Libmonster ID: IN-1227
Author(s) of the publication: I. V. KARAVANOV

I. V. KARAVANOV

Candidate of Historical Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Key words: Taj Mahal, India, Shah Jahan, Jamna

The famous mausoleum of the Taj Mahal in the Indian city of Agra is deservedly recognized as one of the seven wonders of the world. In 1983, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is the most popular Indian brand, which competes with the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in New York. The image of the Taj Mahal follows you literally everywhere in India. It is mentioned in the names of travel companies, restaurants and hotels and is depicted in countless souvenir copies, on T-shirts, bags, tea packets, bottles of beer and whiskey, and underwear. However, recently, Indian experts have been sounding the alarm: the white marble symbol of beauty, grace and perfection may disappear from the face of the earth within the next few years.

Every year, the Taj Mahal is visited by more than 4 million tourists, including foreign visitors. They come here from far away to see with their own eyes the monument of eternal love. For many, its destruction is tantamount to a personal tragedy.

The last time I visited the Taj Mahal on November 29, 2009, was on a Sunday, and the influx of tourists was more than usual. To get to the mausoleum, it was necessary to defend a kilometer-long queue under the scorching rays of the midday sun. For my companion, Li Wang, an economics professor from Beijing, this seemed an insurmountable obstacle, and we had to resort to the services of smart young people. For Rs 600 * apiece, they helped pass the Taj Mahal without waiting in line. (By the way, the entrance fee is currently Rs 750 for foreigners and Rs 50 for Indian citizens.)

A haze of smog hung over the main dome and minarets. Camera flashes flickered. Tourists hurried to capture themselves in standard variations - against the background of the Taj Mahal, with the Taj Mahal in the palm of their hand, "holding" the Taj Mahal in their hand by the spire of the dome, like a Christmas tree toy, etc.

The mausoleum looked tired. The marks left on it by time and adversity caused a nagging sense of unease. It didn't occur to me at the time that there was a good reason for this feeling.

A SYMBOL OF ETERNAL LOVE

The Taj Mahal was erected at the behest of the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1627-1658) in memory of his beloved wife Arjumand Banu, better known as Mumtaz Mahal (lit. "The chosen one of the palace").

Arjumand Banu was the daughter of the nobleman Asaf Khan and the niece of the all-powerful Nur Jahan, wife of Emperor Jahangir (1605-1627). Mumtaz Mahal was known as a woman of irresistible beauty and great intelligence. When she was nineteen, she married Prince Khurram, the future Shah Jahan, and they have never been separated since. The emperor discussed important state affairs with Mumtaz and did not part with her even during military campaigns.

She died on June 17, 1631, at the age of 38, giving birth to his fourteenth child. This happened in the city of Burhaniur (now Madhya Pradesh) during the military expedition of Shah Jahan to the Deccan. Before her death, Mumtaz Mahal asked her husband to remain faithful to their tender love and build a magnificent palace over her grave, which had never been equaled on earth before.

According to tradition, the body of the deceased was washed with cold water and camphor and wrapped in a shroud of five pieces of white cotton cloth. He was taken to the bank of the Tapti River in the Zainabad Garden, where he was placed in a temporary tomb. Six months later, the sarcophagus was transported with great honors to the Mughal capital of Agra.


* $1 is approximately equal to 68 rupees.

page 75

The inconsolable ruler mourned for the deceased. He gave up jewelry and luxurious clothes for two years, stopped listening to music and singing. His vision was so weak from crying that he had to wear glasses. His beard and moustache, which had hitherto been completely black, were now as white as snow. "There is no more sweetness in my country, and I have no more taste for life," 1 he wrote. In January 1632, Shah Jahan began construction of a mausoleum on the right bank of the Jamna River.

SHINING STONE FLOWER

The grand mausoleum was built by more than 20 thousand craftsmen and workers from all over India, from Persia, Turkey, Baghdad, Kandahar, Bukhara, Samarkand and Venice. White marble with gray and black flecks was chosen as the main building material. At sunrise and at dusk, it glows and is colored in soft pink and golden shades. The miracle marble was quarried in Makran quarries, 320 km from Agra. Along with marble, red sandstone was widely used, imported from Fatehpur Sikri, which is located nearby. The stone blocks were transported by 1 thousand elephants, 2 thousand camels and several thousand carts drawn by buffaloes. Mules were hauling processed slabs and bricks to construction sites. Shah Jahan often visited the construction site and spent a long time watching the stone flowers bloom under the hands of skilled craftsmen.

