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Monday, March 25, 2013

Have you seen the pinnacle on the top of Taj Mahal's dome, know its height! My trip to Agra, travelogue Part-3

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If you have seen the Taj Mahal, have your ever paid attention to the pinnacle [finial] on top of this magnificent monument's dome?

The finial is more than 30 feet high [surprised!] though the height at which it stands, makes it appear smaller to us.

In fact, if you walk on the platform of Taj Mahal, you will see the exact shape of the drawing of this finial made on the floor just on the right side of Taj [towards jamat-khana].

It is because of this brass finial [weighing nearly 4/5th of a tonne] that the height of Taj Mahal is slightly more than the Qutub Minar, as I mentioned in the second part of this travelogue.

However, because Taj is a wide structure, one doesn't immediately get a feeling that it is so high. The exact height of Taj Mahal's pinnacle [up to finial tip] is a little over 73 m above the garden or ground.

This is up to the pinnacle on the top of the dome that is higher than its four corner minarets. The height of Qutab Minar is 72.5 metres.If you look closely you will find 'iron rings' on the entire dome. You will have to make an effort to locate them.

But do you know how big are they? Large enough for a labourer to sit. Each of them is around 1 feet though due to the imposing structure when you look from the ground, you feel that they are much smaller.

Design of the finial on top of the dome, is drawn on the floor of Taj Mahal.
In fact, when the ASI gets the dome cleaned, it is these iron rings which are used by workers engaged in the restoration job, to go upwards and do the cleaning.

You must have heard the Taj looks different at different hours of the day.

It is said that it reflects pinkish huge in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden in moon light.

Indeed, Taj changes colours with the day--the effect of sunlight and the river.

Inside the Taj Mahal, one can see the real effect of the mosaic of semi-precious stones.

The mosaics are created with tiny coloured stones set into marble.

The artisans shaped them with great precision and skill.

The flowers are carved into marble, creating the space for setting a precious stone. After delicate correction, the stones are set in with the use of glue. These precious inlays sparkle.

Earlier guides would throw light on the gems and these semi-precious stones would emit light, for example: red shining like bright ruby.

One of the minarets of the Taj Mahal
Twenty eight different type of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into sang-e-marmar [white marble] to build this magnificent octagonal tomb.

Its not just the delicate carvings that surprise visitors to the mausoleum, but there are other aspects too.

Optical Illusions, sense of proportion

There is enough of Optical Illusion in Taj Mahal's construction. Stand anywhere and look at the Arabic calligraphy--the verses from the Holy Quran inscribed on the walls.

The size of the Arabic alphabets look the same all along the vertical height.

Imagine how the letters written in the line visible in front of you look the same size as the one on a height of nearly 25 metres!

This amazing feat was achieved by the extraordinary calligrapher Amanat Ali Khan Shirazi.

Shirazi somehow knew how the size of words had to be increased gradually so that the normal human eye the font is same for the lower line as well as the topmost line.

One can only marvel at his understanding of angles and how human eye functions apart from the finesse in calligraphy.

This master craftsmanship--combination of science and art to achieve the perspective and proportion of balance is one of the major reason that Taj Mahal is unrivalled and unparalleled. It is a monument that stuns even those who have more scientific bent of mind but have little aesthetic interest.

Inspiration for the tomb

Letters in front of your eye are as readable as the ones at the top!
The architects, designers of Taj Mahal, achieved absolute perfection in almost everything they accomplished.

More optical illusions continue as you see the building and the four minarets. The inspiration for the Taj Mahal came from four different 'maqbaras'.

First, Hoshang Shah's tomb in Mandu [Malwa, MP], Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanaan's tomb in Delhi, Humayun's mausoleum and Itimad-ud-Daula's tomb in Agra.

The finest and best of all was combined and the minarets added when Ustad Isa made the layout plan.

The central dome is called Gumbad-i-Amroodi because of its shape. The four minarets are shorter than the middle dome.

The Four minarets of the Taj Mahal

Interestingly, the Taj's minarets have a feature that distinguishes it from other towers or minarets of the era.

In Taj, minaret's third story is the tallest. But the middle-one is shortest. As a result, when you see them, you feel the minarets have three storeys of equal proportions.

Hence, the top most storey doesn't look smaller. The staircases are closed for years now and one can't go to the top of these minarets.

Apart from calligraphy, there are abstract geometric elements and floral motifs that decorate the structure.

If you look at the walls of the building, you will see the patterns that create an illusion.

You feel that that there six or more sides but when you touch the marble, you realise that there are just three faces.

In fact, the patterns are such that without touching the walls you can't figure out the number of facets of a corner.

There is no dearth of fascinating facts, architectural and structural fine points about the Taj Mahal. After all, its not for nothing that Taj is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. [Thanks to Agraonline.co.in for the inset photo of the finial]

Hats off to Ustad Ahmad Lahauri and Mir Abdul Karim, the two main architects behind the building of this magnificent structure. This was third in the series of posts after the First part that was about first view and tips for a visitor, second part that focused on the Secrets and mysteries of the monument.

This long series on Agra travelogue continues. If you have enjoyed the travelogue so far, wait for the next post. 

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