Welcome back to The Art Corner. Today I am talking about a beautiful architectural wonder that everyone probably knows or at least has heard about—the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal was completed in 1653. It was built under the command of Shah Jahan, who built it as a mausoleum in honor to his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. It held her body, and today both Mumtaz and Shah Jahan’s bodies are kept in the Taj Mahal.
While the Taj Mahal is a beautiful piece of art, it also functions as an important building in the islamic tradition. The tomb is the resting place and honors Mumtaz and her place in paradise, which is why there are specific design elements that help to reinforce the idea of Paradise (or heaven) in the Islamic tradition.
Structurally the tomb is the focal point, a large building made of marble. To create symmetry in design (a key design element in Islamic art) there are four minarets that surround the tomb. In this case, the minarets serve as a design element to create symmetry, but minarets are usually built next to mosques and used in the Call To Prayer. On the building itself there is extensive calligraphy, which are words from the Quran, as well as arabesque designs (vines, flowers, leaves) which all serve as a representation of Paradise. The arabesques (both on the interior and exterior) are done in precious metals and are executed with extreme attention to detail.
In the Islamic faith paradise consists of as a lush garden with flowing water, plants, trees, etc. which makes sense as Islam was born from a very dry region—heaven would essentially have the various elements that are scarce, but also life giving, like water. While the Taj Mahal does not have lush gardens now, in the past it would have overflowed with an array of plants, trees, and flowers. The water directly in front of the Taj Mahal is still there today and would have been present in the past as well.
To me, the Taj Mahal is extremely beautiful. Not only does it present such an insightful look into the Islamic tradition, but it shows the wealth that the Mughal Empire had, and the emphasis they put on honoring their dead. So far it is one of my favorite architectural pieces I’ve seen thus far, although I might be a little partial because Islamic architecture is definitely one of my favorite forms of art.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more wonderful art…we’ll be heading to a new continent next time!