The lower part of the large dome of the mausoleum is decorated with ornaments inlaid with precious stones, portals - calligraphy inscriptions-quotes from the Koran, the facade-relief marble patterns of flowers and climbing plants. The inlays are made of 43 varieties of precious and semiprecious stones from all over the world. Lapis lazuli was imported from Afghanistan, amber from Upper Burma, turquoise from Tibet, amethyst from Persia, agate from Yemen, chrysolite from Egypt, malachite from Russia and the Urals. Some flowers are laid out of 35 different gems, including chalcedony, sardonyx, jade, jasper, quartz, black marble and other ornamental stones, even diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, etc. were used.

Construction lasted 22 years and was completed in 1653. The cost of the mausoleum was fabulous at that time. It cost the imperial treasury 41848426 rupees and 7 annas, or 466.5 kg of gold2. The work was carried out 800 m from Jamna. After their completion, the riverbed was changed and brought closer to the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum was reflected in the river surface like a mirror.

A PIECE OF HEAVEN ON EARTH

The Taj Mahal is a cubic structure with beveled corners, set on a raised stone platform. It is topped by a dome in the shape of an unopened flower bud. The large dome is perfectly combined with arches, smaller domes and pointed minarets. The minarets balancing on the platform are slightly tilted away from the mausoleum, so that in case of an earthquake they will not fall on it. For a long time, the Taj Mahal was considered the tallest building in India. Its height from the base to the top of the gilded spire is 74 m, minarets - 41.6 m.

In the center of the great hall there are cenotaphs (tombstones) of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, richly laid out with inlays. They are surrounded by a carved marble grating - a replica of the gold one that was melted down by their son, Emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707). There are no bodies in the coffins themselves. The couple's remains rest below, in the basement, where there are 17 sealed burial chambers 3.

You can walk from the gate to the mausoleum along one of the four alleys. They meet in the center of the Garden of Eden (char-bagh) at the lotus pond. In the organization of the garden, the principle of symmetry is used - water channels and fountains are located on the same axis. However, the mausoleum is placed not in the center, but at the end of the garden, which emphasizes the sophistication and sophistication of an architectural masterpiece and gives peace to the entire surrounding landscape.

The mausoleum and garden create an amazing whole picture. It is simply impossible to take your admiring gaze away from her. The power and magic of unearthly beauty fascinate.

LEGENDS, TALES, AND FICTIONS

There are many legends and legends about the Taj Mahal. According to one of them, Shah Jahan intended to build an exact replica of the mausoleum for himself on the opposite bank of the Jamna, but made of black marble. Both tombs were supposed to be connected by a black-and-white marble bridge, symbolizing love that survived death. But in 1657. Shah Jahan fell ill and was dethroned a year later by his power-hungry son Aurangzeb. He imprisoned his father in the Jasmine Tower of Agra's Red Fort, where he could view the Taj Mahal until his death on January 22, 1666.

Another legend says that the mausoleum was designed by the emperor himself. This hypothesis is defended by Rabindranath Tagore in the poem "Shah Jahan". The project is also attributed to Europeans, in particular, the Venetian Geronimo Veronio, who served the Great Mughal. There is an opinion that the Taj Mahal is the fruit of the collective architectural genius of the East. As for modern researchers, some of them name the architect of the Red Fort Ustad Ahmad Lahori as the author of the Taj Mahal, while others name Mir Abul Karim, the architect of Emperor Jahangir, or Mukamat Khan of Shiraz.4 One way or another, the name of the creator of the mausoleum remained unknown, and therefore new versions appear from time to time.

Don't be surprised to hear from guides in Agra that Shah Jahan executed the Taj Mahal's architect and master craftsmen to prevent them from creating something similar in the future. However, such legends tell about many outstanding monuments of the Middle Ages. In the case of the Taj Mahal, there are other versions-the emperor ordered to cut off the craftsmen's hands, put out their eyes and imprison them in a dungeon, from where they safely got out through an underground passage behind the fortress wall and escaped. And employees often find fragments of broken women's bracelets in the mausoleum, but this is already from the category of mystical.

Recently, it is increasingly said that the Taj Mahal stands on the site of an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to the god-destroyer Shiva. This temple was called "Tejo Mahalaya", and hence the name"Taj Mahal" is supposedly derived. The idea exists-

page 76

The idea of such a temple is particularly popular in Hindu nationalist circles.

INVASIONS AND MISFORTUNES

During its 360-year history, the mausoleum has experienced more than one invasion. After the collapse of the Mughal Empire in 1719, Agra was besieged and sacked by a warlord from Bihar, Husain Ali Khan. Among the treasures he captured was a pearl veil thrown over the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal on the anniversary of his death. In 1739, the Iranian Shah Nadir swept through Delhi and its environs in a tornado. In 1748, the campaigns of the ruler of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Durrani, began in Northern India. In 1761, the Raja of Bharatpur, Suraj Mal, took possession of Agra and removed a massive silver door from the Taj Mahal. By that time, the mausoleum had fallen into disrepair. A wonderful garden with a complex water supply system and fountains was destroyed.

