPEROR JEHANGIR. SHE WAS BORN IN 1593 AND WAS MARRIED TO PRINCE KHURRAM (SHAH JAHAN) IN 1612. SHE DIED IN 1631 ON THE BIRTH OF HER 14TH CHILD, AT BURHANPUR WHERE SHE WAS TEMPORARILY BURIED. SIX MONTHS LATER, HER BODY WAS TRANSFERRED TO AGRA AND FINALLY ENSHRINED IN THE CRYPT OF THE MAIN TOMB. SHAH JAHAN WHO DIED IN 1666 WAS ALSO BURIED HERE. THE TAJ MAHAL IS THE MAUSOLEUM OF BOTH MUMTAZ MAHAL AND SHAH JAHAN. ORIGINALLY STYLED AS ‘RAUZA-I-MUNAVVARA’ AND ‘RAUZA-I-MUMTAZ MAHAL’, GRADUALLY IT BECAME FAMOUS AS TAJ MAHAL AND TAJ-BIBI-KA-RAUZA (THE GARDEN-TOMB OF THE TAJ QUEEN).

IT IS SITED ON THE RIGHT BANK OF THE RIVER JAMUNA AT A POINT WHERE IT TAKES A SHARP TURN AND FLOWS EASTWARD. THIS LOCATION HAS A CORRECT ORIENTATION FOR THE ADJUNCT-MOSQUE, MINIMUM THRUST OF WATER AND, ABOVE ALL, A LARGE NATURAL LAKE TO PROVIDE IT WITH A CONTINUOUS PROTECTIVE COVER OF MOISTURE. THE RIVER WITH 30 FEET DEEP CLEAN WATER WAS A CONSTITUENT OF ITS ORIGINAL DESIGN.

ITS LAND WAS ACQUIRED IN LIEU OF FOUR HAVELIS. THE CONSTRUCTION BEGAN FROM THE FOUNDATIONS. WELLS WERE LAID TO SUPPORT THE HUGE BUILDING. ARTISANS WERE REQUISITIONED FROM THE WHOLE OF THE EMPIRE AND FROM CENTRAL ASIA AND IRAN. WHILE BRICKS FOR INTERNAL SKELETON WERE LOCALLY MADE, WHITE MARBLE FOR EXTERNAL SURFACES WAS OBTAINED FROM MAKRANA. IT WAS COMPLETED IN 1648 IN 17 YEARS, AT THE COST OF ABOUT RUPEES FOUR CRORE (40 MILLION) WHEN GOLD WAS SOLD AT RS. 15 PER TOLA (11.66 GRAMS).

IN ALL, IT COVERS AN AREA OF 60 BIGHAS. AS TERRAIN GRADUALLY SLOPED FROM SOUTH TO NORTH, TOWARDS THE RIVER, IT IS LAID OUT IN DESCENDING TERRACES. AT THE SOUTHERN POINT IS THE FORECOURT WITH THE MAIN GATE IN FRONT AND TOMBS OF AKBARABADI BEGUM AND FATEHPURI BEGUM, TWO OTHER QUEENS OF SHAH JAHAN, ON ITS SOUTH-EAST AND SOUTH-WEST CORNERS. ON THE SECOND TERRACE IS A SPACIOUS CHAR-BAGH GARDEN DIVIDED INTO FOUR QUARTERS BY BROAD SHALLOW CANALS, WITH WIDE WALKWAYS AND CYPRESS AVENUES ON THE SIDES. THEY ARE STUDDED WITH FOUNTAINS WHICH WERE FED BY OVERHEAD WATER TANKS SITUATED IN THE ADJOINING BAGH KHAN-I-’ALAM.

THE MAIN TOMB IS PLACED AT THE NORTHERN EDGE OF THIS GARDEN. IT INTEGRATED THE TAJ WITH THE BLUE SKY, AND PROVIDED IT WITH A BEAUTIFUL NATURAL BACKGROUND, WHICH WAS CONSTANTLY CHANGING FROM SUNRISE TO MIDNIGHT. THE CHANGING COLOURS OF THE SKY DESCENDED SOFTLY ON ITS WHITE MARBLE AND IT LOOKED EVER NEW AT EVERY MOMENT. THIS NEWNESS IS THE SECRET OF ITS BEAUTY.

