Monday, February 21, 2011

The Agra Chronicles- I ( Taj Mahal )

I know it took a long time coming, but I finally got it together. The Agra Chronicles is a three-part series with the highlights from my weekend trip to the city of the Taj. In this first instalment, I am sharing images and impressions from my tryst with one the world's best recognised and dearly loved monuments...a monument to love itself...the magnificent Taj Mahal!!

Here's my very first view of the Taj while driving into the city of Agra ...The monument itself was still a long way off but this fleeting glimpse from the moving car had me all excited!!


maison marigold


We stayed at the magnificent Amarvilas( Part 3 of the Chronicles) which boasts of a Taj-view from every single guest-room !! Here's a picture I took from the reception area soon after checking- in. For the two days that we stayed there, this view was our constant companion..We really couldn't have asked for more.


maison marigold


 Since the best time to visit the Taj is either at sunrise or sunset...we set out early morning on saturday in a golf-cart, courtesy of the Amarvilas, with our very able guide. I highly recommend taking a registered guide along( since audio guides are not available here) , as there are so many details and snippets of very interesting information ( some facts and others pure legends) which one might otherwise miss out on. Soon after passing through security, the main dome of the Taj shows up over the compound wall....



maison marigold


The entry  to the main Taj complex is through this Eastern Gate, a magnificent red-sandstone and white marble structure whose archway mirrors the shape of the main tomb's archway.The front and back of this grand gate are identical, conforming to the principle of symmetry so typical of mughal architecture. As one enters through this gate.....



maison marigold


...the sight that meets the eye...takes the breath away. There were quite a few audible gasps( mine included) at this moment. To me, this image of the Taj truly highlights its ethereal beauty...a dream-like vision in white, floating above a sea of humanity...


maison marigold


A World Heritage Site,Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by the mughal emperor, Shahjahan, in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtajmahal. It is the finest example of Mughal architecture, which is effectively an amalgamation of Persian, Islamic and Indian architectural styles. Shahjahan was obsessed with perfection and symmetry and this image illustrates how Taj embodies both of those, alongwith unparalleled beauty. Infact, all four sides of the main structure are identical, including all the geometric and floral motifs.
Isn't it ironical, then, that the only visible asymmetry in the entire complex lies in the position of Shahjahan's cenotaph which lies beside Mumtajmahal's centrally placed cenotaph!


maison marigold


This is the view of the gateway, that we entered through, as seen from the reflecting pool ...which is this raised marble water tank for refelecting the image of the tomb. The beautifully laid out Mughal gardens flank the central avenue of fountains that runs between the main gate and the Taj.


maison marigold


Here's the reflecting pool where(and I say this with complete conviction) every single visitor to the Taj, whether a commoner or a dignitary, has had his picture taken!! Taj is a little off-centre in this image, but all the good ones had atleast one of us in the frame!!


maison marigold

There is more after the jump....


Here is a close-up of the main dome of the tomb, topped by a finial which was originally made of solid gold but later replaced with this brass replica by the British. Though not visible in this picture, all over this dome are metal hooks that are used to climb over it for cleaning. I found the carving at the base of the dome particularly beautiful...so intricate and on such a large scale.


maison marigold


The calligraphy on the main gate is done by inlaying jasper( black marble) in white marble..these are couplets from the Holy Quran.The font of the calligraphy gets marginally bigger as it goes up so that to a person looking up from the ground...it all seems the same size!! Remarkable ingenuity!


maison marigold


A closer look at the archway shows a couple of decorative techniques used throughout the Taj.. The intricate stone inlay work that crowns the archway is absolutely symmetrical on both sides....every single petal and vine. Can  you see the geometrical carved design on the inside of the arch...it was beautiful..


maison marigold


Bands of beautiful inlay work, using the 'pietra dura' technique, adorn the outer walls of the Taj....jasper, jade ,coral and yellow marble have been inrticately cut, shaped and polished to make these inlays that give the impression of having been created through the sweep of a paint brush....the pieces used for the inlay are so small and delicate that the artisans would often lose skin off the tips of their fingers...it is this fact that gave birth to the legend which says that Shahjahan had the hands of the artisans chopped off so another monument to rival the beauty of Taj could never be built!!


maison marigold



...the decorative elements get far more intricate and beautiful as one enters the inner octagonal chamber which houses the cenotaphs of the emperor and his beloved queen...these are not the actual graves as those lie beneath the inner chamber and are closed to the visitors. The most elaborate and intricate inlay work is to be found on the cenotaphs using as many as 35 different precious and semi-precious stones...Photography is prohibited in this chamber so I am sharing an image that I took off wikipeidia ...as you can see the inlay is more intricate and  lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl and cornelia( believed to be the queen' favourite stone) can also be seen in the design.


via wikipedia


The most amazing artistry is however to be found on these 'jaali' screens, made by perforating the marble slabs that circle the cenotaphs. There are eight such panels, each made from a single slab of white marble. These have to be seen to be believed...the detail and scale is astouning!



via wikipedia


One design element that shows up repeatedly on the outer wall of the Taj is herringbone inlay on large wall panels ....


maison marigold



...as well as on huge pillars adjoining these walls...I found the grey and black herrigbone pattern particularly striking and almost modern.


maison marigold


maison marigold


Huge marble panels depicting bas relief floral motifs adorn the lower walls of the Taj.Can you imagine what great control and precision the artisans must have had, to chisel such beautiful motifs out of plain hard stone, with nothing more than a chisel and a hammer?


maison marigold


maison marigold



I think that's enough Mughal architecture for one day..... here's a link (Taj) for those who might want to know more.

I'll leave you here with one last image of the Taj , glowing in the first rays of the sun...Hope it was an interesting journey for you all...I would love to know your thoughts!


Posted by Picasa

maison marigold
 

2 comments:

Sanjana said...

Absolutely love this post of yours!!! I've been to Taj Mahal but reading your blog is like seeing it again from an artist's point of view. No words can remotely begin to describe the beauty of Taj but your blog comes very close to it.

Looking forward to reading the next chronicle.

meenal bishnoi said...

Thanks Sanjana for your very kind words..I'm happy you liked it...putting this post together was quite a task...and you are right when you say that its beauty cannot be described in words..you have to see it to believe it!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...