In 1803, Agra was annexed to the British East India Company. A military tent camp appeared at the foot of the Taj Mahal. Picnics were held here, a brass band played, and couples danced around. The bravest cavaliers, armed with chisels and hammers, climbed the smooth walls and tried to cut agate or carnelian out of marble to give it to a girl they knew. In 1830, Governor-General William Bentinck was working on the idea of dismantling the Taj Mahal and selling it for marble.

The situation began to change after the liquidation of the East India Company and the transition of India in 1858 under the control of the British Crown. In 1860, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was established to study and protect ancient sites. The first in this series was the Taj Mahal. The Viceroy of India, George Curzon (1899-1905), made especially great efforts to revive the monument. In the following years, the Garden of Eden was restored. To improve the panoramic view, it was forbidden to build buildings higher than 9 m near the Taj Mahal.

In independent India, the mausoleum is regularly restored. The state of the monument is monitored by the ASI, as well as a public committee of Experts, which includes leading Indian scientists and specialists. It is interesting that during the Indian-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971. The Taj Mahal was covered by a huge camouflage net6.

NEW THREATS

In the early 1980s, environmentalists noted a sharp increase in the level of air pollution from harmful impurities in the Taj Mahal area. The walls of the monument began to turn yellow. In 1982, the Government of India declared the area of 10.4 thousand square kilometers adjacent to the mausoleum a sanitary zone. Apart from Agra, it includes cities like Mathura, Firozabad and Bharatpur. By the decision of the Supreme Court of India, 292 industrial enterprises were removed from the sanitary zone by 1997. All types of transport are prohibited within a radius of 500 m from the monument. Marble slabs are regularly bleached. To do this, a solution of gray clay is applied to them, allowed to dry, and then washed off.

However, the effect of the measures taken remains insignificant, since they do not eliminate the main causes of air pollution. First of all, we are talking about the Mathura oil refinery, which reached full production capacity in 1983. Its emissions are particularly harmful to marble. This also includes damage caused by exhaust gases from automobile engines. If in 1985 there were about 40 thousand vehicles in Agra, then in 2007 their number exceeded 400 thousand. 7 The city is permeated by three national highways.

But today, the main danger for the monument is the catastrophic subsidence of the coastal soil caused by the shallowing of the Jamna. In 2010, cracks were found on its cenotaphs, minarets and platform. The British Daily Mail was the first to sound the alarm. If things go this way, the famous architectural monument may collapse within the next five years, the newspaper 8 warned. At the same time, she referred to the opinion of a well-known Indian historian, author of several monographs on the Ram Nath mausoleum and a high-ranking official of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Department, B. B. Avasti.

The fact is that the additional stability of the structure is provided by a system of wells located under the platform. They are lined with timber and filled with large pebbles and lime mortar. Wells must always be in water. Otherwise, the tree rots, crumbles to dust, and the platform sags.

The Jamna river has been shallowing since the mid-1970s.Initially, it was associated with deforestation and pollution of the river with industrial waste and wastewater. But in recent years, worrying processes have noticeably increased. The reason for this is farmers in the neighboring state of Haryana, who have switched to growing an elite variety of basmati rice, which requires a lot of water. A significant contribution to the disappearance of the river is made by modern cities located on its banks, and above all, Delhi. The population of the capital of India has reached 16.7 million people in the agglomeration. 70% of the water it consumes comes from the Jumna through 19 channels that kill the river. A dam near Agra could save the Jamna and Taj Mahal, says Ramshankar Katheria, a member of Parliament.9

At the same time, the ASI and the Committee of Experts are not inclined to dramatize the situation and continue to monitor the state of the Taj Mahal. Perhaps there is a need to involve international experts under the auspices of UNESCO. Now, more than ever, to save a unique monument requires concerted and prompt action.


Tammita Delgoda p 1 India. Istoriya strany [History of the Country], St. Petersburg, 2007, p. 173.

Nath R. 2 The Taj: a Mausoleum // Seminar, 1989, N 12, p. 30.

Albanese M. 3 India. Italy. 2001, p. 117.

Mitrokhin L. V. 4 India: Entering the 21st Century. Moscow, 1987, pp. 160-170; Koch E. The Complete Taj Mahal and the Riverfront Gardens of Agra // New Delhi, 2007, p. 89.

Koch E. 5 Op. cit., p. 241.

Preston D. 6 and M. A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time. The Story of the Taj Mahal. L., 2007, p. 295.

7 Outlook, 12.11.2007.

8 Daily Mail, 4.10.2011.

9 Ibidem.


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