The technique of Pietra Dura decorating the Taj Mahal is very interesting.
Originating from Florence, this technique was imported into India during the reign of Emperor Jahangir (father of Shah Jehan) in the 17th century.
The technique involved complex setting of precious and semi-precious stones, such as Lapus lazuli, Carnelian, Turqouiseand Malachite.The stones were broken into slivers, and set into the marble base. Floral motifs (lilies,poppies,tulips and narcissus) were depicted as sprays, in arabesque patterns. The almost 3 dimensional appearance of the designs were created by using stones with varying degrees of colour. Black slate was also widely used.
Fine examples can be seen in the arched doorways and on outer walls of the Taj.
The colour is still glorious, and the Indian government has imposed strict rules regarding pollution in order to prevent further damage
Taj Mahal was constructed between 1631 A.D and 1654 A.D. The construction is said to have been done by a workforce of 22,000 that contained among others laborers, Naqqashi laborers, painters, stonecutters, garden-layers, gardeners, embroidery artists and masons. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned its construction. It was constructed as a mausoleum for Arjumand Begum, who was re-christened Mumtaz after her marriage to Shah Jahan. It is said that Shah Jahan was very much pained by the death of his favorite wife. He constructed this mausoleum so that its pleasant site would give him solace.
The seventh wonder of the world. A symbol of endless love and devotion of Emperor Shah Jehan to his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj is a befitting tribute to so romantic-a-love story and so divine an emotion that binds two souls forever. A visit to Taj Mahal, the mausoleum of Mumtaz, is a rare experience. The pure white marble structure, Taj acquires different shades at different times of the day and with changing seasons.
My first two trips between 1996 to 1998 were during the day and was a very different experience,however this time I was able to get the sunset view,though not great as due to winter season the sky was a bit hazy ,neverthe less the Taj was a beauty .
There is a controversy on the name of the chief architect of Taj but there are many sources, which propose the name of the Indian architect of Persian origin known as Ustad Ahmad Lahori for the credit. Its construction began in 1630 and master builders, architects, skilled masons and sculptors were imported from all over the world including Persia and Europe to contribute to the beauty of Taj. Twelve years of hard labor of about 20,000 laborers and millions of rupees went into its making.
There are five main elements of the Taj complex - the main gateway or 'Darwazah', the garden with its ingenious waterways or 'Bageecha', the mosque or 'Maszid', the rest house or 'Naqqar Khana' and the main tomb building or 'Rauza'. The actual graves are kept inside while the cenotaphs are placed just above them to be viewed by the general public. The beautiful marble inlay work known as 'Pietra Dura' and the well-planned gardens of Taj with their water channels and lotus pools are some of the most impressive things to see here.
The beautiful square marble tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti is one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in India. Situated near Zanana Rauza and facing south (towards Buland Darwaja), it enshrines the burial place of the Sufi saint who blessed Akbar with his son and heir and lived a religious and austere life here. The mausoleum was built by Akbar as a mark of his respect and reverence for the saint and it was completed in the year 1580-81. Raised on about a meter high platform, there is flight of five steps to reach its entrance porch. Elegant marble screens enclose the main tomb building on all sides while the tomb is places in the centre of the main hall with a single semicircular dome.
The ebony 'chhhaparkhat' enclosure surrounding the marble cenotaph, usually covered b y a green cloth, is inlaid with scales of mother-of-pearls. Devotees ask for the blessings of the saint to fulfill their wishes and believe that tying a black thread on the marble screens of the main tomb building with the promise of loosening the thread when the wish is fulfilled serves as a constant reminder to the saint to advocate for their wishes and grant them his blessings. The marble building is so profusely carved that it seems to be built of ivory. The plinth is ornamented with mosaics of black and yellow marble arranged in splendid geometrical patterns.
