Agra: The architecture of paradise
SUNRISE at the Taj Mahal: the pollution that cloaks the city of Agra is pierced for just a few minutes. The vast marble surfaces catch the first, red glow of dawn and then the golden light of the sun rising.
This play of light on the facades of the Taj Mahal is a deliberate decorative device – it symbolises the presence of Allah, who may never be represented in anthropomorphic form.
Someone once said that ‘the Mughuls began like Titans and finished like jewellers’ and Agra’s legendary pieces of Islamic architecture are nothing if not well thought out.
Surrounding the Taj Mahal are Islamic gardens of paradise, divided by four channels of water representing the four rivers of paradise.
Each piece of inlay work on the exterior is a mosaic of tiny precious stones. Roses, tulips, narcissi and sunflowers formed from carnelian, onyx and lapis lazuli.
The relief carving and the carved marble screens inside are all perfect in their design, exquisite in their detail and pristine in their lush garden setting.
Until, that is, the day tour buses arrive from Delhi and the place is overrun. But the garden is the saving grace – find a quiet corner of park bench and enjoy the perfect symmetry of the Taj.
The river Jamuna curves around behind and from the opposite bank the views are still impressive and not obscured by hordes of tourists.
Here also you will find the ‘Baby Taj’, the tomb of the Emperor Akbar’s wazir or prime minister. Itimad-ud-daulah also happened to be the father of Nur Jahan, who became the wife of Jahangir Khan and the most powerful woman in Moghul history. And grandfather of Mumtaz , for whom the Taj was built.
She was described as the ‘Light of the World’ and wielded power for 16 years over the empire through her husband and father. She also designed this beautiful little tomb. Little, that is, in comparison to the Taj Mahal!
The colours of the stonework are soft and the exterior sports beautiful floral and geometrical designs. Inside there are paintings inside of cypresses, vases and wine jars – the Persian symbols of paradise.
For Itimad-ud-daulah was a highly sophisticated Persian refugee who had risen to power through the ranks of the Mughal court.
The baby Taj is also set amongst a walled Char-Bagh (four quartered garden) and the architecture is inspired – from sheer geometric perfection to the perfection of delicate finishing.