Posts tagged ‘Mughal Empire’

Baby Taj

Agra’s third main tourist attraction after the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort is the tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah, more commonly know as the “Baby Taj”. The first Mughal building to be faced with white marble inlaid with contrasting semi-precious stones – it set the architectural precedent for the Taj Mahal built a couple of decades later.

The “Baby Taj” is a perfectly proportioned gem of a building, highly decorated with complex geometric patterns set in serene gardens on the banks of the Yamuna River:

© Mark Simms Photography (2014)

Agra Fort

Although the Taj Mahal is the main reason why so many tourists visit Agra, the city does have a couple of other attractions worth passing an hour or so. The first of these is the Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort – not to be confused with Delhi’s Mughal palace of the same name.

In fact Agra’s Red Fort, built by Akbar the third (Mughal Emperor from 1556 to his death in 1605) is earlier than Shah Jahan’s Delhi fortress, for which it served as a model.

© Mark Simms Photography (2014)

Taj Mahal: Mehtab Bagh

Across the Yamuna River lies the Mehtab Bagh (or Moon Garden). From here you get an excellent view of the Taj Mahal from a totally different angle:

The Moon Garden is supposed to have been the location for the “mythical” black Taj – had it ever been built. Excavations have apparently uncovered footings/foundations, but the latest thinking is that these were for a large pool in which the Taj would have been reflected in the moonlight.

© Mark Simms Photography (2014)

Taj Mahal: Other Buildings

The Taj Mahal complex is bounded on three sides by crenellated red sandstone walls, with the fourth side, facing the Yamuna river, left open. These walls are cornered by ornate watch-towers and accessed through the huge great gate.

Within these walls lie the 300m square charbagh or Mughal garden and, on either side of the main tomb, the mosque and the jawab (a building almost identical to the mosque that exists almost exclusively to provide architectural balance and symmetry – although it may also have been used as a guesthouse).

© Mark Simms Photography (2014)

Taj Mahal: Marble & Semi-precious Stones

There were two things that struck me when we visited the Taj Mahal. First of all is it’s size. It’s massive, much bigger than I realised. Second is the beauty and detail of the decoration. Construction began in 1632 and it is little wonder then that it took a workforce of apparently 20,000 craftsmen and labourers some 22 years to complete.

The luminous white marble, which changes colour depending on the overhead conditions, was quarried in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan and had to be transported the 300km to site by hundreds of elephants. The thousands of pieces of semi-precious stones used for the exquisite inlay work (including onyx, jade, jasper, mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli, carnelian, turquoise, agate, amethyst and malachite….to name but a few) were sourced from all over Asia and the Middle East.

I hope that the following few photographs convey both the sheer scale and decorative beauty of this most magnificent of buildings:

 © Mark Simms Photography (2014)

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