The focus of the Taj Mahal is the white
marble tomb, which stands on a square plinth
consisting of a symmetrical building with an
iwan, an arch-shaped doorway, topped by a large
dome. Like most Mughal tombs, basic elements
are Persian in origin.
base of the Taj
The base structure is a large, multi-chambered
structure. The base is essentially a cube with
chamfered edges and is roughly 55 meters on
each side (see floor plan, right). On the long
sides, a massive pishtaq, or vaulted archway,
frames the iwan with a similar arch-shaped balcony.
On either side of the main arch, additional
pishtaqs are stacked above and below. This motif
of stacked pishtaqs is replicated on chamfered
corner areas as well. The design is completely
symmetrical on all sides of the building. Four
minarets, one at each corner of the plinth,
facing the chamfered corners, frame the tomb.
The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi
of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; their actual
graves are at a lower level.
The exterior decorations of the Taj Mahal are
among the finest to be found in Mughal architecture.
As the surface area changes, a large pishtaq
has more area than a smaller one, and the decorations
are refined proportionally. The decorative elements
were created by applying paint or stucco, or
by stone inlays or carvings. In line with the
Islamic prohibition against the use of anthropomorphic
forms, the decorative elements can be grouped
into either calligraphy, abstract forms or vegetative
The interior chamber of the Taj Mahal steps
far beyond traditional decorative elements.
Here the inlay work is not pietra dura, but
lapidary of precious and semiprecious gemstones.
The inner chamber is an octagon with the design
allowing for entry from each face, though only
the south garden-facing door is used. The interior
walls are about 25 metres high and topped by
a "false" interior dome decorated
with a sun motif.
Other Places of Interest In Agra