THE MAIN TOMB WAS DESIGNED UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF THE EMPEROR HIMSELF. ITS PERFECT PROPORTIONS WERE EVOLVED IN WOODEN MODELS. IT RISES TO 285 FEET FROM THE RIVER LEVEL WITH 187 FEET WIDTH. ITS GEOMETRICAL SYMMETRY IS ALSO UNIQUE.

THOUGH IT HAS SOME WONDERFUL SPECIMENS OF POLYCHROME INLAY ART, IN THE INTERIOR: ON THE DADOS, ON CENOTAPHS AND ON THE MARBLE JHAJJHARI (JALI-SCREEN) AROUND THEM, AND ON THE EXTERIOR ON THE SPANDRELS OF THE ARCHES, THIS ORNAMENT IS SPARSE AND MINIMAL, AND IT DOES NOT PLAY ANY ROLE IN THE TOTAL AESTHETIC EFFECT OF THE BUILDING, WHICH IS WHOLLY ARCHITECTONIC.

IT WAS EFFICIENTLY MAINTAINED UNTIL IT FELL ON BAD DAYS, IN THE 18TH CENTURY A.D. ITS DOORS, LOOSE FITTINGS AND FURNITURE – OF EBONY AND SANDALWOOD, COSTLY LAMPS, STANDS, UTENSILS, RUGS, CARPETS, CURTAINS AND WALL-HANGINGS OF RARE TEXTILES, JEWELLED COVERINGS – THE ENTIRE PARAPHERNALIA WAS PLUNDERED BY THE JATS, MARATHAS AND BRITISH OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY WHO CAPTURED AGRA IN 1803. THE BRITISH REPLACED THE ORIGINAL GOLD KALASH FINIAL IN 1810 AND, THE TAJ WAS ONCE – DURING THE REGIME OF WILLIAM BENTINCK – PUT TO AUCTION ONLY FOR THE VALUE OF ITS MARBLE. FORTUNATELY THIS SACRILEGE WAS AVERTED. THE TAJ SURVIVED, ALTHOUGH IN BARE SKELETAL FORM WITHOUT THE IMPERIAL COVERINGS. SINCE THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1861, IT IS BEING PROPERLY MAINTAINED AND CONSERVED.

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CREATIONS OF MAN ON EARTH, IT IS VARIOUSLY ADMIRED : AS A ‘MATERIALISED VISION OF LOVELINESS’, A ‘DREAM IN MARBLE’, A ‘NOBLE TRIBUTE TO THE GRACE OF INDIAN WOMANHOOD’ AND A ‘RESPLENDENT IMMORTAL TEAR DROP ON THE CHEEK OF TIME’. IT SYMBOLISES INDIA’S COMPOSITE CULTURE. IT IS RECKONED AMONG THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD AND IS INSCRIBED AS A WORLD HERITAGE SITE BY THE UNESCO.


THE MAHTAB-BAGH 
(THE MOON GARDEN) 
(1631-1635 A.D.)

