Agra, the imperial capital of erstwhile Mughal Empire, is the
city of unspeakable grandeurs.
The most beautiful building in the world. In 1631 the emperor
Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz, who
died in childbirth. The white marble mausoleum at Agra has
become the monument of a man's love for a woman.
Shah Jahan came to power in 1622 when he seized the throne from
his father, while murdering his brothers to ensure his claim to
rule. He was known as an extravagant and cruel leader. But he
redeemed himself by his generosity to his friends and the poor,
by his passion in adorning India with some of its most beautiful
architecture, and by his devotion to his wife Mumtaz Mahal -
"Ornament of the Palace." He had married her when he was 21,
when he already had two children by an earlier consort. Mumtaz
gave her husband 14 children in eighteen years, and died at the
age of 39 during the birth of the final child. Shah Jahan built
the Taj Mahal as a monument to her memory and her fertility, but
then relapsed into a life of scandalous behavior. This tomb was
only one of hundreds of beautiful buildings that Shah Jahan
erected, mostly at Agra and in the new Dehli that came into
being under his planning.
History of Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal in Agra India is considered one of the best
examples of Mughal architecture in India. The history of the Taj
Mahal is one of the great love stories of the world.
The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan ruled from 1628 to 1658 and was
married to Arjumand Bano Begum in 1612 A.D. He called his wife
Mumtaz Mahal or Crown of the Palace, because she was so precious
to him. Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan had 14 children and the
queen accompanied Shah Jahan everywhere, even on military
campaigns. It was on one of these campaigns, in Burhanpur in
central India, that Mumtaz Mahal died in 1631, shortly after
giving birth to her 14th child. Her dying wish to Shah Jahan was
that he should "build a tomb in her memory such as the world had
never seen before." The history of the Taj Mahal begins with
Mumtaz Mahal's tragic end.
Shah Jahan fulfilled her wish, creating the most beautiful
mausoleum the world had ever seen. Shah Jahan was deposed by his
son Aurangzeb. He spent the last years of his life under house
arrest in the Agra Fort. He used to spend his time looking
across the Yamuna River at the beautiful tomb he had built for
his beloved empress, waiting for the day they could be united
again. After Shah Jahan's death in 1666 A.D., he too was laid to
rest beside his beloved Mumtaz Mahal. Their real tombs are in a
basement of the Taj Mahal. The two ornately decorated tombs on
the ground floor, sheltered by the dome of the Taj Mahal are
part of the stylistic design of this beautiful monument in Agra
India. The history of the Taj Mahal is the history of the
steadfast love of a Mughal Emperor for his Queen.
It took 22 years for the Taj Mahal to be completed. A huge labor
force of 20,000 workers led by Muhammed Hanif, the head of the
masons and the Persian architect Ustad Isa or Ustad Ahmad
Lahauri, were employed in its construction. Finished in 1648,
the Taj Mahal cost the Mughal exchequer 32 million rupees. The
Taj Mahal has been described by the poet Sir Edwin Arnold, as"
Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the
proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones."
the mausoleum was provided with luxuriant furnishings. Persian
carpets and gold lamps embellished the interior of the Taj. Two
silver gates, that were set up at the entrance, were taken away
by Suraj Mal in 1764. Amir Husein Ali Khan looted the sheet of
pearls that covered the stone coffins.
It is said, that after the completion of the construction, when
emperor Shah Jahan viewed the Taj, he ordered his men to cut off
the right hand of the master architect Ustad Isa, so the later
may not be able to erect such a stately and imposing edifice
again in his life. There's another legend that says Shah Jahan
was contemplating to build yet another Taj Mahal across the
river in black marble.
Agra Fort is among the finest examples of the fusion
architecture that has dominated the Mogul period. The
assimilation of these different styles has given the buildings
within the fort a distinctive look. To name a few, for example,
the Jahangir Palace built by Akbar is the most magnificent blend
of Persian and local style where as Divan-e-Aam mixes subtleness
of Turkish exteriors with the complex pattern of Persian
architecture. Other buildings within the premises of Agra Fort
either have a mixed style or conform predominantly to the
Islamic style. Some of the important buildings inside the Agra
Fort include Jahangir Mahal, Divan-e-Aam, Divan-e-Khash, Khas
Mahal, Anguri Bagh, Musamman Burj, Moti Masjid, Mina Masjid and
Shish Mahal among others.