The serpentine brackets emerging from the pillars carved with stylized peacock tail pattern and sloping eaves add to the magnificence of the porch. The door of the main chamber is carved elaborately with arabesque patterns and boasts of Quranic inscriptions. Brown marble borders the interior bays while the relief panels with Quranic verses have a blue painted background. The ostentatiously carved and painted tomb chamber has white marble floor inlaid with multicolored stones. The verses are chosen carefully to impart deep esoteric meaning.
Jami Masjid or the Friday Mosque is one of the most beautiful and largest mosques of the world. This elegant building is the most sacred building and the principal mosque of the town and thus situated on the highest point of the ridge where Fatehpur Sikri is situated. In fact, the Buland Darwaja commemorating the victory of Akbar over Deccan and the Tomb of the famous Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chishti are a part of this spacious mosque complex. Built in the supervision of the saint himself and his descendants, it was completed in 1571.
The vast quadrangle has the mosque on the western side and arcuate cloisters with broad slanting chhajja and splendid brackets crowned by series of square chhatris on the other three sides along with Buland Darwaja on the south, Badshahi Darwaja on the east and the tombs of Sheikh Salim and Islam Khan and the ablution tank in the inner courtyard. The main rectangular mosque consists of a central nave with a single dome, two colonnaded halls on its either side with two square chambers crowned with dome. The elegant and beautifully carved mihrabs adorn the main chamber and the two smaller rooms.
The mosque marks the phase of transition in Islamic art as the indigenous architectural elements were blended with the Persian architecture. The pillared dalan of the façade, the iwan with three arched openings also framed by panels and crowned by five chhatris and the central mihrab adorned with inlaid mosaic of stones that are bordered by glazed tiles and has golden inscriptions on royal blue background. The interiors of the iwan are adorned with watercolor paintings depicting stylized floral designs. Even the dado panels, spandrels of arch, squinches and soffits are also painted profusely. Unlike other monuments, where domes are supported on squinches, here elegant corbelled pendentives support the done.
The Buland darwaza facing south,was built by Akbar as the main entrance to the moaque in 1601 according to persian inscription on the archway.It stands to this day eloquently expressing the grandeur of Akbar's empire. Standing on the highest point of the ridge, it is 40.84 m high and was built on a platform that was 13.52 m high. A fine example of Islamic architecture, it is semi octagonal in plan and two smaller triple-storeyed wings on either side.
The central archway is richly ornamented with a broad band of yellow buff sandstone, bordered by red sandstone panels and two square panels on its bottom on either side with white and black marble inlay work. The arch resembles the pattern of Jami Masjid. It has three kiosks on its top surrounded by thirteen smaller domed kiosks. The smaller turrets surrounding the gateway greatly increase its magnificence. The arch has three actual openings bordered by decorative panels and superimposed by three other arched openings crowned by a semi-dome
The panch mahal of fatehpur sikri,is a five floored pillard pavillion.It is also called badgir or wind tower.The first floor has 84 pillars,the second floor has 54 pillars.Capitals of these pillars also contain beautiful carved designs like floral vase, arch or rosette pattern. This floor also has a projecting chhajja and a carved frieze.
The third floor comprises of 20 pillars ,the fourth floor has 12 pillars.The top of the building is decorated with beautiful square chhatri with a cupola.
The National Chambal Sanctuary is famous for the rare gangetic
dolphin. The sanctuary was founded in 1979 and is part of a large
area co-administered by Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Apart from the gangetic dolphin, the other inhabitants of the sanctuary include magar (crocodile) and gharial (alligator), chinkara, sambar, nilgai, wolf and wild boar.
The Mangleshwar Temple in Agra is reckoned among the most celebrated religious sites of Agra. It is situated towards the western part of the Agra city center in the Gokal Pura area. This temple is very lavishly bedecked during festivities and exemplifies the religious diversity in Agra. Truly speaking, a visit during Hindu festivities will bring in spotlight the Hindu style of worship. The entire ambience of the temple acquires a gorgeous, animated and colorful look.