BABUR (REIGN, 1526-30 A.D.) CAME TO AGRA SOON AFTER THE BATTLE OF PANIPAT (20 APRIL 1526). HERE, HE WAS MUCH TORTURED BY HEAT, HOT WINDS AND DUST. HE HAS ALSO COMPLAINED, IN HIS MEMOIRS, OF THE LACK OF RUNNING WATER (THROUGH CANALS AND CASCADES) AND GARDENS WITH WHICH HE WAS ACCUSTOMED. HE HAD SEEN A LARGE NUMBER OF THEM AT SAMARQAND, SUCH AS BAGH-I-DILKUSHA, BAGH-I-CHENAR AND BAGH-I-BIHISHT. HE HAD FOUNDED SEVERAL GARDENS AT KABUL : BAGH-I-VAFA, BAGH-I-KALAN. BAGH-I-BANAFSHA, BAGH-I-PADSHAHI AND BAGH-I-CHENAR. IT WAS IN THIS TRADITION THAT HE FOUNDED GARDENS ON THE LEFT (EASTERN) BANK OF THE RIVER JAMUNA AT AGRA, E.G. BAGH-I-GUL AFSHAN (THE FLOWER-SCATTERING GARDEN) (PRESENT RAM-BAGH); BAGH-I-ZAR-AFSHAN (THE GOLD SCATTERING GARDEN) (PRESENT CHAUBURJ); AND BAGH-I-HASHT BIHISHT (THE GARDEN OF EIGHT PARADISES), AS HE HAS RECORDED IN HIS MEMOIRS. HE NOTED THAT HIS NOBLES ALSO FOUNDED GARDENS HERE, SO MUCH SO THAT “THE PEOPLE OF HIND WHO HAD NEVER SEEN GROUNDS PLANNED SO SYMMETRICALLY AND THUS LAID OUT, CALLED THE SIDE OF THE JUN (RIVER JAMUNA) WHERE (OUR) RESIDENCES WERE, KABUL.” HIS RECORD SHOWS THAT HIS BAGH-I-HASHT BIHISHT WAS SITUATED JUST IN FRONT OF THE AGRA FORT, MOST PROBABLY, AT OR NEAR THIS PLACE, ENABLING HIM TO CROSS THE RIVER AND REACH HERE SWIFTLY AND FREQUENTLY. THE MUGHALS WERE CERTAINLY OCCUPYING THIS AREA AND, TO CATER TO THEIR RELIGIOUS NEEDS, HUMAYUN (REIGN, 1530-40; 1555) BUILT A LARGE MOSQUE IN THIS LOCALITY. THIS MOSQUE HAS SURVIVED AND BEARS THE INSCRIPTION DATED IN A.H. 937/1530 A.D. HIS ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATORY, NOW IN RUINS AND KNOWN AS ‘GYARAH-SIDDI’, IS ALSO SITUATED IN ITS VICINITY. THE AREA HAS LARGE SCALE RUINS OF MUGHAL GARDENS. LATER, AKBAR (1556-1605) SEEMS TO HAVE GRANTED THIS PLACE, ON BOTH SIDES OF THE RIVER, IN JAGIR, TO RAJA MAN SINGH KACHHWAHA OF AMER, WHEREBY THE VILLAGE CAME TO BE KNOWN AS ‘KACHHPURA’.

