Tuesday, March 15, 2011

7 wonders of the world's 3 Taj Mahal

. Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal, in the city of Agra, India (not too far from the capital city of New Delhi), is probably the finest example of Islamic architecture in the world (with influences from Persia, Turkey, and India). It may seem ironic that India, a predominantly Hindu nation, would have the best Muslim building, but if you consider that India happens to be the second-largest Muslim nation in the world (behind Indonesia), it’s actually not that surprising.
Despite the palatial appearance of the building, the Taj is actually a mausoleum. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1632-53 for the deceased Mumtaz Mahal, who was Jahan’s favorite among his several wives. (The Mughal Empire stretched from the early-16th to the mid-19th century, when India was primarily under Muslim rule). The name of the building means “Crown Palace� and is in parallel with his wife’s name which means “Chosen One of the Palace.�
Two myths, contradictory to each other, exist about the Taj. The first is that Shah Jahan wanted to build a second Taj Mahal, a black one, right across the river for himself when he died. The second myth, inconsistent with the first, is that he cut off the hands of the Taj Mahal’s architect so that another could never be built to match the magnificence of the first. Whatever the case, Shah Jahan now is buried in the same tomb with his wife.
My perspective:
This was probably the most stunningly beautiful manmade object I have ever seen in my life. As you approach the building, the surroundings only serve to enhance it. The Taj is framed by a beautiful reflection pool, flanked by four stately minarets, surrounded by lovely gardens, with a mosque nearby.
A close-up look at the exterior reveals pristine white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, sapphire, and jade. There are decorative vegetation patterns all around it, representing vines, fruit, and flowers. The effect is completed with Arabic scripture from the Koran written all over its walls in elegant calligraphy. The iconoclasm of the structure reminded me how Christians can often learn from Muslims and Jews—in this instance, they often execute the second of the Ten Commandments better than Christians do (and on another unrelated level, I feel that Muslims and Jews often pray better and more than Christians do).
Once you are inside the building, there is an open-air tomb under the great dome. The acoustics inside are incredible, and it is truly a fitting tomb for a queen that was dearly beloved by her rich and powerful husband!
Though the Taj Mahal is undoubtedly the centerpiece of Agra, after you see it, don’t miss the nearby Red Fort which is fairly impressive itself. It was also built by Shah Jahan.
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