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Taj Mahal Exterior

Introduction

Taj Mahal Exterior Decoration Here we have discussed about the exterior decoration of Taj Mahal. As we all know that it is the most important place to visit in Agra. When we talk about Agra tourism, description begins with this World Heritage site. Exterior part is the most visible part of mausoleum. In print media and other websites, we will find mainly the exterior look of Taj Mahal thus it is most discussed topic among readers. Construction of the Taj Mahal started in 1632 and was completed in 1648. The Taj Mahal is considered by many to be the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements of Persian and Indian styles. Some dispute surrounds the question of who designed the Taj. A team of designers and craftsmen were responsible for the design, with the Persian architect Ustad Isa usually considered the most likely candidate as the principal designer. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar part of the monument, the Taj Mahal is actually an integrated complex of structures.

Exterior of Taj Mahal

The entire area around the Taj Mahal complex is well planned and exquisitely designed in keeping with the actual mausoleum building. One can see some of the finest examples of Mughal and Persian architecture across the complex. In every gateway, you can see the intricate carvings, inlays and minute detailing work. There is a long rivulet of water flanked by well laid out example of a beautiful Mughal garden. The main building itself is atop a raised platform of 50 meters above the ground with the Yamuna River flowing at the back. The exterior decorations are of the Taj Mahal are known to be one of the greatest Mughal architecture that ever occurred. The decorative elements are made by applying paint, stucco, stone inlays, and carvings. Throughout the exterior parts of the palace there were phrases used from the Qur'an that were carved into the walls. The calligraphy on the Great Gate reads "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you." Besides the calligraphy there were many stone carvings and abstract designs covering every inch of the exterior. Nearly every surface of the entire complex has been decorated. Decorative motifs are repeated throughout the complex. The decorative elements come in basically three categories: Calligraphy, Abstract geometric elements and Floral motifs. The decorative elements were created in three ways i.e. Paint or stucco applied to the wall surface, Stone inlay and Carvings.

Calligraphy

The Calligraphy is a florid and practically illegible thuluth script, created by the Mughal court's Persian calligrapher, Amanat Khan, who was resident at the Mughal court. He has signed several of the panels. As one enters through the Taj Mahal Gate the calligraphy reads "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you." The calligraphy is made by jasper inlaid in white marble panels. Some of the work is extremely detailed and delicate (especially that found on the marble cenotaphs in the tomb). Higher panels are written slightly larger to reduce the skewing effect when viewed from below.

Abstract Geometric Elements

This type of designs was used especially in the plinth, minarets, gateway, mosque, and jawab, and to a lesser extent on the surfaces of the tomb. The domes and vaults of the sandstone buildings are worked with tracery of incised painting to create elaborate geometric forms. The incised painting technique is to scratch a channel in the stone, and to then lay a thick paint or stucco plaster across the surface. The paint is then scraped off the surface of the stone, leaving paint in the incision. Specially crafted Herringbone inlay work is used to fill the spaces between adjacent elements. The sandstone domes and vaults display incised painting resulting in clear cut geometric patterns.

Floral Motif

The lower walls of the tomb have white marble dados sculpted with beautiful bas relief impressions of vines and flowers. The polish of the marble brings out the rich detailing with the archway spandrels decorated with the Italian work called pietra dura inlays. The inlay stones are of yellow marble. Jade and jasper are seen on the wall's surface.

Plinth

When we get close to the main structure, the first look is of Taj Mahal's plinth area. Here also artists have taken care of decoration. It is decorated with delicate relief carving work which is locally called Munabbat-kari. Here plant elements have been depicted. Here carving work is based of natural flowering plants.

The Dome

Dome of Taj Mahal is the most visible and attractive and visible part of building. It defines the design of whole structure. It sits on a cylindrical base which is hardly 7 meters high. Height of main tomb is 35 meters. All the domes in Mughal architecture are in onion shape due to which they are also called "onion shaped dome". Top of dome is decorated with design of lotus petals. It is located at the exact center of the main structure. Their are 4 small supporting domes, surrounding to main dome which emphasizes supremacy of main dome. At top of the dome, we can find the summit of bronze metal in which some inscriptions are written. Originally it was of gold but replaced with bronze in 19th century.

Minarets

Main structures of mausoleum is surrounded by 4 tall minarets. Their height is approx. 130 feets and are located in all four corners of base. They are like guards of main building. These minarets are the traditional elements of mosque and designed as working minarets. Their prime purpose is to call the Islamic faithfuls for prayers. These minarets are divided into three parts showing three balconies in which two lower balconies are active and third one at top is surmounted by dome with similar decoration. All these minarets are hollow from inside, offering passage to climb up with provision of light and fresh air. Now a days, bats have made it their shelters as it is a peaceful location for them. All these minarets enhance the beauty of Taj Mahal and if carefully watched, they seems tilted outside. Guides clarifies that it is due to fact that in case of any natural calamity, if minarets will fall then they should fall outside, away from main structure.

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