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Once upon a time there lived an Arab woman named Arjumand Banu. We know very little about her, except that she lived in Agra, India, and was the Sultana of Shah Jehan, the greatest of the Mogul emperors. She must have been a good woman and a good wife, because, after eighteen years of married life, and within twelve months after his accession to the throne, in 1629, she died in giving birth to her fourteenth baby. And her husband loved her so much that he sheltered her grave with a mausoleum which, without question or reservation, is pronounced by all architects and critics to be the most beautiful building in the world--the most sublime and perfect work of human hands. 

It is called the Taj Mahal, which means "The Crown of the Palaces," and is pronounced Taash Mahal, with the accent on the last syllable of the last word. The Taj Mahal stands at the bottom of a lovely garden surrounded by groves of cypress trees, on the bank of the River Jumna, opposite the great fortress of Agra, where, from the windows of his palace, the king could always see the snowwhite domes and minarets which cover the ashes of his Arab wife. Its base is a marble terrace 400 feet square, elevated eighteen feet above the level of the garden, with benches arranged around so that one can sit and look and look and look until its wonderful beauty soaks slowly into his consciousness; until the soul is saturated. Rising from the terrace eighteen feet is a marble pedestal or platform 313 feet square, each corner being marked with a marble minaret 137 feet high; so slender, so graceful, so delicate that you cannot conceive anything more so. Within their walls are winding staircases by which one can reach narrow balconies like those on lighthouses and look upon the Taj from different heights and study its details from the top as well as the bottom. The domes that crown these four minarets are exact miniatures of that which covers the tomb.

On the east and on the west sides of the terrace are mosques built after Byzantine designs of deep red sandstone, which accentuates the purity of the marble of which the tomb is made in a most effective manner. At any other place, with other surroundings, these mosques would be regarded worthy of prolonged study and unbounded admiration, but here they pass almost unnoticed. Like the trees of the gardens and the river that flows at the foot of the terrace, they are only an humble part of the frame which incloses the great picture. They are intended to serve a purpose, and they serve it well. In beauty they are surpassed only by the tomb itself.  

Midway between the two red mosques rises a majestic pile of pure white marble 186 feet square, with the corners cut off. It measures eighty feet from its pedestal to its roof, and is surmounted by a dome also eighty feet high, measuring from the roof, and fifty-eight feet in diameter. Upon the summit of the dome is a spire of gilded copper twenty-eight feet high, making the entire structure 224 feet from the turf of the garden to the tip of the spire. All of the domes are shaped like inverted turnips after the Byzantine style. Four small ones surround the central dome, exact duplicates and one-eighth of its size, and they are arranged upon arches upon the flat roof of the building. From each of the eight angles of the roof springs a delicate spire or pinnacle, an exact duplicate of the great minarets in the corners, each sixteen feet high, and they are so slender that they look like alabaster pencils glistening in the sunshine. The same duplication is carried out through the entire building. The harmony is complete. Every tower, every dome, every arch, is exactly like every other tower, dome and arch, differing only in dimensions.  

The building is entered on the north and south sides through enormous pointed arches of perfect proportions reaching above the roof and at each corner of the frames that inclose them is another minaret, a miniature of the rest. Each of the six faces of the remainder of the octagon is pierced by two similar arches, one above the other, opening upon galleries which serve to break the force of the sun, to moderate the heat and to subdue the light. They form a sort of colonnade around the building above and below, and are separated from the rotunda by screens of perforated alabaster, as exquisite and delicate in design and execution as Brussels point lace. The slabs of alabaster, 12 by 8 feet in size, are pierced with filigree work finely finished as if they were intended to be worn as jewels upon the crown of an empress. All of the light that reaches the interior is filtered through this trellis work.  

The rotunda is unbroken, fifty-eight feet in diameter and one hundred and sixty feet from the floor to the apex of the dome. Like every other part of the building, it is of the purest white marble, inlaid with mosaics of precious stones. The walls, the pillars, the wainscoting and the entire exterior as well as the interior of the building are the same. Upon the walls of the tomb of the Princess Arjamand are about two acres of surface covered with mosaics as fine and as perfect as if each setting were a jewel intended for a queen to wear--turquoise, coral, garnet, carnelian, jasper, malachite, agate, lapis lazuli, onyx, nacre, bloodstone, tourmaline, sardonyx and a dozen other precious stones of different colors. Twenty-eight different varieties of stone are inlaid in the walls of marble.  

The palaces, temples and tombs in northern India are unequaled examples of the architectural and decorative arts. Nothing more beautiful or more costly has ever been built by human hands than the residences and the sepulchers of the Moguls, while their audience chambers, their baths and pavilions are not surpassed, and are not even equaled in any of the imperial capitals of Europe. The oriental artists and architects of the Mohammedan dynasties lavished money upon their homes and tombs in the most generous manner, and the refinement of their taste was equal to their extravagance.


History of India - Part 1 History of India - Part 2
History of India - Part 3 History of India - Part 4
Soapstone Ganesh ~ 6 Inch
Soapstone Ganesh ~ 6 Inch
Soapstone Ganesha ~ 5 Inches
Soapstone Ganesha ~ 5 Inches
Soapstone Ganesh ~ 6 Inch
Soapstone Ganesh ~ 6 Inch
12 Inch Bronze Natraj
12 Inch Bronze Natraj
Buddha Head ~ Bronze
Buddha Head ~ Bronze

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