SHAH JEHAN (1628-1658), AKBAR’S GRANDSON, PROCURED THIS SITE (ON BOTH BANKS OF THE RIVER) FOR BUILDING A MAGNIFICENT TOMB IN THE MEMORY OF HIS DECEASED QUEEN MUMTAZ MAHAL, FROM MAN SINGH’S GRANDSON MIRZA RAJA JAI SINGH, IN LIEU OF FOUR ‘HAVELIS’, AS IS ON RECORD. THE GRAND MAUSOLEUM, VIZ. THE TAJ MAHAL, WITH SUBSIDIARY BUILDINGS, CHOWK (COURT), DALANS, GATEWAY AND A SPACIOUS GARDEN WAS LAID OUT, ON THREE RECEDING LEVELS, ON THE RIGHT BANK, THE STUPENDOUS MAIN TOMB OF WHITE MARBLE STANDING IMPOSINGLY ON THE EDGE OF THE RIVER. HE ALSO BUILT THIS SPACIOUS GARDEN, VIZ. THE MAHTAB-BAGH ON THE TRADITION OF GARDEN-CRAFT FOUNDED BY BABUR, ON THIS SIDE OF THE RIVER, FACING THE TAJ MAHAL, JUST TO PROVIDE A BEAUTIFUL BACKDROP TO THE MAIN TOMB. IT WAS INGENIOUSLY PLANNED ON ONE PLAIN LEVEL. FIRST, A LARGE OCTAGONAL TANK OF BRICK MASONRY, EACH INTERNAL SIDE OF WHICH MEASURED 26.70 M (APPRO. 80 FEET), WAS BUILT. EACH SIDE HAD 16 SCALLOPED ARCHES, TO MAKE UP A BEAUTIFUL BORDER OF THE TANK. ON ITS SOUTH, WEST, NORTH AND EAST SIDES WERE SPACIOUS BUNGLAS (PAVILIONS WITH CURVED CHHAJJAS AND ROOFS) WHICH WERE INTERCONNECTED BY WIDE DALANS OR COVERED CORRIDORS, ON OTHER SIDES. ALL THESE WERE BUILT OF RED SANDSTONE, AND ENGRAILED (CUSPED) ARCHES, PILLARS, CARVED PANELS AND OTHER ARCHITECTURAL PARTS OF THIS VAST STRUCTURE, IN TYPICAL SHAHJEHANIAN STYLE, HAVE SURVIVED IN THE RUINS. THERE WERE 25 FOUNTAINS IN THE TANK. THESE WERE INLETS OF WATER WHICH WAS SUPPLIED BY OVERHEAD TANKS THROUGH WATER-TIGHT TERRACOTTA PIPES, WHICH HAVE ALL DISAPPEARED. ON ITS NORTHERN SIDE IS AN OBLONG RED STONE TANK, WITH SCALLOPED CORNERS. WATER FROM THE MAIN OCTAGONAL TANK FLOWED, THROUGH A SLIT UNDER THE NORTHERN BUNGLA, AND FELL INTO THIS OBLONG TANK IN THE FORM OF A WATER-FALL (ABSHAR), BEHIND WHICH A CHINI-KHANAH (SERIES OF NICHES FOR CANDLES IN THE NIGHT, AND FLOWER GULDASTAS IN THE DAY) IS PROVIDED. A LARGE CHAR-BAGH (FOUR-QUARTERED GARDEN) WAS LAID OUT ON ITS NORTHERN SIDE. IT WAS DIVIDED INTO FOUR QUARTERS, WITH A SQUARE LOTUS-TANK IN THE CENTRE. IT ALSO HAS SCALLOPED CORNERS. SHALLOW STONE CANALS, WITH STONE-PAVED PATHWAYS ON BOTH SIDES, NOW EXTINCT, WERE BUILT FROM THIS CENTRAL TANK TO THE MIDDLE OF THE FOUR SIDES. WATER FLOWED FROM THE MAIN TANK TO THE OBLONG TANK AND THENCE TO THE CANALS OF THIS GARDEN. THERE WERE BARAHDARIS (OPEN, ARCADED PAVILIONS) ONTHE WESTERN, NORTHERN AND EASTERN SIDES OF THE CHAR-BAGH. THESE TOO HAVE BEEN DESTROYED. THE ENCLOSING WALL HAS ALSO DISAPPEARED AND ONLY ITS RIVER-SIDE, SOUTH-EASTERN TOWER HAS REMAINED. AURANGZEB, IN HIS LETTER DATED 8 MUHARRAM 1063 HIJRI (= 9 DECEMBER 1652 A.D.), MENTIONED MAHTAB-BAGH AND NOTED THAT IT WAS RECENTLY SUBMERGED UNDER FLOOD WATER. BUT THE OCTAGONAL TANK AND BUNGLAS HAD REMAINED UNAFFECTED. IN THE LATER AGES, THE BUILDINGS COLLAPSED AND THE GARDEN WAS COVERED BY SAND DEPOSITED BY RIVER FLOODS, AND IT WAS FORGOTTEN. THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA, AGRA CIRCLE, HAS RECENTLY EXCAVATED IT AND IT IS NOW BEING RESTORED AND CONSERVED. NEARLY 6000 TREES AND PLANTS FROM THE MUGHAL REPERTOIRE HAVE BEEN PLANTED BY THE A.S.I.

THE MAHTAB-BAGH IS LAID OUT IN PERFECT SYMMETRY AND ALIGNMENT WITH THE TAJ MAHAL, AND THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT THAT IT WAS PLANNED AND BUILT AS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE ORIGINAL DESIGN OF THE TAJ MAHAL, DURING THE PERIOD FROM 1631 TO 1635 A.D. IT SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN NAMED ‘MAHTAB-BAGH’ (THE MOON GARDEN) BECAUSE IT IS AN IDEAL PLACE FOR VIEWING THE TAJ MAHAL IN MOONLIGHT. 

 

 

School of Mughal Architecture Consultancy for Mughal Architecture MARBLE PLAQUES OF MUGHAL ARCHITECTURE