Emperor Akbar the Great commissioned the Agra Fort that is also
sometimes called Red Fort of Agra. During the reign of emperor
Jahangir, the capital was briefly shifted to Lahore but Agra
became the seat of Mughal capital one again in the reign of
Akbar. Akbar became emperor in 1556 and when he consolidated
himself sufficiently, he started the construction of Agra Fort
in the year 1665. The fort was completed in the year 1671 but
minor constructions and additions kept on happening till the
reign of Shah Jahan, his grandson. It is interesting to note
that during the reign of Akbar, the fort mainly served as a
military garrison but by the time of Shah Jahan it also started
serving as a palace and court.
Itmad-ud-daula has a special place in the chronicles of both
history as well as architecture. This is precisely because Itmad
ud Daula is the very first tomb in India that is entirely made
out of Marble. This is actually a mausoleum that overlooks the
River Yamuna and is a tomb of Mir Ghiyas Beg, a minister in the
court of Shah Jahan.
Itmad-ud-daula is a pure white and elaborately carved tomb that
conforms to the Islamic style of architecture. The Indo-Islamic
architecture becomes prominent because of the fusion that this
tomb displays. While the use of arched entrances and octagonal
shaped towers signify the Persian influence, the absence of a
dome and the presence of a closed kiosk on top of this building
and the use of canopies talks about the possible Indian
influence. From out side, when you take a bird eye view,
Itmad-ud-daula looks like a jewel box set in a garden. This
tranquil, small, garden located on the banks of the Yamuna was
to inspire the construction of the Taj Mahal in the later years.
Fatehpur Sikri Agra
The heritage site of Fatehpur Sikri is located 40 kilometers
from Agra India. You can see this magnificent city with its
amazing monuments of red sandstone and marble, built by the
Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great, on tours to Agra with Agra Hub.
According to legend, the Emperor Akbar, though he had many
wives, did not have an heir. He went on a pilgrimage to Sheikh
Salim Chisti, a Sufi saint who lived near Agra and sought his
blessings. Akbar was blessed with an heir, who he named Salim,
after the saint, in gratitude. (Salim later inherited the throne
as the Mughal Emperor Jahangir.)
The beautiful monuments at Fatehpur Sikri are a synthesis of
Islamic and Hindu architecture reflecting the religious
tolerance of Akbar. Akbar also founded a syncretic religion
called Din-i-Illahi, which inspired some of the buildings at
Fatehpur Sikri. The city of Fatehpur Sikri was built as a sign
of the Emperor Akbar's gratitude to Sheikh Salim Chisti. Work on
the city started in 1571 and was completed 15 years later. Agra
Hub takes you on tours to Agra which include the historic
destination of Fatehpur Sikri.
Akbar's Tomb at Sikandra
4 kilometers from Agra is Akbar's tomb at Sikandra which is an
excellent example of assimilation of different styles of
architecture and it represents a significant departure from the
earlier Mughal buildings. The tomb carries the characteristic
flavor of the airy tiered pavilions of the Agra Fort and
Akbar started building the magnificent edifice at Sikandra,
which was later completed by his son Jahangir after his fathers
death in 1605,. The tomb, as it stands today, is in a large
walled garden on the Delhi-Agra road. The tomb can be entered
through an elegant southern gateway, which leads into the huge
enclosed garden. This magnificent gateway is covered with floral
and geometrical arabesque decoration in white and colored marble
is crowned with four elegant minarets in white marble.
The calligraphic decoration, first of its kind, is simply grand.
The gateway is a stately composition. Its high central arch is
flanked by others, which are small and simple. The grandeur of
this gateway renders it the most magnificent gateway to any
monument in the country. The charbagh (four gardens) leads to
the pyramidal structure of the emperor's tomb. The tomb is
predominately bright red-tiered structure, stacked like a castle
of playing cards. The tomb is different from previous Mughal
buildings in many ways.