If you are also interested in paying Agra Mangleshwar Temple a visit and basking in its architectural splendor and religious importance then do come here. It is very near to the central railway line. This rail line connects the northern and southern regions of the Agra city. You can also come here by Ramratan Road.
The Taj Mahal, which is epitimizes love is a palace built by the Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz. Not solely a tourist attraction but because of its beauty and marvel it has become one of the more popular tourist spots here in Agra. Taj Mahal is regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world.
The Govardhan hill is one good place where you would want to visit if you are going on a historical/traditional tour around India. The hill is located near Agra and the town of Vrindavan in India, considered as sacred by a number of traditions within Hinduism.
It is especially important to those traditions which worship Krishna or Vishnu as the Supreme God such as Vaishnavism and Gaudiya Vaishnavism, which are popular around the Govardhan area. A great number of pilgrims visit Govardhan each year and perform parikrama, circulating around the area of the hill whilst praying, singing or performing japa meditation. The hill and surrounding area are believed to be the sites where Krishna and Balarama performed specific pastimes during their last incarnation on the Earth planet. YOU WOULD NOT WANT TO MISS THIS!
The tomb of Sheik Salim Chishti is at the far side of the courtyard and, in contrast to the numerous other tombs in this area, is covered in intricately carved striking white marble. Sheik Salim prophesised the birth of Akbars son, emporer Jahangir and the city was built in honour of the Sheik. The marble screen around the tomb is adorned with pieces of string left by women who come to pray for the birth of a son. Behind this building can be found the less prepossessing tombs of nobles and 'Royal Ladies'. All constructed out of many-hued sandstone, some are set into the flagstones of the courtyard in the shaded by trees while others are under the covered walkway. A number of those under the walkway are surrounded by beautifully carved lattice-work screens and have carved inscriptions along the base.
The Jami Masjid is the principal centre of worship for the predominantly Muslim villagers, and when we visited, a colourful procession accompanied by drummers entered the courtyard. It turned out to be a newly married couple with their respective families who had come to be blessed in the mosque. It is also possible to enter the mosque from an entrance on the east side of the building, but frankly, the views from the top of the steps at the main gate are so inspiring that you find yourself automatically ignoring the touts
You don't escape wildlife even in the towns in India, as proven by the Indian Green Parakeet (below), which at the Taj Mahal just watched those contemptible dumb humans admiring this apparently pointless bit of white marble - a good roost and nothing else (at least the way he was looking at me, you could imagine he was thinking that). I'm sure this macaque thought the same of these human tourists and the black kites below in the bottom picture, well, I don't think they're interested in the Little Taj in their territorial dispute.
The Little Taj (Baby Taj), situated on the east bank of the Yamuna river, is actually called the Itmad-ud-daulah and is the tomb of Mirza Ghiyath Beg, senior member of Akbar's court and chief minister (wazir) to Jahangir (also his father-in-law). This building was the first in Mogul India to use white marble, even before the Taj Mahal.
The tale of not feeding the animals holds very true here; macaques especially can become pests; however, the way they've learnt to live alongside and even exploit man (and the monkeys were specialists (look, left, look right, look up with these creatures) shows that there's not much separating us from them.
This Taj Nature Walk is about half a mile down the road from the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal. It offers the chance to see the Taj Mahal from it's eastern side so I paid the entrance fee and walked round on a few paths through some trees and shrubs and got to a more open area that had some grass and some highish mounds so as to get a good view from. I then spotted a viewing platform further away so I walked there and there was a couple already up it waiting for the sunset. I joined them and took some photo's as the sun went down but it was nothing special.
Admission: Rs50 for foreigners.
St John's College was established in 1850 by the Church of Missionary Society of England. The unusual architecture of the building has been described as "an astounding mixture of the antiquarian, the scholarly and the symbolic". The buildings are arranged around a quadrangle and were designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob who perfected the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and his inspiration here was the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri.
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