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Taj Mahal

 The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built on the southern bank of the Yamuna (Jumna) River, near Agra, India. Built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Arjumand Banu Began or Mumtaz Mahal ("Chosen One of the Palace"), the mane Taj Mahal is a corruption. Jahan’s wife had been his constant companion since their marriage in 1612, but died suddenly in 1631, during childbirth in Burhanpur. A council of architects from India, Persia, Central Asia and beyond planned the building of the monument began in 1632. The monument itself was completed in 1643 by more than 20,000 workers. Immediate adjuncts to the building (mosques, wall, and gateway) were finished around 1649. At a total cost of about 40 million rupees, the entire Taj took a total of 22 years to complete.

The rectangular plot upon which the monument aligns north and south and measures 580 by 305 meters (1,902 by 1,002 feet). There is a central garden that measures 305 meters (1,002 feet) on each side and is bounded on the north and south by two smaller, oblong sections. The southernmost section is the sandstone entrance gateway to the complex with attendant service buildings. On the north, the oblong section concludes at the Yamuna River’s edge and comprises the famed mausoleum itself. The mausoleum is flanked to the east and west by two symmetrically identical buildings. These are the mosque and its jawab (or building for aesthetic balance). The northern section and central garden area of the mosque are surrounded by a high wall with octagonal pavilion turrets at the corner. To the south lie the stables and guard quarters.

Because Mughal building practice allowed no subsequent addition or amendments, the whole complex was conceived as an entity. Both the mosque and the jarab,which face the mausoleum, are made of red Sikri sandstone with marble-necked domes and architraves. The restrained use of pietra dura (hard stone) surface decoration contrasts in color and texture with the mausoleum’s pure white Makrana marble.

The mausoleum stands on a marble plinth 7 meters (23 feet) high. The four identical facades each have chamfered corners and a massive arch that rises 33 meters (108 feet) high. The structure is completed by the bulbous double dome supported on a tall drum. The parapets over each arch with the pinnacles and domed kiosks over each corner create the mosque’s rhythmic skyline. A minaret, three stories in height stands at each corner of the plinth. Its countersunk face joints of marble brick contrast with the highly finished marble of the mausoleum. An octagonal chamber with low-relief patterns and fine pietra dura form the organization for the interior. The cenotaphs of Arjumand Banu Beguan and Shah Jahan are contained in this chamber. Both of these tombs are decorated with pietra dura and enclosed by a perforated stone-studded marble screen. Below, at garden level, a vault contains the true Sarcophagi. Regarded as a supreme achievement of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal is considered one of the world’s most beautiful buildings.
 



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